If the future of games is streaming, developers need to ask some serious questions

Sijo Jose of PTW discusses the future of cloud streaming platforms, and the associated challenges for developers. This article was created in collaboration with PTW.

Sijo Jose
Sijo Jose, PTW president for North America & India

Despite early teething issues, heavy investment from the industry’s biggest players suggests cloud streaming platforms are, ultimately, where games will land in the future. Just take a look at the huge investments from Google, Microsoft, Sony, and Amazon. These tech giants don’t usually go this hard after a new platform or technology unless they see a future in it. It’s a promising sign.

And if the future of games really is streaming, it signals some serious changes on the horizon for game developers and some serious questions that need to be answered first.

How will game development standards shift?

With new technology, development standards will undoubtedly shift. Now, most of these changes are likely to make life easier for developers.

One of the most notable changes will be instead of developing a game for separate hardware, like consoles, and phones, etc., development will likely be for a similar set of cloud standards – each cloud platform’s server – and the platform will handle the device specifics.

PTWWhat’s more, the simplified nature of streaming platforms trickles down to the rest of the development process. Take compatibility testing, for example, which has traditionally required developers to test their games on a plethora of different devices, each with different specifications.

Because all the processing happens in the cloud on these new streaming platforms, rather than on the device, developers don’t need to create specialized systems to make a game compatible on each different piece of hardware anymore. Instead, it’s simply a matter of testing to make sure the game fits on every screen and with each controller type. So, though there will still be a need for some compatibility testing, there’ll be a significant reduction in developers’ efforts.

Precisely what a lot of these new development standards will look like is still up in the air but as adoption spikes and more games join these platforms, developers will need to watch closely.

How will teams change operationally to fit new content demands?

PTWAs monetization moves away from being hits-driven and towards long-tail subscription services, it has shifted the development lifecycle of a game. Rather than creating a game, finding and addressing bugs, launching, then leaving it to live out the rest of its time, games have become living things that demand new content updates that keep players engaged. It’s what these platforms, being subscription-based, will prioritize.

Games like Fortnite and League of Legends have already pioneered how teams can manage continuous content delivery, but many more developers will need to start thinking about how their games will continue to live after release, too. Not only will studios need to maintain an ops team that can fix bugs in the existing game, but they will also need to establish teams that are continually building, testing, and localizing new content updates at pace and scale to keep up with growing content demands.

Who will control player data?

Games collect huge amounts of consumer data – time played, player preferences, churn rate, etc. And there’s a huge advantage to understanding what captures players’ attention and what turns them off.

As games move into cloud platform servers, developers risk ceding access to their own players’ data in the process. It’s not clear who will maintain access to gamers’ data yet, but one thing is clear: whoever controls this data will have greater insights into what’s working, what’s not, what players really want, and more leverage in negotiations.   

No matter how the future plays out, it’s clear that cloud gaming platforms are here to stay and they will change the way games will be played and built. And helping developers figure out the path forward is what we’re all about at PTW. So, if you want to know more about how streaming and subscriptions are going to change the games industry, you can read a whole eBook about it at FutureofQA.com.

Sijo Jose has well over a decade of experience in QA operations and after seven years with PTW was made president of North America and India late last year.

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