Cloud Gaming and Google Stadia with David Wynn from Edge Delta | ๐ŸŽ™๏ธ#40

Promotional graphic for 'DevOps Accents Episode 40' featuring an illustrated portrait of a smiling man with a beard, alongside text about cloud gaming, Google Stadia, and guest David Wynn from Edge Delta. Promotional graphic for 'DevOps Accents Episode 40' featuring an illustrated portrait of a smiling man with a beard, alongside text about cloud gaming, Google Stadia, and guest David Wynn from Edge Delta.

Letโ€™s talk about cloud gaming possibilities of today and remember Google Stadia. Our guest this time is David Wynn, Principal Solution Architect from Edge Delta. Join him, Leo and Pablo for a discussion of the problems cloud gaming faces now and the possible future for this experience.

  • The transformation of the game industry to the cloud, did it work?
  • What went wrong with Google Stadia?
  • Cloud gaming: Technical challenges vs. Marketing challenges;
  • Console gaming vs. PC gaming vs. Cloud gaming;
  • Why isnโ€™t cloud gaming taking over?
  • What will the gaming hardware landscape look like in 10 years?

You can listen to episode 40 of DevOps Accents on Spotify, or right now:

In the rapidly evolving landscape of gaming technology, the conversation around cloud gaming has garnered significant attention. With advancements in cloud-native technologies and artificial intelligence, there's a growing interest in understanding how these innovations will shape the future of gaming. In a recent discussion with David Wynn, Principal Solution Architect at Edge Delta and former head of solution consulting for Google Cloud for games, we delved into the intricacies of cloud gaming, its current state, and what lies ahead.

The Intersection of Technology and Gaming

David Wynn's journey from a data analyst to a solution architect in cloud gaming underscores the dynamic nature of the tech industry. His experience with Google Cloud for games provided him with a unique perspective on the technological and market challenges faced by the gaming industry. Wynn highlighted that the gaming industry has always been at the forefront of technological innovation, often adopting cloud-like architectures before the advent of cloud computing. For instance, Blizzard's, launched in 1994, exemplifies early cloud infrastructure, predating Amazon S3 by a decade.

Challenges and Market Realities

While the concept of cloud gaming offers promising potential, several obstacles hinder its widespread adoption. One significant challenge is latency, which impacts the gaming experience. Games require high CPU utilization for optimal performance, making it difficult to achieve the necessary responsiveness over cloud infrastructure. Additionally, geographical distribution of data centers plays a crucial role in ensuring low-latency connections, something platforms like GeForce Now strive to achieve by having multiple data centers close to major metro areas.

The games industry doesn't make its name on technical innovation, right? If we come up with the next craziest and greatest way to seamlessly scale this platform, players don't care if it's not fun. So, when I say that it's in progress, the elasticity of the cloud is a key value driver for games, which is a hits-related business for launch day and for various events that they might run to keep populations interested and high. All of that is valid, but it's been slower to adopt just because a lot of the big publishers already have a bunch of machines sitting around and continue to have a little bit of hubris around how many of them they'll actually need, which is why on Warcraft release days, you'll still get giant queues and various other things. But they're in process! โ€” David Wynn

Another major hurdle is the market perception and consumer behavior. Despite the technical feasibility demonstrated by platforms like Google Stadia, the market for cloud gaming remains niche. Wynn pointed out that the appeal of owning physical consoles and the stability they offer continues to resonate with a significant portion of gamers. Moreover, the exclusivity of certain titles to specific consoles further reinforces the demand for traditional gaming hardware.

Right, so I'll comment on the two sides of this in the ways that I can comment on. So, the first side of when we talk about cloud gaming and why don't we put the whole console in the cloud, so to speak, there is the technical side of this piece. And I'll go ahead and bring in an extra competitor that no one asked for, which is VR. But there are similar challenges to VR, which is to say, what is an actual pleasant experience that people will be able to get behind and go through in a way that they will sit down and play for a number of hours? Very simply, it's a question of latency, it's a question of horsepower and where they're going, and it's a question of location.

So the way you have, and I think Stadia actually was amazing at this, from a tech test perspective, it worked. I tested it in hotels as I was traveling all across America. I had limited worldwide experience, but I'm told that it did pretty well in a whole bunch of places. Google has a lot of servers in a lot of places. It was very straightforward to set up and do from that regard. I think you have to, I don't remember what the specific numbers were that you have to hit, but it's a tight window that you have to get some degree of feedback in there before people start to feel that it's sluggish. So there's the input side of the equation, and there's also the graphics side of the equation, because you have to have something on the cloud side that is creating the image well enough and streaming it well enough. This is why Stadia went with Vulkan in order to get it to whatever the end device is in a way that makes sense and can be done in a performant fashion. So there are a lot of technical challenges that you have to overcome from that regard. I haven't used GeForce Now, but if you look at their status page, this is why they have a bajillion different DCs listed because you have to get close to basically all the metros that you want to serve, the data centers. So you have to get really close to all the metros that you want to serve. And the further and further out, you're going to run into speed of light problems where you can't get an input back and forth within a frame. As a result, that just starts to get very sluggish for most people. I think it's slightly more forgiving than a frame, but it's not more forgiving than two or three in terms of what people can generally tolerate.

Then there's the other side of this equation, which is the marketing piece. One of the things that gamers will probably want to have, if we ever transition to this type of experience, is something that I think GeForce Now is doing really well, which is tying in a lot of different stores so that your whole library is available to you on demand. This was something that was a real sore spot for Stadia because even though the tech was there and it worked, there weren't a lot of titles that people were clamoring to play.

A whole bunch of different, you know, at every single moment. And then there's the other half of the marketing equation, which is that most of the people currently who are interested in AAA gaming, which is to say prestige titles that take a lot of money to develop and have multiple years of development time and release cycles, they already have a console or they are willing to put down for a console in order to have it there and have it always running.

So, the market for who doesn't have a console that wants a AAA experience that is open to some degree of library limitations was a market that was too small to sustain Stadia. โ€” David Wynn

The Evolution of Gaming Hardware

The discussion also touched upon the potential future of gaming hardware. Wynn expressed skepticism about the widespread adoption of virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) in gaming. He emphasized that while VR has a dedicated but small following, it has not achieved mainstream success due to various limitations. Similarly, AI's integration into gaming is promising but still faces significant challenges in practical application.

However, Wynn sees potential in changing the way gaming devices connect and interact. Centralizing gaming consoles in cloud data centers or creating decentralized, player-to-player mesh networks could revolutionize the gaming experience. This approach could enhance multiplayer gaming by significantly reducing latency and enabling larger-scale interactions.

It's about not having to worry about other things, both from a design perspective and from a consumption perspective, because Windows or Linux or even Mac, maybe, I mean, they're trying to kind of get into this, have to, they're general-purpose operating systems. They have to design for everything. Everything could work if you want to put enough elbow grease into it. And yeah, it could do that and other things. But if I'm tired and I don't really have enough brainpower anymore, maybe I just want to hit the thing that I know it's good for.

I would actually slightly disagree with you, Leo, that things aren't as well optimized for console as they are, or they are equally unoptimized as they are for PC these days. We see this over the course of every generation, where the studios and publishers get better and better at squeezing every possible cycle and piece of juice out of the console as it lives its life. So I think we're doing pretty well there right now. You can see this with several prestige titles, and I'm going to date myself here a little bit, but Final Fantasy VII Remake, I think, runs better on PS5 than it does on PC. I think God of War does similarly. You know, it just takes more on PC because it's a more general framework.

It takes more juice in order to get the same squeeze out of it. It's the same reason you have to have really beefy emulators because people could reprogram. I mean, there were famous stories about people programming. Atari only supported formally some comically low number of colors. I want to say four. And so there became this whole art around how do you get more than four colors, though? Because you could, you just had to work at it.

And then that became part of the art of trying to code that thing. And so now if you're going to emulate that stuff, you have to figure out how to support all the crazy stuff that they did. Right. So always a balance back and forth. โ€” David Wynn

Looking Ahead

As we ponder the future of gaming, it's essential to consider the preferences of the younger generation. Today's children are shaping the future of gaming with their preferences and behaviors. While our generation may dream of VR and other advanced technologies, current trends indicate a shift towards more accessible and connected gaming experiences.

In conclusion, the future of cloud gaming remains a complex interplay of technology, market dynamics, and consumer behavior. As the industry continues to innovate, it will be fascinating to see how these factors converge to shape the next era of gaming.

Show Notes:

Podcast editing: Mila Jones /

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