Sony’s chief executive has warned that cloud gaming is still technically “very tricky”, downplaying the console maker’s risk to an industry that is rapidly converting to a technology on which rival Microsoft has bet heavily.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Kenichiro Yoshida said that the PlayStation creator would still study “various options” in the future for streaming games over the internet itself, adding that it could use GT Sophy, its artificial intelligence agent, to enhance cloud gaming.
“I think the cloud itself is a fantastic business model, but when it comes to games, the technical difficulties are high,” Yoshida said, noting the latency – the fast response times demanded by players – as the biggest issue. “So there will be challenges with cloud gaming, but we want to meet those challenges.”
Despite various attempts to remake the gaming industry around the cloud, many users have not yet moved from a console or high-end gaming PC to fully streaming games over the internet , who are afraid of lags that can be caused by slow internet connection and server speed.
Publishers are also not very supportive. In January, Google shut down its Stadia streaming service after most game producers stopped making their top titles available on the platform.
The promise of cloud gaming is still unfulfilled after more than a decade of development. Sony was one of the first big companies to enter the market, acquiring cloud gaming company Gaikai for $380mn in 2012 and later its technology rival OnLive.
While it launched a cloud gaming subscription service in 2014 that is now integrated into its upgraded and expanded PS Plus Premium service, analysts say Sony has not used its early bet to establish itself as a leader. in the field of.
Yoshida also pointed out the costly inefficiencies of cloud gaming where servers are idle for most of the day before having to cope with the high traffic levels of gamers playing at night or “dark time”. He added that Sony responded by releasing GT Sophy during quiet hours to learn how to beat human competitors in the auto-racing simulator. Gran Turismo.
“The dark times for cloud gaming were an issue for Microsoft as well as Google, but it was significant that we were able to use them. [quieter] time for AI learning,” said Yoshida, speaking at the company’s headquarters in Tokyo.
He declined to comment on the impact Sony sees from Microsoft’s $75bn deal to buy publisher Activision, the company behind the Call of Duty and World of Warcraft game franchises, saying regulatory reviews are ongoing.
But the deal has rattled the global gaming industry, where the US software company is engaged in a cut-throat battle with Sony for console gaming dominance.
Industry and regulatory concerns have focused on whether Microsoft will make Activision games exclusive to its own cloud gaming service, a move that could potentially accelerate the shift away from consoles.
Last month, the UK competition regulator blocked the takeover, ruling that the takeover would strengthen Microsoft’s dominance in the burgeoning cloud gaming market. According to Microsoft, its Xbox Cloud Gaming service has more than 20mn users.
The regulatory response was mixed, however, with EU regulators clearing the purchase on the basis that Microsoft had made concessions to alleviate its concerns.
If it goes through, the deal would make Microsoft the third-largest gaming company by revenue, behind China’s Tencent and Sony.