Cloud-based gaming — the ability for gamers to access a virtual console to play without the need for purchasing hardware, installing software or downloading updates — unfortunately, features problems on both sides of the equation. While it’s certainly got its benefits – for example, effectively preventing cheating in multiplayer situations – drawbacks are also present. Players are forced to sit through seemingly interminable, often game-ruining, lag due to their physical distance from the cloud data center. Meanwhile, operating and maintaining these data centers can be quite expensive for business owners.
In a recent edition of Famitsu magazine, developer Sega proposed a brand new potential solution to the lag problem: the renamed “Fog-Based” gaming, which revolves around the re-purposing of existing video game arcades into cloud data centers. The name “Fog” was chosen because these new data centers are meant to be “closer to the gamers” who need them, similar to how fog can be considered a “closer to Earth” version of clouds.
The Famitsu column explained that reworking existing arcade machines to store cloud data would be both nearly impossible and prohibitively expensive. Instead, Sega is working on developing a new generation of arcade boards and machines, which will be specifically optimized also to store cloud data. These boards are currently in development, but it will likely be several years before they are ready to be implemented, as they represent a significant improvement over current arcade technology.
Currently, Sega estimates that their new boards will reduce player-side lag to less than one millisecond. Now, it can be up to several dozen milliseconds depending on the signal strength and the player’s distance from cloud data centers.
This “Fog-Based” solution would also be beneficial to arcade owners and operators. It would provide an additional function and potential source of income for the arcades when they are closed or lacking customers. This is a problem which many arcades are currently experiencing, as their usual patrons are forced to stay home due to COVID-19, and several have been forced to shut down or declare bankruptcy. Sega envisions the arcades becoming the center of data-based services in towns across Japan as they are used not only for Fog-Based Gaming but also as virtual machines and render farms.
One potential problem is whether or not this solution would be feasible in any country outside of Japan. Currently, Japan is home to over 4000 video game arcades, with 200 being either owned by or partnered with Sega. Even with the increasing popularity of console and online gaming, arcades are a popular hangout spot for Japanese gamers of all ages. However, arcade culture is not as prevalent in the United States and most other Western countries, meaning that the space to create these new “Fog-Based” data centers might not exist.
Currently, Sega is planning to focus on the development of new cloud-compatible arcade boards, for which they have not yet provided a release or implementation timeline. Once these are completed, expect them first to be rolled out in Sega’s 200 arcades across Japan. However, the developer has also expressed interest in partnering with other companies, including those outside the gaming industry, to help their “Fog-Based” platform become more widespread.
Could this indeed be the solution to the lag problems inherent in cloud-based gaming? We’re not sure yet, but we hope so! We wish Sega the best in their endeavors and look forward to hearing more about “Fog-Based Gaming” as the situation develops.
What are your thoughts on “Fog-Based Gaming”? Do you think this could be the revolution that “the Cloud” needs? Let us know!