Ubisoft believes streaming will do for games what Netflix did for movies and television


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A hot potato: For years we've heard the claim that video game streaming will transform the industry in the same way Netflix did for TV and cinema. That obviously hasn't happened, and the spectacular failure of Google Stadia seemed to illustrate just how overly optimistic companies that spewed the quote were being. Nevertheless, Ubisoft still thinks it will happen, though it's going to take time.

In order to appease the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which had blocked the acquisition of Activision Blizzard over concerns it could alter the cloud gaming industry, Microsoft said it would transfer the cloud streaming rights for all current and new Activision Blizzard PC and console games released over the next 15 years to Ubisoft.

Speaking about the agreement with the Financial Times, Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot said, "When Netflix first said it was going to go into streaming, their shares fell a lot and they were widely criticized."

"Today we see what they have become," he added. "It's going to be the same with video games but it will take time. But when it takes off, it will happen very quickly."

The game-streaming market certainly hasn't come close to being anywhere near as disruptive as Netflix. The industry's biggest casualty was Google Stadia, which was shuttered last year after it failed to meet Google's expectations.

When launched in 2019, Google boasted that Stadia was more powerful than both Xbox One X and PS4 Pro combined, claiming it would finally be the game streaming service that consumers would opt for over a PC or console. Google VP Majd Bakar later said that Stadia could be more responsive than a PC in two years.

Services that offer a streaming option, such as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate and PlayStation Plus Premium, are predicted to generate $3.2 billion in 2023, or 2% of all consumer spending, from games. Some analysts think that figure will at least double in the next five years, but Guillemot believes the industry will be even bigger than that prediction. The CEO said Ubisoft thinks that "many" games will be both streamed and produced in the cloud in the next five to ten years. "That's what pushed us to go forward with the [Microsoft] deal."

Guillemot added that Ubisoft's acquisition of streaming rights for Activision games such as Call of Duty over the next 15 years, combined with increasingly powerful mobile gaming devices such as the iPhone 15 Pro, will help it gain a foothold in locations outside of the US and Europe where consoles and PCs aren't as prevalent. He pointed to the African adoption of mobile payments as an example of countries that jump on new technologies and skip older systems. "So we think that [these regions] will move more quickly to streaming and the cloud than others."

Last Friday, the CMA said that Microsoft's sale of the cloud streaming rights to Ubisoft substantially addresses the watchdog's previous concerns and opens the door for the deal to be cleared.

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Not really, the one caveat I can give it is that it might be for the kind of game Ubisoft relies on...Some of the times but not all.

See the big difference is that once you click 'Play' on Netflix you are just receiving information. If you're playing a game, you're going to be sending information to their servers close to 100% of the times. Sorry to say but we just don't have the internet infrastructure for that to become a nonissue right away. It might be for like, 80% of the population for about 80% of the time but those are really bad numbers if you want to replace ownership and local play with streaming only connection.

So now let's circle back to why this is 80% of the time, give or take, for people playing specifically Ubisoft games which tend to release a lot of single player focused sandbox games: AC, Watchdogs, Farcry, etc. Even some of their multiplayer games like the division series can usually be played single player even if they encourage multiplayer aspects a bit more.

However if you look at the most popular and played games, you'll find competitive games really sensitive to latency make up a lot of the market for companies other than Ubi. And those have correctly opted for a different path of minimizing system requirements so they can run reasonably well on just about any device you might have above a potato with some cables attached.

Game streaming is never going to replace some of the most popular games out there: players are never going to accept rubber banding local lag on top of the regular lag spikes they might experience because they're not just streaming minimal connection data but the entire game video feed.

Once we have fiber on every home and cover most rural areas with at least 20-30ms reliable connections you might be able to get away with streaming most of your games but as it stands, you can only really get away with streaming your games if you very specifically play single player games you don't really grab a lot of mods for like say, Generic Ubisoft Sandbox Franchise Current-iteration type games.
As long as publishers put their streaming services behind region locks and ISPs charge as much as they do for high internet speeds (and have bandwidth limits in some countries!) this won't even be close to taking off. I've been a subscriber to XGP since beta on PC, but I had to go through multiple loopholes to be able to even have it. We still don't have Xcloud in our country and no other streaming service service is supported either, except for Geforce Now. GFN works fine, but still has some downsides.

I highly doubt game streaming will be popular unless these services are reaching people outside of the main, 'biggest' regions, and companies are able to find ways to scale these in multiple smaller countries. With legalities, region locks and internet issues on top, it's not happening.
I mean, Gamepass is essentially doing it right now. Sure, it's not pure streaming (and it should never become so), but it also has that while trying or downloading the game.

And it is a good deal (right now) like Netflix was at the start.

The only other thing is that it's not publisher agnostic, mainly because there's no way Sony or Nintendo would do that (regardless of if it was a neutral party running the service or not).
Ubisoft streaming? Pull the other one. Can't trust them with the performance of their servers for standard network traffic, let alone dealing with the two-way demands of input processing and rendering.

We've already got the hardware to do the runtime work and storage, just save us having to pay $100 per title we want access to for the small amount of time some of us will actually play it for before moving on. It's proven successful for Microsoft Gamepass, so why keep chasing the full-streaming dream?

All we want is a "Steam pass" so we're not quite so publisher-locked for our monthly subscription charge.
"Ubisoft believes streaming will do for games what Netflix did for movies and television"

You mean separating it into dozens of overpriced services none of which have the content you want all in one place, with content censored or removed for whatever whimsy strikes the megacorp?

And this is supposed to be exciting?

This also ignores that it wouldnt work. Look at stadia. Connected to google fiber, with the gaming data center in a nearby zip code, Gamer Nexus showed horrific input lag and visual quality, especially in action games. Metro was unplayable, as was borderlands. 99% of america has a worse setup. Unless you bring in quantum mechanics, game streaming will never be truly viable to local rendering.
We've been told streaming will takeover the gaming space for years now, you'll probably find me in the comments of articles on this very site from 10+ years ago. It hasn't happened for many reasons.

Ubisoft can give it a crack, I'm sure it'll be just as unsuccessful as all the other services over the years.
More funny news, please! Every brief hype is now "The Future". This one`s actually old, proved and tested to fail. Comparing streaming games to Netflix is pure dumb. But, tell me more about NFTs, Ubisoft and how they are going to change the way we play games and have fun and give you tons of money. Sorry, the Metaverse idea is taken, also going great... to the nearest garbage.
I can’t see infrastructure and latency issues being sorted out in 5 years - so I don’t see game streaming overtaking local installation anytime soon. Most likely a hybrid model will grow in popularity though, e.g. on-demand asset downloads in Flight Simulator.
No gamer would want a Netflix-like impact, since that means eventual fragmentation, paying a dozen subscription fees, etc. in order to play games they don't own.
Yeah, thanks but never, Ubi-Crap.
I've seen "THE MESSAGE" in a lot of your games, you just forgot how to make quality content and turned into policing us for swearing in games, and the trailer for Star Wars Outlaws (of course, it will require an online connection and have MTX in a single player game) LOL.
Guess what? I bought the last game several years ago (Far Cry V) and played Far Cry 6 just because I received it as a gift with my CPU. I've decided I'm never buying anything else from you again.. And I don't regret it: Splinter Cell is going woke, Assassin's Creed is already ruined, thanks for nothing, I hope you go bankrupt.
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What Netflix did, huh? So, crappy mass produced series without any drop off sense and squeezing off good ips which are simply butchered? Netflix made me going to cinema more often and buying movies physically. Xaas is always made to ensure more money for companies, and that always means customer will pay the difference.
Game streaming will never be what Netflix was to rented movies. Game streaming is a pipe dream outside of casual games that don't rely on timed player input.
I feel like video games are different than tv content. They are the same in some ways, but different in other ways. I'm not sure that the trend in tv content would work in video games. I'm not even really sure streaming video services are making that much money.

Some people play the same 2 or 3 games for years at a time and don't really jump around to other games. Paying monthly for access to tons of games would not help them at all. There are some people that probably do want to play a different game every night. Not sure there are enough of those people to make it work though.