5G APIs are set to rewrite the narrative of gaming by unlocking new levels of user experience and gaming performance anywhere, on any device. Mobile cloud gaming growth will be driven by a rise in commercial-grade XR applications as well as new service-based mobile connectivity offerings that deliver guaranteed quality of service for gamers.
There is no greater test of 5G’s powerful performance capabilities than mobile cloud gaming.
Performance criteria such as latency, lag, jitter and mobility will be put to the test by thousands of new gaming platforms and many millions of gamers in coming years. A millisecond too late, or a packet out of place will ultimately be the difference between a hit or a miss, so the performance stakes couldn’t be higher.
The new paradigm of high-performance gaming anywhere
Achieving this paradigm shift requires deep collaboration between a new ecosystem of partners across network, compute and gaming domains.
It requires significant mobile network build out to deliver the capacity, coverage and compute offload that emerging mobile cloud gaming platforms demand. It requires guaranteed quality of service delivered through new dynamic service offerings. And ultimately, it requires 5G-native gaming platforms that can leverage the full suite of 5G’s unrivalled performance capabilities.
At Ericsson, we are working across our ecosystem to drive those advances today. This includes our work with CSPs and application developers, such as mobile cloud gaming provider Blacknut, to expose advanced 5G functionality through standardized APIs and build that pathway to high performance mobile gaming experiences that can be consumed anywhere.
I was excited to meet with Olivier Avaro, CEO of Blacknut, recently to discuss the unbound potential of this new gaming paradigm, and hear more about how he expects both the challenges and possibilities to play out in coming years.
Here is a recap of our conversation, including the three paradigm shifts that gamers, developers and CSPs can expect in coming years.
The shift for developers: 5G APIs will deliver a new era of 5G-native gaming platforms, unleashing 5G’s inherent superior performance and user experience
5G network APIs, such as the network quality of service on-demand API recently trialed by Blacknut in collaboration with Ericsson, Vonage and a host of CSPs, will be key to unleashing the full inherent power of 5G mobile cloud gaming in the next decade.
APIs have been key to driving innovation across cloud, device and application domains. Today, through unified 5G network programmable APIs provided by CPaaS providers like Vonage, we are exposing the full capabilities of an innovation platform more powerful and performant than anything we have ever seen before.
Through standardized and easy-to-consume network APIs, we are creating a pathway to a better and more predicable end user experience by giving developers the freedom to select the level of differentiation depending on the application needs not only in terms of the gaming quality of experience, but other powerful 5G capabilities such as positioning and authentication.
Today, we are seeing initiatives and collaborations to put those innovation fundaments in place across all sectors and eco-systems. One example is the new industry-wide GSMA Open Gateway Initiative launched earlier this year delivering a framework of network APIs designed to provide universal access to networks for developers.
While the journey to fully standardized APIs is still at a relatively early development stage, particularly in terms of the scale and interoperability required to reach tomorrow’s innovation potential
Expect this momentum to continue in coming years with a heavy focus on achieving the necessary interoperability and scale required to drive tomorrow’s 5G innovation possibilities. At Ericsson, we will continue to drive this work with our partners both on the network and application side.
The shift for gamers: 5G mobile cloud gives gamers real-time, experiential gaming possibilities from anywhere
The takeaway: Powerful interplay of 5G, edge compute, and slicing delivers extreme mobility and guaranteed performance needed to unlock new forms of experiential XR-based gaming.
Mobile cloud gaming is enabled by the significant performance enhancements of 5G – bringing low latency and high throughput resilient connectivity as standard. This really plays into what gamers want to see: premium gaming content that can be played just about anywhere without buffer, lag or jitter on any device. Together with the right technology stack, the powerful combination of 5G, network APIs, edge compute and network slicing can bring all of that.
5G network APIs will be key in ensuring that application providers like Blacknut can create superior experiences using the required bandwidth, latency and jitter performance parameters.
Together with significant commercial breakthroughs that are expected across XR domains in the next decade, network APIs provide a strong innovation baseline for the evolution of gaming into new experiential narratives played out in the real world, in real time.
As it has always been, gaming will continue to be one of the biggest driving forces behind the development of XR. And when you look at the possibilities it’s easy to understand why: having the ability to blend a digital game into real environments can create a new powerful and more social genre of gaming that can spur market growth. According to Ericsson’s Augmented Reality Gaming report, two thirds of consumers said that they were eager to try augmented reality gaming, a third of whom say they are not gamers today.
We expect there to be about a billion XR devices on the network by 2030, and network performance will be critical to serving those markets. On the network side, supporting such use cases – particularly those that demand high uplink capacity and a need for high offload to edge compute – will require significant network build out in the coming years.
For game developers, ecosystem collaboration will be the driver that unlocks these new technological and commercial possibilities.
As we heard from Olivier Avaro, Blacknut have already been experimenting with ecosystem partners for many years. This includes device developers, but also partners across the connectivity domain – such as a recent trial together with Ericsson, Vonage and a host of CSPs in Spain to drive better user experience through the exposure of a network quality of service on-demand API. It is initiatives such as this that will pave the way to future experiential gaming.
The shift for service providers: customized gamer service offerings to become a key commercial and technical pillar behind mobile cloud gaming growth
The takeaway: Early commercial success of slicing-based gaming offerings will evolve hand-in-hand with the scale out of mobile cloud gaming, providing a strong revenue source for vital network build out in years to come.
Network slicing is the workhorse that brings enriched API-enabled mobile cloud gaming experiences to life, particularly platforms that have an acute need for flawless user experience, such as multiplayer online gaming or HD/4K streaming in capacity constrained areas. This will move gaming beyond traditional best effort and ‘play and pray’ scenarios – something that has never been done before.
Importantly, this plays into what gamers want. According to Ericsson’s Cloud Gaming report, as many as 80 percent of today’s gamers agree that they would be willing to pay extra for access to a dedicated gaming network slice.
Another way to deliver that is through an on-demand 5G performance boost option which, according to our recent 5G global consumer study, as many as a quarter of smartphone users say they are receptive to.
For CSPs, multiple-sided business models will form a crucial revenue stream in coming years and is already being offered in many markets today through aggregated content and service bundles. In Hong Kong for example, SmarTone already offers a dynamic service model to gamers called Gamergizer. While in Thailand, DTAC even offers a Gaming SIM card specifically to gamers.
APIs and the first steps towards large-scale 5G innovation
Exposing advanced 5G functionality through standardized APIs will enable CSPs to leverage new ways to monetize 5G and deliver new services on a global scale with speed.
With this power at their fingertips, the world’s developers can leverage unrivaled opportunities to innovate new applications and features for any device that benefits from connection to the 5G network.
Together with Vonage, we are committed to driving this paradigm shift for CSPs and developer ecosystems. Our recent API trial together with Blacknut and other partners is an important step to show the possibilities that can be unlocked when application developers are given the freedom to innovate on top of 5G networks.
To secure a share of tomorrow’s gaming market, there is also a clear need to invest in network coverage, capacity and compute build out over time to keep pace with new performance criteria and demands. In North America, for example, average monthly mobile data usage per smartphone will reach 55 GB by 2028, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report. This will be driven in part by new gaming, XR, and video-based applications that require higher video resolutions, increased uplink traffic, and edge compute off-load.