With Google Stadia and Microsoft’s Project xCloud on the horizon, Game streaming looks to be the next frontier of gaming. If it works as well as Google and Microsoft say it does, you can play state-of-the-art games straight from your phone with most of the computation done on remote servers.
So it makes sense that Chinese telecom giant Huawei also wants to get in on the fun. The company recently revealed that Huawei device users can now play Justice Online, NetEase’s flagship live-service game, from the cloud.
Players can do this this using Huawei Cloud PC, an app the company released a year ago that allows Huawei devices to run Windows 10 in real time. Huawei recently said that Justice Online, which has system requirements similar to those of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, has now been fully optimised for Huawei Cloud PC.
Huawei also said it has something special that sets it apart from the competition: 5G infrastructure.
“5G’s huge bandwidth and low latency will be the solution to the bottleneck problem for game streaming,” the company said. “In the era of 5G, the internet speeds start at 100Mbps and the lag will be under 20ms.”
While it may sound nice, there are plenty of skeptics in China who believe that Huawei is bluffing.
“Microsoft’s and Google’s game streaming platforms both suffer from lag close to 200ms,” one gamer commented incredulously. “Yours is going under 20ms? Come on, stop talking yourself up.”
There’s reason for skepticism. Huawei Cloud PC has been available to consumers in mainland China and Hong Kong as a monthly subscription or a rent-by-hour service since its launch last summer, but it hasn’t taken off in either market.
Online reviews suggest that even when connected through Wi-Fi, Huawei Cloud PC still suffers occasional lag. As a result, consumers remain unwilling to pay for the service, which charges anywhere from 30 US cents an hour to about US$10 a month.
There’s another problem with the Huawei-NetEase team-up: Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (or MMORPGs) aren’t exactly easy to play on mobile.
Even if players can get smooth gameplay streaming Justice Online from servers directly to their Huawei smartphones, the game doesn’t support gaming controllers as input devices. Judging from pictures released by Huawei, it looks like users will still need to use a dock to hook up their phones to a monitor, keyboard and mouse — in sharp contrast to the Microsoft xCloud demo from E3, with games streamed on smartphones paired with Xbox One controllers.
This will be the first foray into game streaming for Huawei and NetEase, but not for China. At the Game Developers Conference last March, Tencent and Intel showed off “Tencent Instant Play,” a game streaming platform for PCs and Android devices.
With launches from Microsoft and Google coming up fast (October and Novemberrespectively), Chinese companies may want to get things rolling soon.
If Huawei’s claims about using 5G for game streaming prove accurate, its effort with NetEase, the world’s seventh biggest gaming company, could prove formidable competition for the likes of Google, Microsoft and Tencent.
However, the ability to stream Justice Online to a smartphone doesn’t seem to be generating much enthusiasm in China. Many believe the NetEase game simply isn’t as popular as Western blockbusters.
“NetEase first added ray tracing [to Justice Online]. Now it’s getting on the cloud,” a gamer commented online. “It is hopping on whatever technology is most in vogue. But the game itself is still so mediocre.”