Cloud Gaming

One of the topics that attracts the most interest in the "green gaming" space is cloud gaming. Does it help?  Does it hurt?

We took a long look [see article in Computer Games Journal] at this in our lab, running scores of tests with different hardware and software configurations, and different games.  Here's a high-level summary. More details in our reports. Our "Cloud-gaming" scenario for the entire United States assumes 75% of all gaming hours are on cloud (vs 20% in Baseline). It results in gaming energy demand rising 17% above baseline in the five years between 2016 and 2021. Note that this is in isolation from other changes that may be happening in parallel (e.g., shift from consoles to PCs, or visa-versa).  

The two charts below tell the story. The on the left shows the "Strong Uptake of Cloud-based Gaming" scenario, in context with other possible scenarios. These are book-ended by the dotted green line (low case) with high efficiencies across all platform types, and a transition to greater market share of consoles, and no improvements at all in efficiencies or changes in the mix of systems people use to game, i.e. the "Frozen Efficiency and Market Shares" scenario.  The chart on the right shows the effect of cloud gaming at the individual system level of cloud gaming versus purely local gaming.

Our project consistently looks at all uses and modes of gaming devices, so we consider gaming (local and cloud) but also modes such as video streaming, web browsing, idle, off. We're interested in total energy use of the equipment, across all it's modes of use. These modes are more fully defined in our reports. We also break down the market and "fleet" of gaming devices into several user types (reflecting intensity of use).

"Streaming" in the figure above refers to video streaming. The red strip in the bars is the network component of energy used when in video-streaming mode.  "NonCloud" is energy use when no cloud services are being utilized.  That's the reference point we compare against to see how much more energy, in aggregate, these systems use when connected to cloud services.

Of course given systems will use more or less than these averages.  Significantly more in many cases. The bookends of "Light" users on "Entry-Level" systems versus "Extreme" users of "High-End" systems represent a 7-fold difference in energy use for desktops and 17-fold difference for laptops. See caption.  Even more differences would no doubt be found in the wild, as our numbers reflect 'only' the 23 representative systems we tested in detail.

Here are the questions that come up most often:

For more discussion, see the various articles in the trade press and popular media: BBC, Digital Trends, New Scientist, and Wired.