Gaming and particularly mobile gaming will experience massive growth in the coming years. Coupled with that we are seeing the emergence of an increasingly immersive gaming experiences and cloud based gaming services such as Google’s Stadia. The push is for high resolution 4K video to create realistic, immersive experiences, leading to cloud based processing, but at the same time gaming is more and more on the move and mobile. 5G technologies will prove pivotal to meeting these seemingly conflicting demands of central processing but mobile consumption.

So how will 5G change the gaming experience?

Well, first of all there’s speed. 5G networks from the beginning will have peak speeds of 1Gbs and average speeds around 200Mbs. It is significantly faster than 4G and over time will only get faster with peak speeds set to hit 10Gbs. That creates the possibility for games to be streamed in 4k resolution to a 5G enabled device. This speed advantage opens up the possibility for cloud based gaming that has no dependency on the local terminal, be that a console or a handset. In the future there may be no need to download and install games and so no need to upgrade your games platform to play the latest games.

Why is this so important?

Well, games developers have a much bigger market for their product, as it’s not limited by access to the latest hardware platforms. Anyone with a 5G device can play. Cloud based gaming also gives games developers the possibility to create amazing graphics and interaction in their games because they can have access to as much processing power as they need. That’s the advantage of being cloud based; the physical hardware can be scaled to match requirements and demand. Creativity is only limited by the designer’s imagination not the capabilities of the terminal hardware.

The other critical component for realistic gaming is latency or reaction time. Latency is the time it takes for actions initiated by the gamer to reach the cloud and produce a reaction in the game. So, gamers want games that respond quickly to their movements and actions in the game, just a small amount of delay will be noticeable. Latency therefore plays a major part in the immersive quality of a game; gamers don’t want the game to feel artificial even though it is. It has the feel real. This of course can be a problem with centralised, cloud based gaming as the servers could be housed many hundreds of miles from the point of consumption. Low latency is therefore critical.

Fortunately, 5G has a couple of tricks to help.

Firstly, it has been designed from the start to provide low latency, around 1mS is possible. 5G infrastructure provides then a low latency platform by design but you can’t get around the laws of physics, so excessive distance to the cloud can still be a problem. Enter the second trick 5G has, Multi-rate Edge Computing or MEC. I’ve talked about this in previous articles but essentially what this is about is moving processing closer to the point of consumption and so reducing the distance to the cloud. 5G therefore enables the cloud to be distributed and that in turn reduces the distance from the cloud to the gamer and therefore the latency or reaction time they experience.

As these developments come on line we will see a step change in the evolution of gaming. As we demand more and more realistic games that can be consumed anywhere, on any platform having the right infrastructure to deliver it will be key. 5G technologies will provide that capability and so will be at the heart of driving change in gaming.