There’s much discussion about the potential impact of 5G on some fairly vital aspects of our lives, culture, and economy. Remote healthcare and surgical procedures, self-driving vehicles, new tools for small businesses, and home security are just a few of the advances that are expected to come from the new, blazing fast wireless networking technology.
Although not as groundbreaking or critical as some these applications, another aspect of 5G that has many people excited is its potential to change the face of mobile gaming. With the always-connected, nearly zero-latency nature of 5G – along with its significant increase in transfer speeds – the sophistication as well as the types of games available on mobile platforms could be in for a major upgrade.
In the early days of the internet, multiplayer games were a rare luxury. Usually, players had to gather at a common location and set up a temporary Local Area Network (LAN) to have a fast, stable connection. Over the last decade, 4G speeds have made multiplayer gaming over widespread geographical areas more practical, and Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) have thus exploded in popularity, but have been mostly relegated to desktop computers, laptops, and game consoles.
On mobile devices, multiplayer games have become more common, but are limited by network latency and other deficiencies. 5G is expected to solve many of the connectivity issues that hamper multiplayer gaming, especially on mobile platforms.
The current paradigm in mobile app-based gaming is the free-to-play model. Free-to-play games can be downloaded to the device and played with no initial cost to the user. Developers make money by offering enhancements and in-app purchases. With 5G connectivity, however, game developers plan to introduce “streaming” game platforms. Similar to Netflix, Hulu, and other video streaming applications, subscription-based gaming will allow users to have instant access to a suite of games.
5G is expected to help close the gap in performance and functionality between mobile devices and more stationary platforms like PC’s and game consoles. This will allow many applications, including games, to be more portable between devices and platforms. Not only would this allow cross-platform multiplayer gaming, but it will also allow users to play the same game on different devices. For example, a user could save or pause a game they began on a PC and resume it on their phone.
Due to the low latency of 5G connectivity, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) should be more practical and more common in connected mobile devices across a variety of applications. Games will be no exception. Mobile VR games are expected to be more immersive at 5G bandwidths and AR will allow the integration of the user’s environment into their gaming experience.
Computer and other electronic games have long been a benchmark for processor and network speeds since they typically require a great deal of computing resources. As we learn more about the true capabilities of 5G, advancements in mobile gaming will be an indication of its progress.