It is 1997. Bill Clinton is in the White House; Steve Jobs returns to Apple, and a little-known Finnish software engineer named Taneli Armanto develops a monochrome game called Snake for Nokia devices. To this day, Snake is considered the first major mobile game, the title that launched an industry now valued in the hundreds of billions of Dollars.
A Legend is Born
The release of Snake on the Nokia 6110 in 1997 started a phenomenon that has accelerated over the last 25+ years. Mobile gaming has boomed as mobile device hardware and network data speeds have improved. The fascination with gaming on mobile devices has moved from thumb-controlled gaming on the Chuck Norris of phones, the Nokia 3310, to high-definition full-screen mobile devices.
We can thank Steve Jobs for the new generation of smartphone mobile devices with the release of the Apple iPhone on 29 June 2007. With billions of full-screen mobile devices from Apple, Samsung, and other device manufacturers in the hands of customers across the globe, mobile gamers can now immerse themselves in gaming experiences that were simply the domain of console gamers.
Changing Entertainment Experiences
Coupled with the growth in mobile gaming has been the faster acceleration of over-the-top video streaming services like Netflix, Disney+ and Showmax. As consumers, we have spoilt with choice. Our mobile devices and high-speed mobile internet connectivity enable us to enjoy the benefits of a modern connected life in our hands. The technology advancements from video streaming services have now found their way into mobile gaming.
This is changing our entertainment and gaming experiences. Suddenly, because of state-of-the-art content delivery networks (CDNs) hosted in the cloud, customers can access thousands of TV series and movie titles for the same cost as a meal in their favourite restaurant. This choice and access to content are now available to mobile gamers.
We call this cloud gaming. Mobile gamers can now use their mobile devices with connected gamepads and play immersive console-quality gaming experiences anywhere and anytime. Gamers are no longer restricted to playing console games on their couches. Our gaming experiences are evolving.
Cloud Gaming is a technology that allows gamers to play video games without needing dedicated gaming hardware or consoles. Instead, the games are hosted and run on remote servers hosted in data centres. The gameplay is streamed to the gamer’s device over the internet. This means that users can play high-quality, graphics-intensive games on devices that may not have the necessary processing power to run those games locally.
High-speed data networks, such as MTN’s 5G network, make this possible. With blistering speeds, customers can game and stream with upload and download speeds from 50 Mbps to 500 Mbps. But the secret sauce is the reduced latency that 5G provides. That means the time it takes for data to travel from its source to its destination is way faster, resulting in shorter response times, a necessity for highly responsive gameplay in cloud gaming offerings.
We have recently launched Arena+, a cloud gaming product that allows our customers to play video-streamed games using tokens. The tokens allow for a single gameplay experience against the clock. Your scores are then logged onto a leaderboard where awesome prizes are available. The custom-developed games in Arena+ will provide single-serving, fast gameplay (between 2 and 5 minutes) with prizes that will give our customers their first taste of cloud gaming.
Where to from here?
We are excited about the possibilities that cloud gaming brings our customers. It provides one of the critical customer-ready use cases for our high-speed 5G data network. Still, it allows our customers across South Africa to experience console-quality gaming on SA’s best mobile network through their mobile devices.
We see a future where over time, as our 5G network expands and more 5G-enabled devices and sim cards are in the hands of our customers; we can give our customers the opportunity and choice with a variety of cloud gaming offerings to meet their wants and needs. As Snake started it all in 1997, cloud gaming has the potential (although still in its infancy) to be a potential game changer in how mobile gaming is consumed in the years to come.
Jon Hoehler is the Senior Manager of Gaming, Lifestyle, and Sports Digital Services at MTN South Africa