Stacey Higginbotham (no relation to Michael Hickenbottom) wrote an interesting article for GigaOm about the end of all-you-can-eat broadband access. Most Internet providers are working towards tiered plans with set bandwidth caps. Cable companies are being the most aggressive with these practices, since Internet video cuts into their television offerings. Sadly, it looks like “unlimited” Internet will be going the way of the dodo.
The article got me thinking about cloud-based gaming-services like OnLive, Gaikai, and whatever Ken Kutaragi is cooking up. While some of you are fixated on the pricing structure these services will offer (stares at Smartguy), I think that’s a pretty minor problem. Sure, a small and vocal percentage of customers will argue that digital downloads should be much cheaper than retail games and be disappointed when they’re not. Some will complain about not being able to resell games. The majority of consumers will just pay the set price and live with it (see the Xbox 360 wireless adapter, for example).
Getting back to the death of unlimited Internet, I’ve said time and time again that Internet services providers are the biggest obstacles to cloud gaming in America. How can you stream Blu-ray quality graphics when you have a Comcastic bandwidth cap of 250GB? How can you play hours and hours of online games every day with a limited amount of Internet access? The answer is that you can do all these things…but you’ll have to pay a premium price for Internet service. You’ll have to pay for the top speeds and the largest caps, which will surely cost more than whatever you’re paying now and can eliminate some of the inherent “cheapness” cloud gaming has to offer.
I’m all for cloud gaming. I am of the opinion that optical discs and plastic boxes are stupid. I’d gladly trade the stacks and stacks of games that I have for files in a digital locker. The problem is that ISPs are going to make it difficult for me to get to my locker.