The Death of Unlimited Internet Will Likely Screw Cloud Gaming

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.

Author: RPadTV

16 thoughts on “The Death of Unlimited Internet Will Likely Screw Cloud Gaming”

  1. Thanks for the glare Ray.

    I agree that ISPs in their inherent wisdom (see greed) are convinced that metered internet is the only way to go. Right now ATT, Comcast, etc are having extraordinary profits without the caps. I understand making money for investors, but at what point do you stop trying to gouge the consumer?

    Personally I don't see this happening to some extent. If you meter anything, you are subject to a third party, typically government, to test your metering device and the way you measure units. This could lead to broadband being classified as a utility and would force ISPs to offer their services to the ENTIRE area they are franchised in.

    As an afterthought…what about ads? They take up bandwidth..especially those annoying flash ads where someone just starts talking to me. That is cutting into my cap. Would an ISP be required to do deep packet inspection on every byte (sounds illegal) to mete out the ad bandwidth?

    Hopefully in the land of capitalism (it has plusses and minuses) a company will step forth to seize the market and offer buffet style internet. Think MS, or Google. Their services would be crippled.

  2. Also, their pricing model is very important based on the fact you are perpetually renting as opposed to buying a game. I'd rather own something than have a license to play it. Just my feelings though.

  3. I don't see how ISPs can get away with this. I mean it's bad enough that we as American's pay the most for internet and are getting some of the worst bandwith speed in the world. I don't see how they can put unreasonable caps on us once we finally get the 27+ mbps we've been asking for. I think pretty soon everything media we buy will be via download. I think the masses might win over the ISPs on this one.

    There's going to be one ISP that offers unlimited and that could be their selling point. I mean I'd hate to live in a world where speeds are such that I can play onlive, download a 1080p movie and download a video game when it comes out but then run out of my bandwidth. I mean somehting like 250 gigs is what? 5 BD movies?

  4. @Shockwave

    More like 20 movies. GIve or take one or two. Also the problem comes from what ISPs deem fair for their customers. They want people to pay their fair share. Their spin is that someone who only checks their email during the week a handful of times shouldn't pay as much as someone who downloads movies from Itunes. That said, it will be a cold day in hell before an ISP only charges $5 per month for the email only customer.

    They can get away with it because most americans don't have a choice who they get to use. Usually there is only one alternative.

    Horrible stuff.

  5. @smartguy I see your point but I do think the single use people are the ones paying too much. I'm happy paying $50 a month for unlimited usage but if they put a cap on me that I can't fulfill then I'd be on to the next provider. I know choices are limited but they are out there. I feel like I'm paying way too much money for like 9 mbps personally.

  6. @shockwave

    Do you actually think Verizon/ATT/Comcast/Charter whoever will only charge a nominal fee for the person who only accesses an email inbox?

    You are wrong about the choices are limited but out there. Before I moved earlier this year, I had no broadband internet. Neither Charter, ATT, Verizon, whoever offered broadband coverage to me. It was either nothing or nothing. Now where I moved to, ATT and Charter both offer broadband services. When I called ATT they told me there was no room in the box for me. Which left me only one option, Charter. If they hadn't come through for me, I'd be living in the middle of a very well developed area with no options for broadband.

  7. also, email only people could easily do email over their cells or on dial up. No need to mess with the broadband market for people it doesn't affect really.

  8. @smartguy – actually that's the thing that sucks. I pay ATT 30 per month for internet and Comcast on top of it. fortunately my girlfriend works for Comcast so that one is next to nothing.

    I do realize some areas are worse than others. Here in Denver I know there are satellite options, Comcast (cable) and Qwest (phone guys). I think that as the internet develops there is going to be service at the bottom of the grand canyon though. Options may be one thing though

  9. @shockwave

    Have you ever used satellite internet? I used it for about 2 months. I kept getting throttled on my bandwidth because the fair usage cap per day was way too low. Not too mention, I found my dial-up connection was more reliable and about $90 per month cheaper.

    I hate telcos. I really wish municipal fiber was a bigger venture in the US.

  10. @smartguy – I picture a world 10-20 years from now where the internet is completely wireless, free, and coast to coast. call me a dreamer though.

    I believe Google are the ones working toward that goal but they've had trouble with it. the Telco companies will fight anyone trying to pull that off

  11. @RPAD. funny thing is I would pay more for extra speed but bandwidth caps are the worst. of course I use the internet a ton and I don't think I use 250GB a month just yet. hopefully as speeds rise the caps will to to keep it even

  12. We need more deregulation of the telecom industry so that more companies can compete with the big guys and help drive to price down and value up for the consumers.


  13. @iceman

    that's just it though…they won't compete with one another. Comcast won't come and offer cable services in an area where Charter is. Part of the problem is that these cable co's and telco's get parishes or counties to sign up for franchise agreements. Effectively killing any competition.

  14. @Shockwave562 Speeds will surely go up and caps will surely rise, but consumption will go up too. As HD video continues to proliferate, pipes will get more use.

    @Smartguy Adding to that is that company's only compete when they have to. For example, in some areas of NY, Cablevision has stepped up its game because of Verizon's FiOS. In LA, Time Warner is relatively slow, so AT&T has been slow to deploy its U-Verse service and is content to compete with DSL.

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