What does the arrival of 5G technology mean for the world of gaming?

Last updated: 28 August 2019

The gaming industry has exploded in recent years with breakout hits like Fortnite creating hundreds of millions of fans across the globe. At the same time, evergreen classics like Call of Duty and Bethesda’s role-playing pantheon – featuring Skyrim and Fallout – continue to act as a lure to newcomers and diehard gamers alike.

The increasing popularity of gaming has been driven by a ‘democratisation’ of the sector. Whereas the ability to play games used to be contingent on having the latest console, the most up-to-date operating system and the ability to buy the newest games, these cost and technological barriers have started to decrease. Fortnite’s addictiveness is in part down to good game design, but its hyper-popularity was undoubtedly driven by low spec requirements and not needing to spend anything on the game upfront.

5G has the ability to take ‘click-and-go’ gaming to the next level. We look at a few ways that the latest wave of connective technology will impact the gaming industry.

The ‘Netflix of gaming’

Earlier this year, Google lifted the lid on an on-demand streaming service called Google Stadia. Hailed as the ‘Netflix of gaming’, Stadia was designed to meet the needs of a population that is increasingly used to consuming media on tap. While reception to its announcement has been mostly positive, even the platform’s biggest detractors couldn’t deny that the concept of the Stadia denoted an equalizing moment for the industry.

5G, and its potential to offer speeds of up to an astonishing 50 Gbps, would form part of the engine-room helping to power platforms like Stadia. As any online gamer knows, lag – or the delay between pressing a button and that action playing out on screen – can be the difference between an enjoyable evening playing a Battle Royale shooter with your mates online and a controller-smashing strop.

5G and the latest generation of ultrafast broadband services can reduce the likelihood of gamers encountering breaks that completely destroy their sense of immersion, making the Stadia a feasible concept for gamers whether they are playing on the go or sat at home.

End of lag?

Lag is among a number of issues that gamers on sketchy internet connections run into on a day to day basis – and it’s not just relevant to streaming services like Stadia. Online gamers will probably be well-acquainted with the ideas of high latency, ‘pings’ and jitter, all of which can conspire to wreck your gaming session.

So much of the coverage around 5G has focused on achieving next level speeds, when in fact, the conversation should be about more reliable connections that could help to eradicate high latency.

An additional advantage of low latency is the fact that developers can start to offload some of the computational workload from a device and instead allow remote sources to shoulder some of the processing. This means that devices with smaller batteries and limited thermal capacity, such as smartphones, can take on beefier games without collapsing under the strain.

Enabling virtual reality

Reducing latency is also vital in enabling Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) applications. The rise of affordable standalone headsets, coupled with mobile networks that can connect users without devastating lag, is increasingly improving the viability of this area of gaming. Considering the importance of player immersion involved with VR and AR, the need to kill off game-killing disruptions is of the utmost importance. 5G has the ability to do this.

Are you looking forward to the era of 5G enabled gaming? Which gaming innovations are you hoping to come out of this next generation of connectivity? Let us know in the comments below or by tweeting us @Gemalto.

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