SINGAPORE - It is now possible to play high-end video games on the go and on low-end computers with a new cloud gaming service launched by telco StarHub on Thursday (Sept 9), following earlier attempts by others years ago that did not take off.
Gamers using the new service on phones while on the move can also get a boost if they play on 5G mobile networks as less lag is expected than on 4G. This translates to a smoother and more responsive gaming experience.
The service also comes after telcos M1 and Singtel launched new 5G commercial applications in the past two weeks.
Called GeForce Now, the new subscription service is from graphics processor maker Nvidia and made available to consumers through StarHub.
It allows a user to play games without needing the latest game consoles or souped-up gaming computers that can cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.
So even a mobile phone, tablet, and laptop or desktop computer with low-end specifications can play the more than 1,000 titles compatible with the cloud gaming service.
This is possible because GeForce Now does the game processing on high-end machines at the back end, then streams the game over mobile networks or fibre broadband to users through the service's app or a Web browser.
So far, the only browsers supported are Safari for Apple products like iPhones, and Chrome for other devices.
The service does not work exactly like a video-streaming service, however.
With streaming services like Netflix, a user pays a fixed monthly fee to access a catalogue of movies and shows without having to pay extra fees.
But for GeForce Now, a user pays $19.99 monthly or $199.90 annually, but he has to separately buy the games on other digital stores, then link them to the cloud gaming service to be able to stream the games. This means the fee paid is akin to renting computing hardware to play resource-demanding games.
The gaming platforms and stores supported by the service for now include Steam, Epic Games Store, GOG, Electronic Arts' Origin and Ubisoft Connect.
Some supported blockbuster titles include Assassin's Creed: Valhalla, Destiny 2, Control and Cyberpunk 2077.
To stream at 720p resolution at 60fps, GeForce Now needs at least a 15Mbps Internet connection. Streaming a game at a higher 1080p resolution at the same frame rate needs a 25Mbps connection or better.
While this means a 4G connection can handle the streaming, a 5G connection, which can be 10 times faster, has less latency. So when players input actions in a game, there is less delay with 5G than 4G.
This is important in action-heavy games like first-person shooters when quick response times mean life or death in-game.
Singtel has said that 5G's response times can be two times faster than 4G's.
GeForce Now can be played on any mobile network - like those from Singtel, M1 or TPG - even though the service is offered through StarHub. One benefit StarHub customers enjoy is a discount - they pay $11.99 a month or $119.90 a year.
But one caveat is that telcos have each said their newer 5G networks cover only about 50 per cent of the island, so there are still many areas without 5G connectivity. The telcos are required to cover all of Singapore with 5G signals by 2025.
The newer networks, called 5G standalone networks, support ultra-low latency and increased network capacity, so more devices can be connected to the network with little lag.
GeForce Now is not the first foray into cloud gaming here. In 2011, Singtel launched a subscription service called ESC (pronounced "escape").
Touted as the first cloud gaming service in Singapore at the time, it also allowed users to play games over fibre broadband Internet on low-powered laptop or desktop computers.
Unlike GeForce Now, the resolution of the games streamed was lower at 480p, and at launch, 24 games were available. Another difference was that users did not have to buy the games separately to stream them.
But like other cloud gaming offerings elsewhere such as OnLive in the United States at the time, ESC was eventually discontinued.
In 2019, Singtel was reported to be testing cloud gaming on mobile devices using 5G networks with gaming accessories company Razer.
Last week, the telco launched several new 5G applications, including 4K video streaming and a game that allows users to drive remote-control cars.
The week before, M1 also launched new 5G services that go beyond basic telecommunications, such as real-time surveillance and security monitoring at the Marina at Keppel Bay using a robot.
Besides cloud gaming, StarHub also has a 5G Internet of Things platform already launched that allows a company to see the data collected from different types of Web-connected sensors in a single place. This allows a firm to easily manage and monitor the sensors.
Previously, this StarHub platform worked on an older version of the 5G network when it was launched in February. But it can now work on the newer 5G network that has lower latency after a network market trial launched last month.
For more details on GeForce Now, such as the list of compatible games, visit the Game Hub Plus website.