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Two of the biggest tech companies in the world, Apple and Google, are launching cloud-based gaming services this year. Apple Arcade, due for release in two days, will ultimately go head-to-head with Google’s Stadia when the latter launches in November. And both will also be battling two surprising foes: friction and the NBN.
In this context, “friction” means anything that increases inconvenience for the user. Friction makes you take extra steps, think more than necessary, or work harder to get the service you want. In designing a gaming platform, friction is bad.
Both companies will attempt to reduce friction by using cloud technology to store digital resources and services on their own servers, and deliver them to clients through the internet. The game files will thus be stored and shared in much the same way that documents or photos are currently handled via DropBox, Google Drive, and Apple’s iCloud.
Specifically, Apple Arcade will use a model called “infrastructure as a service”. As long as you have an Apple device, you can play hundreds of games at any time, from any location, including offline (once you’ve downloaded the game).
This model outsources the problem of data storage to remote data centres around the world. The user’s device remains responsible for the operating system, maintenance of the software (such as patches and graphics drivers) and real-time processing of data.
Google Stadia is planning to use a slightly different model, called “platform as a service”. This means Google will take care of all the maintenance and processing requirements too, so the user’s device acts only as a receptacle for hosting the application and user data.