TOKYO—Japanese videogame publisher Capcom Co. may bring more high-end games to
Switch in a cloud-based streaming service, one sign that videogames could follow a path already well established for movies and music.
Many companies already stream data to customers at home from remote servers, with Netflix Inc.’s video service and
music app among the best-known examples. But the videogame industry hasn’t fully embraced the idea of “cloud” services—delivering programs over an internet connection—because the remote server has to respond immediately to unpredictable game play rather than just transmit a prerecorded song or movie.
Capcom, based in Osaka, released a cloud version of its “Resident Evil 7” for the Switch game machine in Japan last month, charging about $18 for 180 days of access compared with as much as $50 for those who download the game for other devices.
Now the maker of Mega Man, Street Fighter and Monster Hunter franchises is looking at other titles to include in its cloud service, people with direct knowledge of the matter at Capcom said. It isn’t clear which titles will be released or when.
A Capcom spokeswoman said the company would decide whether to expand its cloud offerings after assessing the performance of the “Resident Evil 7” Switch version.
Capcom is in a small group of early birds including Sony Corp. and
that have begun to invest in cloud game services. Sony offers PlayStation Now, a cloud-based game-streaming program available in the U.S., Japan and parts of Europe, while Square Enix has released several titles available through the cloud in Japan, including “Dragon Quest X” for Nintendo’s 3DS hand-held device.
Game makers like the idea of cloud games because they can extend the life of a previously released title or, in the case of services such as PlayStation Now, provide regular revenue through monthly fees.
Companies are still trying to sort out the business model for a game service, including how profit would be shared among software makers, hardware makers and the telecommunications companies that connect the remote server to the consumer.
Another challenge is getting the technology right. Some players of the cloud version of Capcom’s “Resident Evil 7” have said the gameplay quality is jerky.
Engineers say the issue generally lies in inadequate internet connections on the consumers’ side, especially if they are sharing a connection with neighbors in an apartment complex. The industry is betting that next-generation wireless technology, often referred to as fifth-generation or 5G, will address the problem with faster and more-reliable internet access.
Making a cloud version of already-completed games doesn’t require much investment, say people in the industry. Capcom has already released “Resident Evil 7” as downloaded or packaged software for the PlayStation 4,
Xbox One and personal computers.
The Switch is less powerful than the other game machines. By keeping the bulk of the software in the cloud, Capcom relies less on the Switch’s computing power and saves money in adapting the game. Users need to download only a small “client” program to play.
Analysts said game makers are likely to release their major titles first as packaged or downloaded software for purchase at a higher price, and then make them available over the cloud later. Software publishers hunting for larger audiences can use this “post-launch monetization” to reduce reliance on initial sales, said
an analyst at research firm
If Capcom’s effort is successful, more companies known for high-end games would likely look at cloud versions for the Nintendo Switch, which has small built-in storage.
Still, it isn’t clear how much support the idea would gain from Nintendo because the Kyoto-based company tends to take a conservative approach to any technology that isn’t ready for the mass market, including virtual reality. Also, cloud gaming goes against the Switch’s key concept of “play anytime, anywhere, with anyone” because it requires the device to be connected continuously to the internet. Nintendo declined to comment.
Write to Takashi Mochizuki at firstname.lastname@example.org