- Gaming TVs could appeal to mobile gamers at home.
- Game streaming offers console-quality games without the console.
- Streaming latency means twitch-reflex shooters will still need dedicated local hardware.
These days, it's standard for a TV to have streaming apps for services like Netflix and YouTube, but Samsung's new Odyssey monitor goes one better, with game streaming built in.
Samsung's new Odyssey OLED G8 gaming monitor is an impressive screen for folks who want to hook it up to a PC or console, but the game-streaming part could be a game changer. Buyers of a fancy gaming monitor might not be interested in game streaming because they already have a console, but imagine future TVs with access to services like Microsoft's Xbox Game Pass. Will gamers even need to buy a console?
"It's very possible that services like Nvidia's GeForce Now, Google Stadia, and Xbox Game Pass will appeal to 'casual' gamers," Jonathan Leung, software designer and host of video game podcast Arcade Repair Tips told Lifewire via email. "The price of game consoles can be a barrier to entry for many people wanting to play games beyond their smartphones. By including the ability to play popular PC/console game franchises on gaming monitors and TVs, you are giving these gamers a chance to experience these games without spending money on expensive gaming hardware."
Game streaming works by running the game software on a powerful computer in a server warehouse and sending the video stream to your screen. Imagine a TV and game controller with long cables connected to an Xbox in a remote location. It works like that, only the long cables are the internet.
The idea is that you can run games on powerful hardware but play them on anything capable of showing video‚—like your phone or a regular TV. The downside of game streaming is that there is a delay as the signal from your controller makes its way across the country to the server, and the video makes its way back. There’s not really any way around this, thanks to pesky physics, but if you are physically near the servers running the games, the experience can be pretty good.
You might not want to play a third-person shooter this way, where every millisecond counts, but plenty of games don’t require such low levels of latency.
The biggest games market is not high-end console and PC games anyway. Most games are mobile, played on your phone while commuting, or waiting in line somewhere. And these are exactly the kind of players who might try gaming on their TVs if the option were available.
Imagine—you’re flicking through the TV’s options to find something to watch, and you find some games. And not just lame games built by Samsung to fill their TV up with "content," but proper Xbox games. You will need a subscription to actually play them, plus a controller of some kind, but those are small barriers compared to buying a console. Especially if these gaming hypothetical future gaming TVs ship with a controller in the box.
Does this spell doom for dedicated game consoles? Probably not. As mentioned, the latency problems inherent in game streaming rule out any kind of twitch-reflex games, for starters. But what about less hardcore gaming experiences, like the Nintendo Switch? That’s a pretty basic device, and the games are generally less demanding than high-end console and PC games.
The answer is a definitive "maybe." The attraction of Nintendo is the games. You can’t get Mario or Zelda anywhere else, and Nintendo seems committed to its time-tested business model of selling low-powered consoles relatively cheap and making its money on its amazing games. In short, if you want Nintendo, nothing else will do.
But is it so hard to see a future where a Nintendo console is built into the TV? Nintendo’s relatively modest hardware demands could be satisfied by a television, and you’d buy the games online to run on it, like you do now with the Switch.
This is speculation, but according to figures from a new data analysis report provided to Lifewire by e-commerce company Pattern, console sales have dropped off since the pandemic started to wind down.
“Demand for PS5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch platforms are down -40%, -29%, and -19%, respectively,” Pattern’s senior communications specialist, Ellen Ford, told Lifewire via email.
That kind of industry business doesn’t really matter for gamers and potential gamers, but could it signal a move to game-streaming services? We might not be willing to drop hundreds of dollars on a console, but we might be happy to sign up for Xbox Game Pass if it’s built into our TVs.