No matter what kind of gamer you are, a stronger internet connection is always welcome - particularly for Aussies who have dealt with the perils of sub-par connectivity and lag issues. Often, the blame falls on unstable connections, slow download speeds or latency issues. And, these issues are still impacting fixed line connections, let alone for mobile gaming.
The promise of 5G looks to end that patchy history, with faster speeds and lower latency.
Diminishing slow network speeds
We're up in the Gold Coast with @Telstra checking out the future 5G network. And one of the advantages: it's much, much better for gaming, with stable pings comparable to wired connections #5G #esports pic.twitter.com/evPGoopswf
— Kotaku Australia (@KotakuAU) May 8, 2018
Along with much faster network speed (estimated at 10x faster than 4G), 5G will provide significant improvements in latency. In fact, early testing has shown a reduction even down to 1ms compared to 4G, which offers around 50ms.
That means that the time it takes for an action to be registered - such as tapping your finger or clicking your mouse - is greatly reduced. That's less wondering why that clear headshot somehow missed, or how using an ability or item wasn’t instantaneous.
Unlocking AR and VR
5G has the ability to revolutionise the world of AR and VR gaming. It’ll provide reliable connectivity that isn’t hindered by cloud-based streaming - something VR will rely on since most people don’t have powerful enough PCs to run VR games.
Reduced latency also means experiencing VR will not be as disorienting. The nausea and discomfort many people feel is in part due to the mismatch between the action you’re performing in real life compared to in the game. This discomfort can start to kick in even at a latency time of 20ms. With 5G, VR can finally become the immersive experience it has always strived to be, without leaving you feeling like you’ve just walked off a rollercoaster.
Enhancing the streaming experience
Overseas the barrier to entry to streaming is very low, but Aussies require a very specific internet connection normally reserved for a reliable NBN network - one which demands streaming from a fixed connection at home. IRL streaming from a smartphone has been out of the question for us, but now 5G is likely to offer better bitrates when streaming remotely compared to some fixed NBN connections at home.
Whether watching streams on Twitch, YouTube, Caffeine or similar, viewing gaming content will become far more reliable and buffer-free. Similarly, content creators and streamers will benefit from higher bitrates and the capability to output their streams in 1080p or even 4K.
This will make streaming, and viewing streams, a seamless experience. Streamers will be able to connect in real time and your bandwidth won’t be completely used up trying to do so.
Expanding the esports industry
The benefit of greater network speeds and ping-free gaming will be seen in the eSports world as well. Pro gamers can notice the difference in latency more than the average person. So much so in fact, that South Korea’s Dota 2 team MVP.Hot6ix flew all the way to Singapore to take advantage of their lower latency, which was 0.06ms compared to their 0.16ms - a difference of only one-tenth of a millisecond. The team even felt this gave Singaporean teams an advantage in tournaments.
Locally, 5G can open the doors to making esports a more significant part of Aussie culture and pave the way for a wider range of esports events. Expect many more smaller tournaments, as they can now forego costly fixed connections in favour of a 5G network. The higher reliability of the improved network also means that a larger number of connections won’t overpower it and cause dropouts during tournaments.
The rise of mobile gaming
Mobile gaming to date has been hindered by the slow, latency ridden 4G network. Where once, large mobile games would have to be downloaded in parts, even at launch - such as new levels or maps requiring a separate download - the speeds offered by 5G mean gamers can download large mobile games in one go.
5G will also unlock game streaming services on a mobile device - think Netflix for video games. Gamers will be able to access a vast catalogue of games direct from their mobile device. As the 5G network matures, we expect gamers to access quality games anywhere they go, through their smartphone. It won’t be long before gamers will be playing a game on their console at home, pause and bring it with them on their commute through their smartphone.
Google shared a lot of information about it’s new video game streaming platform at yesterday’s GDC presentation, and we’ve learned even more about the technology through interviews, like the one Kotaku had with Stadia boss Phil Harrison on Splitscreen. But there’s still a lot we don’t know.
The benefits of 5G to gaming can be seen across the board. From lag free performance, higher download speeds, an increase in cloud-based gaming, better performing mobile gaming and new possibilities in AR and VR. With this will come gaming-focused smartphones that further improve the experience for gamers.
Long term, this will transform the gaming industry. It will open the door for developers and companies to provide us with innovative, immersive gaming experiences, including games themselves and the technology that powers them. 5G is ultimately the catalyst for a new era of connectivity and technological capability set to truly revolutionise gaming.
Michael Tran is the managing director of OPPO Australia.