BEIJING, 6 October (BelTA - China Daily). - Some 557 million users! That's the estimated size of the increasingly popular cloud gaming market in 5G-strong China by the end of 2022, in terms of consumers. In terms of sales revenues, it is expected to reach 22.28 billion yuan ($3.45 billion), according to data from the 5G Cloud Gaming Industry Alliance. And that calls for both cheer and caution, experts said.
The corresponding figures for last year－247 million users and 6.8 billion yuan－offer a proper perspective on the segment's rapid growth.
The market will likely grow even bigger, provided necessary efforts are made for its healthy development, experts said.
What's going to be key, however, is a framework to prevent underage gamers from getting addicted to online games, they added for good measure.
Companies, they said, need to make more efforts to seek high-quality development of the gaming sector, including tightening self-examination of gaming content, imposing time limit on underage gamers and banning online game account trading services for minors, experts said.
Ma Bin, a white-collar worker in Beijing, is an avid fan of games. He said he felt gaming is moving fast to the cloud as 5G wireless technology creates new experiences and allows people to play video games anywhere and on any device with internet connectivity.
"I've witnessed the progress of cloud gaming in recent years. I heard about cloud gaming in 2019, and had my first try in early 2020. The experience was not good, with the gaming image being very poor. But now I can play sophisticated console games on my smartphone," Ma said.
Liu Xin, general manager of Migu Co Ltd, a subsidiary of China Mobile that provides digital content and services, said with the rapid development of 5G, the cloud gaming industry has entered the fast lane of development.
In July, Migu announced that it has teamed up with Xiaomi Corp, Chinese cloud service provider Kingsoft Cloud and other partners to launch a new initiative to better distribute cloud gaming content.
Migu said the initiative is a game distribution plan based on cloud technology. It will rely on the cloud capabilities and distribution channel capabilities of China Mobile and Xiaomi to provide cloud-based game services for traditional game developers and to cultivate a better operating environment for cloud-native games.
Migu said China Mobile's cloud distribution will rely on its sprawling 5G network, 950 million individual users and 230 million home broadband users, and provide users with a high-quality cloud gaming experience.
Sensing big growth opportunities, a number of gaming companies, including foreign names such as Google and Microsoft, have either enlarged their bet on the sector or announced plans to foray into cloud gaming.
Chinese tech heavyweight Huawei Technologies Co has partnered with gaming company NetEase to jointly establish a cloud-based gaming lab running on the 5G network.
The cooperation is designed to explore new forms of game designs, set standards for gaming experience evaluations, and promote the development of cloud-based games.
Core tasks for the lab include accommodating existing games on the 5G network and 5G-based phones, researching 5G-based gaming experiences through gamers' perception analysis, as well as jointly conducting technical identification of games across different platforms, the duo said.
Peng Honghua, president of Huawei's 5G product line, said because games can use the cloud, developers can design more complex games without having to squeeze them onto home hardware.
According to Peng, effective tackling of latency is one major feature of 5G-based gaming, because a noticeable lag can make gaming impossible when reaction time is critical.
And cloud gaming provides artificial intelligence more room and flexibility to play a role, as programs can be upgraded in real time, he said.
Lu Xiaoyin, chief executive officer of the games segment of Perfect World Co Ltd, said 5G technology is a vital enabler of cloud gaming, helping overcome terminal hardware constraints.
China had built more than 1 million 5G base stations by the end of August, as the nation steps up efforts to build a sound telecom infrastructure for widening the use of 5G in more sectors, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the nation's top industry regulator.
MIIT spokesman Zhao Zhiguo said China had built 1.037 million 5G base stations by the end of August, covering all prefecture-level cities across the country and with 5G services available in more than 95 percent of counties and urban areas and 35 percent of towns and townships.
Such a wide range of 5G coverage will better facilitate the development of cloud gaming, and 5G cloud gaming will ultimately blur the lines between console, PC and mobile-based games and level the playing field for gaming, experts said.
Amid such technological advancements, gaming companies should make more efforts to promote the healthy development of the gaming industry, including following the regulators' call to impose a time limit on underage gamers to prevent them from getting addicted, experts said.
In September, China's regulators, including the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, summoned leading online game enterprises and platforms, including Tencent Holdings Ltd and NetEase Inc, for talks.
The regulators required the gaming companies to fully and faithfully impose the time limit on underage gamers and ban online game account trading services to minors.
According to a notice issued by the National Press and Publication Administration on Aug 30, online game providers can only offer one-hour services to minors from 8 pm to 9 pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
Zhu Wei, deputy director of the Communication Law Research Center at the China University of Political Science and Law, said the development of any industry should not be based on sacrifice of children's future.