I went along to a workshop arrange by Manchetser Digital a few weeks ago on IBZL.
Once I got over the disappointment of it not being related to Ibiza and weasels, I discovered IBZL stands for Infinite Broadband, Zero Latency.
For the predominantly Arts industry crowd, the workshop imagined the technologies and services that might develop with unlimited bandwidth and near-zero latency and how these would impact their audience.
One big question was, do we even need IBZL? What functions that we need from the internet are really that dependant on Zero Latency? Yes, Skype (and other video conferencing systems) could be more reliable and it would be great to get rid of video buffering, but for all the major technological investment, will that alone justify return on investment in IBZL? Probably not.
It got me thinking: what industries need IBZL?
As luck would have it, one of my colleagues, Sivert, is something as rare as an eSports journalist and retired professional gamer (yes, there is actually such a thing!). Fresh from attending Insomnia (big UK gaming festival) at the weekend, I caught up with him to hear about the impact IBZL could make to the gaming industry.
For any type of online computer gaming, zero latency would be somewhat of a revolution.
We’ve already seen Spotify and Netflix changing consumption and availability of music and films as we know it.
For the typical gamer, the revolution could come with streaming services such as OnLive. Instead of buying a physical console and game, you get your game streamed by video. This means all the processing is done on a central server, and users won’t be limited to the power of their personal computer, or a specific console. All you need is an input device, and a means to display the video.
This is what people mean by ‘cloud gaming’. Sounds great, but this is already happening, no?
If you exclude the fact that several people are still on poor internet connections, there remains a major hurdle to overcome: Sluggish feel to controls due to the latency between an interaction input and the action showing up on your screen.
Delay caused by latency in video games can be a matter of life and death.
The further away you are from location of this streaming service, the bigger the latency. Thus this service is reserved for those living in heavily populated areas, where at best, there’s still a gap to be bridged for that instantaneous interaction.
This gap can (and will) get bridged with lower latency connections, in combination with bigger penetration of high speed broadband connections.
Yes, and it seems OnLive has really struggled with these limitations over the last couple of years. And I suppose global multiplayer action, in particular, can be compromised by differing latency for each player?
For a multitude of online games, user interaction is currently fragmented into local communities. Cross continental distances give so high latency, it severely reduces the enjoyment of the game, particularly games involving real time reactions (such as shooters). Also, those further away from the gameplay server will be at a competitive disadvantage. Smaller communities in remote locations such as Australia or South Africa tend to get excluded from bigger entities all together.
Madonna’s world tour? No, just another South Korean Starcraft tournament.
By overall lowering this latency, we could see much bigger communities interacting together, and host online tournaments with a worldwide scope.
Thanks Sivert. We’ll watch this space with interest – an IBZL revolution in gaming could provide interesting brand opportunities.
Even with the massive crowds something like Starcraft or Major League Gaming draws, the industry and its audience still has a feel of ‘underground’ or ‘sub-culture’ about it. With worldwide instantaneous connectivity, it’s not hard to imagine an elevated status for professional gamers, bringing with it global brand sponsors and mainstream celebrity status – and, you never know, gaming in the Olympics may not be that far off.
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With IBZL still a long way of being a reality, companies like OnLive are struggling to make cloud gaming work in todays marketplace.
Gaikai, a similar service to OnLive, has recently been bought by Sony (PlayStation). There is no public plan for how they will implement the service, but one of the most obvious choices would be for streaming demos – giving an instant snippet of gameplay. Eurogamer published a good article about the possibilities a while back