Why Are Gaming and Esports Industry Standards Needed?
Online gaming is one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing industries, with 2.7 billion global participants in 2020 (up from 2.2 billion two years earlier), and an estimated $180 billion in revenues in 2020 expected to nearly double by 2026.
This growth has been fueled by the move to cloud gaming, where users stream games that are stored on a remote server instead of on their own devices.
By enabling more engaging, increasingly sophisticated games to be played on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets as well as on more traditional devices like PCs and consoles, cloud gaming is opening up new worlds for gamers.
Three Characteristics of Cloud Gaming
Today, there are three main characteristics of cloud gaming.
- Cross-screen, where players can choose to play games on different devices with display and input attached
- Cross-end, where players can browse game content through apps or browsers
- Cross-user, where players can invite different players to control the same scene through sharing
The ongoing development of cloud gaming opens up many opportunities in the future, such as super-large game scenes and innovative game-playing methods.
While a new form of participatory entertainment, eSports have found their way into the mainstream. They have promoted new social interactions, especially among young people and international eSports organizations, with various tournaments launched in the last few years.
Top Issues for Online Gaming
Yet despite its success thus far, the online gaming and eSports industry is still in the early stages of development, with many challenging technical issues standing in the way of continued growth and progress.
- One major challenge is the need for technical standards to address issues such as connectivity, latency, interoperability, security, copyright protection, and many others, as well as related environmental and social issues such as energy consumption, protections for child gamers, and access to under-served geographies.
- Security is another major concern as the technology and market continue to grow, with threats such as plug-ins, hacking, Trojan Horses, and Botting Farms. Given the siloed local and regional security policies and rising operating costs, global gaming practitioners urgently need to work together on standardization to promote game security.
The industrialization of games is becoming a global trend driving improvements in game quality, production efficiency, and collaborative developments globally. Standardization is the premise for gaming industrialization— it provides a platform for game studios across the world to collectively advance the future of the game industry.
Standards are also vital because many of the very same technologies and artistic techniques used to create innovative online gaming experiences are being put to other uses, such as assistive technology for people with disabilities; augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) systems for a host of applications; novel e-education and e-health applications, and many others.
IEEE Standards Projects for Online Gaming and Esports
In December 2020, IEEE Standards Association (IEEE SA) formed the IEEE Computer Society Online Gaming Standards Committee (OGSC) and two Working Groups to address the growing needs of standardization in this industry.
This Standards Committee aims to bring together service providers, developers, publishers, gamers, event organizers, and other stakeholders in the global gaming and eSports industry to develop technical standards to support progress in all aspects of online gaming and eSports, encompassing everything from gaming development and operation, to publishing, to organizing eSports tournaments. The goal is to enable a safe and sustainable environment for mobile games, PC games, and cloud games.
The newly formed Working Groups are:
- IEEE Technology for Electronic Sports Working Group – This group has two projects underway:
- IEEE P2946™, Guide for Electronic Sports (Esports) Integrity. Esports events need to be fair and equitable. Cheating is strictly prohibited, but the ways to cheat in eSports are technical in nature and potentially hidden in competitions. Therefore, creating a uniform guide to prevent, detect, and record cheating will increase the integrity of eSports. This guide will include procedures and methods for preventing identity theft, match-fixing, unauthorized use of devices, and other ways of cheating.
- IEEE P2947™, Guide for Broadcasting Electronic Sports (Esports) Events. Esport audiences increasingly want an immersive viewing experience during live broadcasting and relaying of the events. This guide aims to improve efficiencies and lower costs of event production in order to meet diverse user needs.
- IEEE Cloud Gaming Working Group – Running games on remote servers greatly reduces hardware requirements and user costs, and can provide users with free configuration and download experiences. Compared with the traditional game industry, the cloud gaming ecosystem is larger with new roles such as cloud computing vendors, cloud game platform developers/operators, and emerging game distributors over social and video platforms. The key technical features and components of a cloud gaming system are quite different from those of traditional mobile games. A standardized cloud gaming framework is therefore needed. The Cloud Gaming Working Group aims to create standards related to cloud gaming to enhance user experience while also providing a communication platform that will enable healthy development of a cloud gaming ecosystem. The Cloud Gaming Working Group has two projects underway:
- IEEE P2948™, Standard for Framework and Definitions for Cloud Gaming. It would detail the roles and functional modules of cloud gaming from both user and system points of view. It would also formulate a gaming reference architecture, aimed at providing an efficient, standardized and applicable reference architecture for the design and construction of cloud games.
- IEEE P2949™, Recommended Practice for the Evaluation of Cloud Gaming User Experiences. The goal is to provide a comprehensive set of evaluation methods and models for a systematic and quantitative description of the end-to-end user experience for cloud gaming, encompassing the evaluation of audio and video quality; the stability and fluency of games; and user experience.
As a brand-new committee charged with setting the technical standards for one of the world’s major industries, we are seeking participation by individuals who are excited by this industry, who are motivated to help it succeed, and who enjoy solving the many technical and other challenges that are involved.
The Online Gaming Standards Committee will host a kickoff meeting online on 25 May, open to anyone who is interested. The purpose of the meeting is to set up a platform where standards projects will reside, to begin to build out what the IEEE standards portfolio will look like, and to set up new study and focus groups.
Whether your background is in game development, operations, publishing, eSports tournament organizing, hardware/software development, gaming interconnect and streaming technology, or some other relevant technical area, or whether you are simply a dedicated gamer with a passion for seeing the industry reach its full potential, we welcome you to join the kick-off discussion and make your mark in the ever-growing online gaming industry.
- Alicia Nie, Chair of the IEEE Online Gaming Standards Committee (OGSC)
- Truman Yang, Chair of the IEEE OGSC Working Group on Esports
- Xinda Zhao, Chair of the IEEE OGSC Working Group on Cloud Gaming