Whatever cloud gaming technology might end up being successful at, it's clear the recent 'like a games store but streaming' model of attempts like Stadia and OnLive hasn't taken off. Now Electronic Arts have had a curious new idea of using cloud gaming to let you instantly play a new game while it downloads and installs in the background, continuing locally once it's done. They've merely filed a patent for this, and have not given any indication that they plan to actually do it for real, but it's maybe an interesting idea?
Spotted by Game Rant, the patent describes technology for a "dynamic streaming video game client" which "can utilise a state stream game engine in combination with a game application streaming service to provide users with the ability to begin playing games quickly on a huge range of devices."
Rather than wait for a game to download before playing, you could start playing via cloud streaming while it downloaded in the background. Once the download was complete and the game was running on your system, the remote instance would transmit the game 'state' to you and the game would switch over to running on your system. They say this transition could, in some cases, even happen "without interrupting the gameplay session of the user". From your perspective, it'd suddenly just look better and feel snappier.
EA's cloud gaming idea is a curious one. Given the latency and image quality issues of cloud gaming, I would not want my first experience with a new game to be tainted by the technology's shortcomings. But if hypothetically I'm reinstalling a game, and it's one where input latency is less of an issue, and broadband speeds and cloud gaming tech have advanced, sure, I might be up for this. And I recognise many people might be less sensitive than my twitchy arse (just consider how many people happily have motion smoothing enabled on their telly, good grief).
Other companies have used lower-tech methods to minimise the wait, packaging games so they're available to play before a full download is complete. Sometimes it's only the start of a game, sometimes it only has the low-quality versions of assets at first, sometimes both. Blizzard's Battle.net is often friendly like this, and I remember years ago you could play Half-Life on Steam with download screens between levels. God, I think I played Opposing Force like that over dialup?
For now, EA's patent is only a patent. Companies file patents they don't intend to use all the time. Could just be an idea someone had and they patented in case it might ever become viable, or to aggressively block competitors. We might well never see them actually do this. And if they do use the idea, we don't know how or where it'd be implemented. I wouldn't get excited or concerned about it just yet.
The most I've ever appreciated cloud gaming has been with demos. It's handy to start a demo within seconds by clicking a link in your browser, though it does mean you don't get a sense of how they run on your PC. I know I played a Dead Space demo on Gaikai back in 2011, and more recently Pac-Man Mega Tunnel Battle's demo was on Stadia. These experiences left me with a fair sense of what the games were, and absolutely no desire to play the full versions in aerosol form.