Cloud Companies Microsoft, Amazon, and Google Are Competing to Support Video Game Streaming
云计算公司微软、亚马逊和谷歌正在竞向支持视频游戏流媒体
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2019-08-11 20:46
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Where is John? That’s the question hanging over you as your team of armored soldiers methodically searches this foreign vessel for a comrade—and war hero—seemingly gone rogue. It’s the year 2558; humans are under attack by alien forces. The last thing you need right now is to have one of your trained killers switch sides.

约翰在哪里?当你的装甲部队有条不紊地搜索这艘外国军舰,寻找一位似乎已经失控的战友和战争英雄时,这个问题一直萦绕在你的心头。在2558年;人类正受到外星人的攻击。你现在最不需要的就是让一个训练有素的杀手改变立场。

You cautiously step through the cramped corridors of the spaceship. It’s dark—distressingly so—but for an eerie blue light emanating from the ship’s walls. Your teammates would be in complete silhouette but for the cobalt glints on their weapons. You see shadows you don’t recognize and quietly extend your finger toward your rifle’s trigger. A sapphire streak ripples across its scope.

你小心翼翼地穿过飞船狭窄的走廊。令人沮丧的是,它是黑暗的,但却有一种诡异的蓝光从飞船的墙壁上散发出来。如果没有他们武器上钴色的闪光,你的队友将会呈现一个完整的轮廓。当你看到自己不认识的影子时,悄悄地将手指伸向步枪的扳机。一条蓝宝石条纹在视野中荡漾。

But they hear you! The aliens’ weapons burst with a kaleidoscope of lethal laser fire that ricochets off the ship’s panels. You sidestep in an effort to get a clear shot—if only you had a little more room—but it’s too late. Before you can return fire, a well-placed beam sends you to a rainbow-colored grave.

但是他们听到了!外星人的武器爆炸时,万花筒般的致命激光火焰从飞船的嵌板上反弹下来。如果你有多一点空间,你就会闪开一步,试图发射,但已经太晚了。在你能够还击之前,一束恰到好处的光束会把你送到一个彩虹色的坟墓。

Game over. (Start again?)

游戏结束。(重新开始?)

For nearly two decades, scenes like this one have unfolded in living rooms across the globe, thanks to Microsoft’s long-running video game franchise Halo, playable on the tech giant’s ever-popular Xbox home console. But the rich gameplay described above, which Fortune witnessed during a recent visit to the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Wash., needed no brawny consumer electronics to run with the speed and splendor expected of a modern first-person shooter, as such computationally intensive games are known. It required only a smartphone—in this case, paired with a conventional Xbox controller.

近20年来,类似这样的场景在全球各地的客厅里不断上演,这要归功于微软(Microsoft)长期经营的视频游戏《光环》(Halo),这款游戏可以在这家科技巨头一直很受欢迎的Xbox家用游戏机上玩。但《财富》杂志最近访问了位于华盛顿州雷德蒙德(Redmond)的公司总部,亲眼目睹了上述丰富的游戏玩法。他不需要强壮的消费类电子产品就能达到现代第一人称射击游戏的速度和华丽程度,因为这类游戏的计算密集型众所周知。它只需要一个智能手机——在这种情况下,再配上一个传统的Xbox控制器。

GAM08.19.StatBox

Have smartphones become that good? Not quite. But their tremendous proliferation—more than 5 billion people across the globe own mobile phones, according to 2019 Pew estimates, and more than half of those devices are Internet-connected smartphones—has dramatically changed the way media is consumed. Music, portable since the days of Sony’s Walkman, is now streamed on the go. Movies and television, once limited to larger fixed screens, are now delivered to people’s pockets over the air.

智能手机变得那么好了吗?不完全是。但是他们的激增——根据皮尤2019年的估计,全球超过50亿人拥有手机,其中超过一半是联网的智能手机——极大地改变了媒体的消费方式。自索尼随身听问世以来,音乐就一直是便携式的,而现在,音乐流媒体正在流行。电影和电视,曾经仅限于更大的固定屏幕,现在通过空中传送到人们的口袋里。

Now video games are preparing to take their turn. If you’re not a gamer, you may not realize just how monumental a metamorphosis streaming promises to be. Today’s video game industry is a behemoth expected to generate $152 billion worldwide this year, according to market researcher Newzoo. That’s 57% more than the $97 billion generated by the global theatrical and home-movie market last year, and eight times the $19.1 billion generated by the global recorded music market. Like those industries, video game makers are grappling with the seemingly boundless potential of streaming, and the race is on to see who gets it right first.

现在,电子游戏也准备好了。如果你不是一名游戏玩家,你可能不会意识到流媒体将会带来多么巨大的变化。根据市场研究机构Newzoo的数据,今天的电子游戏产业是一个庞然大物,预计今年将在全球产生1520亿美元的收入。这比去年全球影院和家庭电影市场970亿美元的收入高出57%,是全球唱片市场191亿美元收入的8倍。和这些行业一样,视频游戏制造商也在努力挖掘流媒体看似无限的潜力,而谁先做对谁就成了竞争的焦点。

The secret sauce powering all of this media streaming is a technology concept every executive is now familiar with: cloud computing. The off-loading of “compute” to staggeringly large server farms in remote locations, linked to our personal devices with persistent Internet connections, affords each of us on-demand access to supercomputer-level number-crunching power. This capability—plus forecasts that the global gaming industry could reach $196 billion in annual sales by 2022, per Newzoo—is why Microsoft, a gaming-industry stalwart that also happens to be a leading provider of cloud services, is so intrigued by so-called cloud gaming.

驱动所有这些媒体流媒体的秘密武器是每个高管现在都熟悉的技术概念:云计算。将“计算”卸载到偏远地区惊人的大型服务器场,通过持久的互联网连接到我们的个人设备上,使我们每个人都能按需访问超级计算机级别的数字处理能力。根据newzoo.com的预测,到2022年,全球游戏产业的年销售额将达到1960亿美元,这就是为什么微软,一个游戏产业的中坚力量,同时也是领先的云服务提供商,对所谓的云游戏如此着迷。

It’s also why Halo 5 on a Samsung Galaxy smartphone can still manage such impressive visual pyrotechnics. The demonstration on view in Redmond is really running on the “racks” in a Microsoft data center in Quincy, Wash., 160 miles away. The Quincy facility is one of 13 the company plans to use to host its ambitious Project Xcloud game-streaming service when it begins a public trial this fall.

这也是为什么三星Galaxy智能手机上的光环5(Halo 5)仍然能够处理如此令人印象深刻的视觉效果。在雷德蒙德进行的演示实际上是在华盛顿州昆西的微软数据中心的“机架”上运行的,距离160英里。昆西设施是该公司计划在今年秋季开始公开测试时使用的13个设施之一,以承载其雄心勃勃的Xcloud游戏流媒体服务项目。

680-PX

The last big breakthrough in gaming came a decade ago, when the birth of the smartphone gave rise to rudimentary but wildly popular mobile-first titles like Candy Crush and Angry Birds. “Ultimately the appeal of cloud gaming is the same thing,” says Newzoo analyst Tom Wijman. “You can reach all of this audience without them needing to have a high-end gaming PC or expensive console.”

一场值得信赖的皇家战役

分析人士一致认为,主要的消费云计算提供商——亚马逊、谷歌和微软——由于其数据中心覆盖全球,将成为新兴云游戏市场的重量级企业。还有很多公司,包括世界上最大的两家公司,正在开发自己的游戏流媒体服务。让我们来看看一些选手。

动视暴雪

圣塔莫尼卡游戏发行商尚未与任何云游戏服务签约,但这似乎并不遥远。M的首席执行官Bobby Kotick在最近的收益电话会议上说:“当你像我们一样拥有30年的IP时,现在可能是进入游戏行业的最佳时机。”

苹果

科技巨头[全球500强排名11]计划在秋季推出其Apple Arcade,承诺提供100款游戏,这些游戏可以流媒体到苹果设备上。该公司没有透露这项服务将花费多少钱,但它已经透露了游戏界的两个传奇人物作为合作伙伴:世嘉(Sega)和科纳米(Konami)。

EA

大张旗鼓,细节极少。EA今年10月透露,它已指派逾1000名员工参与即将推出的云游戏平台Project Atlas,该平台承诺将其Frostbite游戏引擎与人工智能和其他云服务结合起来。

任天堂

这家日本游戏传奇公司一直在尝试在其Switch设备上播放流媒体,但仅此而已。任天堂总裁古川俊太郎今年7月说:“我们认为,云计算和流媒体技术将越来越多地发展成为向消费者提供游戏的手段。

索尼

这家娱乐和电子企业集团(在全球500强中排名第116位)提供流媒体服务,适用于PlayStation 4游戏机和个人电脑,但只包括较老的视频游戏。订阅费用为每月19.99美元。它已经与微软签署了云游戏合作协议。

育碧(UBISOFT)

《刺客信条》(Assassin's Creed)和《Far Cr/》等热门游戏的法国游戏开发商将于今年9月推出Uplay+游戏流媒体服务,该服务的成本每月14.99美元。这项服务只适用于Windows个人电脑,但在2020年,它将通过谷歌的Stadia服务提供。

游戏领域最近的一次重大突破是在10年前,当时智能手机的诞生催生了《糖果粉碎传奇》(Candy Crush)和《愤怒的小鸟》(Angry Birds)等基础但广受欢迎的手机游戏。Newzoo分析师汤姆•威曼表示:“云游戏的吸引力归根结底是一样的。”“你可以接触到所有这些受众,而不需要他们拥有高端游戏PC或昂贵的游戏机。

The folks in Redmond are not alone in their interest. Google, which has fervently expanded its cloud division, announced a cloud-­gaming platform called Stadia that it promises to launch by year’s end. Meanwhile, crosstown rival Amazon, the leading cloud-services company by a country mile, is evaluating how to take its viewing platform Twitch, a top destination for people who watch other people play games, to even greater heights. Behind the big boys, a motley crew of lesser challengers—from Fortune 500 peers like Apple, Nvidia, Walmart, and Verizon to gamemakers like Electronic Arts and Valve to startups like Blade and Parsec—are developing or said to be investigating game-streaming subscription services of their own.

不仅仅是雷德蒙德的人们对他们感兴趣。谷歌已经热情地扩大了其云计算部门,并宣布将在今年年底推出一个名为Stadia的云游戏平台。与此同时,跨镇竞争对手亚马逊(Amazon)正在评估如何将其观看平台Twitch提升到更高的水平。Twitch是观看其他人玩游戏的人的首选目的地。在这些巨头的背后,还有一群实力较弱的挑战者——从苹果、英伟达、沃尔玛和威瑞森等《财富》500强企业,到艺电(Electronic Arts)等游戏制造商,再到Valve以及Blade和parsec等初创企业——正在开发或据说正在研究自己的游戏流媒体订阅服务。

But none of them have cloud-computing muscle like the Big Three, which otherwise use their infrastructure to power the software and services they’re best known for. Whether Amazon, Google, or Microsoft succeeds in crafting the next great console in the sky is almost immaterial. In any case, they’ll all stand to benefit.

但它们都不像三巨头那样拥有云计算能力,否则它们将利用自己的基础设施为自己最知名的软件和服务提供动力。无论是亚马逊,谷歌,还是微软成功地在天空中打造出下一个伟大的控制台几乎都是无关紧要的。无论如何,他们都将从中受益。

Satya Nadella has grown used to the naysayers. For years, Wall Street analysts questioned why Microsoft, the company famous for its Windows operating system and Office business suite, would waste money on something so seemingly trivial as video games. The calls grew louder when Nadella took the company’s helm in July 2014. Still smarting from his predecessor’s missteps in mobile devices, Nadella promised to steer Microsoft away from consumer distractions and toward its highly lucrative business services. Some even urged Microsoft to exit the gaming business altogether. “Four to five years ago, we and others were calling for them to divest that piece of the business,” says Daniel Ives, managing director of Wedbush Securities and a longtime Microsoft observer. That tune has changed: Last year, Microsoft’s gaming revenue—which includes Xbox, Windows games, and a cut of third-party gaming sales—topped $10 billion for the first time.

萨蒂亚•纳德拉(Satya Nadella)已经习惯了反对者。多年来,华尔街分析师一直在质疑,为什么以Windows操作系统和Office办公套件闻名的微软(Microsoft)会把钱浪费在视频游戏等看似微不足道的东西上。2014年7月,纳德拉执掌该公司时,呼声越来越高。纳德拉仍对前任在移动设备领域的失误耿耿于怀,他承诺将引导微软远离消费者的干扰,转向利润丰厚的商业服务。一些人甚至敦促微软完全退出游戏业务。韦德布什证券(Wedbush Securities)董事总经理、微软长期观察人士丹尼尔•艾夫斯(Daniel Ives)表示:“四五年前,我们和其他人呼吁他们剥离这块业务。”这种论调已经改变了:去年,微软的游戏收入——包括Xbox, Windows游戏,以及第三方游戏销售的分成——首次超过了100亿美元。

When I ask Nadella why the company didn’t drop gaming, he chuckles. “There were a lot of things that a lot of people said Microsoft should be doing,” he says. “If I listened to everything that everybody else on the outside asks me to do, there would be very little innovation in this company.”

当我问纳德拉为什么公司不放弃游戏时,他笑了。“有很多人说微软应该做很多事情,”他说。“如果我听从外部所有人要求我做的每件事,这家公司就不会有什么创新。”

To be fair, in years past, Nadella had been hesitant to call gaming business core to Microsoft’s overall strategy. Despite its success, gaming represents about a tenth of Microsoft’s annual revenue. Cloud-computing growth is a big reason that the company’s market capitalization topped $1 trillion this year; its “intelligent cloud” unit, which includes its Azure cloud-computing service, generates as much revenue in a quarter as the gaming group generates in a year. (Hasta la vista, Halo!)

公平地说,过去几年,纳德拉一直不愿将游戏业务核心纳入微软的总体战略。尽管取得了成功,但游戏业务约占微软年收入的十分之一。云计算的增长是该公司今年市值突破1万亿美元的一大原因;其“智能云”部门(包括其Azure云计算服务)一个季度的营收相当于这家游戏集团一年的营收。(祝你好运,光环!)

But what if you could hitch gaming’s fortunes to Microsoft’s potent cloud engine? Well, now you’re talking. Nadella’s blockbuster $2.5 billion acquisition of the enormously popular world-building game Minecraft in 2014 was a “bit of a head-scratcher” when it was first announced, says analyst Ives, but it’s now clear that the CEO was “planting the seed of how he viewed gaming as part of the broader business.” Microsoft wouldn’t just retain video games. Much as the company managed with Windows and Office, it would use the flywheel of its cloud-computing infrastructure to dramatically boost the scale of its gaming business—and the fortunes of every video game publisher it works with—far beyond what was previously possible.

“你可以抵达一个需要游戏的观众:电脑或昂贵控制器”

但如果你能将游戏的命运与微软强大的云引擎捆绑在一起呢?好吧,现在你说到点子上了。Nadella一鸣惊人的25亿美元收购非常受欢迎的世界构建游戏Minecraft”有点头疼”是2014年首次宣布时,分析师艾维斯说,但现在明显,首席执行官是“种植的种子他如何看待游戏作为更广泛的业务的一部分。“微软不会只保留视频游戏。正如微软在Windows和Office上所做的那样,它将利用云计算基础设施的飞轮,大幅提升游戏业务的规模——以及与之合作的每一家视频游戏发行商的财富——远远超出以往的可能。

Today, gaming is unquestionably “core”; in late 2017, Nadella elevated gaming lead Phil Spencer to the company’s executive leadership team to underscore the point. And executives are bullish on the prospects of cloud-driven gameplay. Julia White, who leads product management for Microsoft’s cloud platform, estimates that the business of selling Azure services to video game publishers is worth $70 billion—about as much as publicly traded transportation darling Uber. Most of today’s Internet-connected video games are developed in, and operated from, private data centers run by game publishers, she says. Technology trends in other industries suggest that won’t last. “Even though game developers are in a very different business,” she says, “they face the same trials and tribulations of a commercial bank or a retail company going to the cloud.”

如今,游戏无疑是“核心”;2017年末,纳德拉提拔游戏业务主管菲尔•斯宾塞(Phil Spencer)为公司高管领导团队,以强调这一点。高管们也看好云驱动游戏的前景。负责微软云平台产品管理的Julia White估计,向视频游戏发行商销售Azure服务的业务价值700亿美元,相当于上市交通巨头Uber的市值。她说,目前大多数联网视频游戏都是由游戏发行商运营的私人数据中心开发和运营的。其他行业的技术趋势表明,这种情况不会持续太久。她说:“尽管游戏开发者所处的行业非常不同,但他们面临着商业银行或零售公司走向云计算的相同考验和磨难。”

To the cloudmaster go the spoils: In January, the Xbox maker shocked the gaming world by landing longtime console adversary Sony (of PlayStation fame) as an Azure customer with a promise to collaborate on future unspecified gaming projects. It was as if General Motors and Ford had announced a partnership to take on Tesla—an unmistakable sign that the competitive landscape would rapidly and dramatically change.

对于cloudmaster来说,今年1月,这家Xbox制造商将长期的对手索尼(Sony,因PlayStation而出名)打造成Azure客户,并承诺将在未来的未知游戏项目上进行合作,此举震惊了游戏界。这就好像通用汽车公司和福特公司宣布了一项合作计划,将与特斯拉展开竞争——这是一个明确无误的迹象,表明竞争格局将发生迅速而显著的变化。

It was also an indication that Nadella’s mission for Microsoft would be more expansive than it originally appeared. When I ask him why Microsoft is working so hard to build a consumer entertainment service when it has positioned itself as an enterprise software company, he replies, “It’s a bigger business, right? It’s bigger than any other segment. Why would I not do gaming? It fits with what we do. It has connective tissue to the common platform. We have a point of view that what we can do is unique.”

这也表明,纳德拉对微软的使命将比最初设想的更加广泛。当我问他为什么微软把自己定位为一家企业软件公司,却如此努力地打造消费者娱乐服务时,他回答说:“这是一个更大的业务,对吗?它比任何其他部分都要大。我为什么不玩游戏呢?这符合我们的工作。它有连接到共同平台的结缔组织。我们认为我们能做的是独一无二的。”

The problem: so does every other player in this game.

问题是:游戏中的其他玩家也是如此。

For 39,000 viewers tuned into Twitch, Elvis might as well have entered the building. Richard Tyler Blevins, the 28-year-old celebrity “streamer” known to fans by his moniker Ninja, has logged on to the service to play a few public rounds of the popular “battle royale” game Fortnite with his buddy. As his avatar runs and leaps through the game’s virtual environment, weapon in hand, Blevins barks commands like an NFL quarterback at the snap—and his Twitch viewers hang on every mundanity. Their comments rush by in the chat window accompanying Ninja’s feed. Some viewers respond to every move Blevins’s character makes (“get that delay ninja”); others practically ignore the show to talk among themselves. (One thread of conversation among many: Why Finding Nemo was a “pretty good” Pixar movie.)

对于收看Twitch节目的3.9万名观众来说,埃尔维斯(Elvis)可能已经进入了这座大楼。现年28岁的理查德·泰勒·布莱文斯(Richard Tyler Blevins)是一名著名的“流媒体”,粉丝们都叫他“忍者”(Ninja)。当他的化身手持武器在游戏的虚拟环境中奔跑跳跃时,布莱文斯发出的指令就像NFL的四分卫对着拍子咆哮一样,而他的Twitch观众则紧紧抓住每一个细节不放。他们的评论会在忍者订阅的聊天窗口中迅速出现。有些观众会对布莱文斯饰演的角色的一举一动做出反应(“得到那个延迟忍者”);另一些人几乎忽略了这个节目,而是在自己之间进行交谈。(许多人的话题之一是:为什么《海底总动员》是皮克斯公司(Pixar)出品的一部“相当不错”的电影。)

In other words, just another day on Twitch. Viewers—overwhelmingly male and mostly 34 or younger—watched a breathtaking 9.36 billion hours of gameplay on the platform last year, according to estimates by production company StreamElements. Twitch launched in 2011 as a spinoff of streaming video site ­Justin.tv, a pioneer in user-­generated content. In 2014, Amazon reportedly spent $970 million to acquire the site, besting YouTube-owner Google in a bidding war. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter estimates that Twitch brought in $400 million in revenue last year.

换句话说,就是特维奇(Twitch)的又一天。据制作公司StreamElements估计,去年该平台上的游戏时长达到了惊人的93.6亿小时,其中绝大多数是男性观众,大部分为34岁或更年轻的观众。Twitch成立于2011年,是流媒体视频网站justin的一个分支。电视,用户生成内容的先驱。据报道,2014年,亚马逊斥资9.7亿美元收购了该网站,在竞购战中击败了you/tube的所有者谷歌。Wedbush分析师帕切特(Michael Pachter)估计,Twitch去年的收入为4亿美元。

Twitch, which is housed in Amazon Web Services, the online retailer’s cloud-computing unit, has rapidly become a cornerstone of the company’s broader video gaming strategy. AWS, as Amazon Web Services is known, is already selling computing resources and developer tools to video game publishers. It’s also rumored to be working on a service that would allow it to stream video games themselves rather than merely video of people playing them. (The company declined to comment, though recent job listings for technical roles for “an unannounced AAA games business” suggest its intentions. Like minor league baseball, “AAA” denotes the highest level of play in terms of budget and production.)

Twitch位于亚马逊网络服务(Amazon Web Services)旗下的云计算部门,已迅速成为该公司更广泛的视频游戏战略的基石。亚马逊网络服务AWS已经开始向视频游戏发行商销售计算资源和开发工具。还有传言称,该公司正在开发一项服务,该服务将允许它自己播放视频游戏,而不仅仅是人们玩游戏的视频。(该公司拒绝置评,不过最近发布的“AAA级游戏业务”技术职位招聘名单显示了它的意图。和小联盟棒球一样,“AAA”表示在预算和制作方面的最高水平。

Photograph by Chona Kasinger for Fortune

摄影:Chona Kasinger for Fortune

Two major milestones in the gaming industry set the stage for a cloudy future. The first: The massive success of Epic Games’ Fortnite, which brought in an estimated $2.4 billion in sales last year and now claims 250 million registered players. Fortnite demonstrated that “cross-platform” games, playable across competing devices from Microsoft, Sony, Apple, and others, could amass audiences far larger than those of the previous era, when titles were limited to specific ecosystems. “Fortnite was critical in getting the message across to all platforms that they have to lower the barrier of entry to their respective walled gardens,” says Joost van Dreunen, head of games for market researcher SuperData.

游戏行业的两个重要里程碑为一个多云的未来奠定了基础。第一个是Epic Games的Fortnite取得的巨大成功,该公司去年的销售额约为24亿美元,目前拥有2.5亿注册玩家。Fortnite演示了“跨平台”游戏,可以在微软、索尼、苹果和其他竞争对手的设备上玩,可以聚集比上一个时代更多的观众,而在上一个时代,游戏仅限于特定的生态系统。市场研究机构SuperData的游戏主管约斯特•范•德鲁宁(Joost van Dreunen)表示:“Fortnite向所有平台传达了这样一个信息,即它们必须降低进入各自围墙花园的门槛,这一点至关重要。”

The second? Twitch. The service demonstrated that people were just as happy to watch and cheer people playing games—call it the kid-sibling phenomenon—as they were to play the games themselves. That kind of interactivity proved that engagement and gameplay were not one and the same. The dynamic expands the addressable viewership for a given title. “Viewing is eclipsing gaming, and a lot of youth of today would say they played the game when they really viewed the game,” says Bonnie Ross, head of 343 Industries, the Microsoft studio that develops Halo.

第二个?特维奇(Twitch)。这项服务表明,人们在观看和鼓励人们玩游戏时,就像他们自己玩游戏时一样高兴。这种交互性证明了参与性和游戏玩法并不是一回事。动态扩展了给定标题的可寻址收视率。开发《光环》的微软工作室343 Industries的主管邦妮•罗斯(Bonnie Ross)表示:“观影正在让游戏黯然失色,如今许多年轻人会说,当他们真正观看游戏时,他们也在玩这款游戏。”

For Microsoft’s part, the company never saw the spectatorship aspect coming. “Amazon has Microsoft on a treadmill,” a former executive says. Two years after Amazon bought Twitch, Microsoft acquired competing service Beam for an undisclosed amount. Rechristened Mixer, it has become the means by which Xbox customers can watch one another play games, logging 39.6 million hours of viewing in 2018, per StreamElements—a whopping 179% more than the previous year but still a distant third to Amazon’s Twitch and Google’s YouTube Live.

就微软而言,该公司从未预见到观众的到来。一位前高管表示:“亚马逊(Amazon)让微软(Microsoft)疲于奔命。”在亚马逊收购Twitch两年后,微软收购了竞争对手Beam,收购金额不详。重新命名后的混和器,已经成为Xbox用户互相观看游戏的一种方式。2018年,每条流媒体的观看时长为3960万小时,比上一年增长了179%,但仍然远远落后于亚马逊的Twitch和谷歌的YouTube Live。

The summer sun blazes above the thousands of coders assembled for Google’s ­annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View, Calif., but the anxiety on display in the long line has little to do with the weather. The event’s attendees, who base their livelihoods on building software for as many users as possible, are keen to hear Google’s sales pitch for why they should create games for Stadia, an experimental cloud-gaming service that the search giant promises to debut in November.

在加州山景城(Mountain View)举行的谷歌年度I/O开发者大会上,成千上万的程序员聚集在一起,夏日的阳光照耀着他们,但排在长队上的焦虑情绪与天气无关。此次活动的参与者,他们的生计基础是为尽可能多的用户开发软件,他们非常渴望听到谷歌的销售宣传,为什么他们应该为Stadia开发游戏。Stadia是一个实验性的云游戏服务,谷歌承诺将于11月推出。

Like most Silicon Valley presentations, the executives onstage overwhelm with ambitious assurances of technical prowess. Stadia’s complex cloud architecture will prevent the nasty networking hiccups that cause online gamers to throw down their controllers in frustration, Google’s representatives say. All gamers will need to do is open a tab in the Chrome web browser; with just a few clicks, they can play a high-speed, high-resolution title such as ­Assassin’s Creed Odyssey.

就像大多数硅谷的演讲一样,台上的高管们对自己的技术实力充满了雄心壮志。谷歌的代表说,Stadia复杂的云架构将防止导致在线玩家沮丧地扔掉控制器的讨厌的网络故障。所有玩家需要做的就是在Chrome浏览器中打开一个标签;只需点击几下,他们就可以播放高速、高分辨率的游戏,如《刺客信条奥德赛》。

Like their counterparts at Microsoft and Amazon, Google brass believe their vast data center empire gives them an edge on the technical demands of streaming high-end video game titles without interruption. Like its peers, Google has encouraged its consumer gaming and enterprise cloud groups to work together to ensure Stadia launches without the problems that have traditionally plagued online games.

与微软(Microsoft)和亚马逊(Amazon)的同行一样,谷歌brass认为,他们庞大的数据中心帝国使他们在不间断播放高端视频游戏的技术需求方面具有优势。和其他同行一样,谷歌鼓励其消费游戏和企业云组合作,确保体育场的推出不会出现传统上困扰在线游戏的问题。

GAM08.19.Julia White Pull Quote

Thomas Kurian, a longtime Oracle executive who is now chief executive of Google’s cloud business, says the company’s enterprise engineers built the networking technology that powers Stadia. Cloud gaming is a way for Google to penetrate a ­multibillion-dollar industry, Kurian says. “Our hope is that it’s expanding the market, not just being a replacement market,” he says. “For every person in the world that games on a professional desktop, there are probably three who can’t afford one.”

“游戏开发者与商业银行和或零售公司进入云面临着同样的考验和磨难。”

长期担任甲骨文高管、现任谷歌云业务首席执行官的托马斯•库里安(Thomas Kurian)表示,该公司的企业工程师开发了为Stadia提供动力的网络技术。Kurian说,云游戏是谷歌打入数十亿美元产业的一种方式。“我们的希望是,它正在扩大市场,而不仅仅是一个替代市场,”他表示。“世界上每一个在专业电脑上玩游戏的人,可能就有三个买不起。”

In other words: Why fight over a quarter of the market when the rest is greenfield? John Justice, a Microsoft veteran who now leads product development for Google Stadia, agrees. Gamers no longer want to “buy an expensive box every few years,” he says. Stadia, and services like it, are more accessible destinations to engage with games without the high barriers of entry found in the traditional console market.

换句话说:为什么要争夺四分之一的市场份额,而其余的都是绿地?微软资深人士、现任谷歌Stadia产品开发主管的约翰•贾斯蒂斯(John Justice)对此表示赞同。他说,游戏玩家不再想“每隔几年就买一个昂贵的盒子”。体育场,以及类似的服务,是更容易进入的游戏目的地,没有传统游戏机市场的高准入门槛。

Even the pricing plays a part: Though Stadia’s $129 bundle plus $9.99 monthly subscription has already been announced, Google says it is also evaluating a free version, with lower-quality graphics, that would debut later. Though the technological trajectory is clear, it’s still “early days” for the business model behind cloud gaming, Justice says. “Some people really do want transaction models, and some people want subscription models,” he says. “I don’t think we will say we will only go with one.”

甚至价格也起了一定作用:虽然Stadia的129美元捆绑包和9.99美元的月订阅费已经宣布,但谷歌表示,它也在评估一个免费版本,其图像质量较低,将于稍后推出。Justice表示,尽管技术轨迹很清晰,但云游戏背后的商业模式仍处于“早期阶段”。“有些人确实想要交易模式,有些人想要订阅模式,”他说。“我不认为我们会说我们只会去一个。”

It could take years to iron out the details. Though consumers would love a gaming model akin to Netflix or Spotify—pay a monthly fee, play titles to your heart’s content—it’s not yet clear that cloud providers have the leverage over game publishers to make that happen. Publishers have seen how platform pressures have changed the business of movies, music, magazines, and more. They don’t want to give up a share of their sales unless they’re certain that there are many more to be had in the long run.

解决这些细节可能需要数年时间。尽管消费者喜欢类似Netflix或spotify的游戏模式,即每月付费,玩自己喜欢的游戏,但云服务提供商是否有足够的优势来实现这一点,目前还不清楚。出版商已经看到了平台压力如何改变了电影、音乐、杂志等行业。他们不想放弃他们的销售份额,除非他们确定从长远来看还有很多。

680-PX

Ubisoft, the French publisher best known for the Assassin’s Creed series, isn’t terribly concerned. “That’s less interesting to us,” says Chris Early, an Ubisoft executive who manages partnerships and revenue. The company in June revealed its own subscription service, called Uplay+, that is playable on personal computers and spans more than 100 titles in its own catalog, including Far Cry and Prince of Persia. It costs $14.99 a month and will also be available on Stadia next year. At this moment, “it makes less sense for a publisher to be part of an aggregated subscription model,” says Early. There are many proposals for how to sustainably monetize cloud gaming, he adds, but it remains unclear “who is going to pay whom.”

内容之王

你认为音乐和电影比电子游戏更大吗?再想想。下面我们来看看它们是如何在全球范围内累积起来的。

视频游戏

$1521亿

Newzoo的数据显示,预计今年全球电子游戏的总销量将比2018年增长9.6%。(在全球拥有超过25亿的玩家,这并不奇怪。尽管家用游戏机类别的增长速度最快,但手机游戏仍是最大的,占全球游戏总销量的近一半。

电影

$968亿

根据美国电影协会(Motion Picture Association of America)的数据,2018年全球影院和家庭娱乐市场的总票房收入。收入同比增长9%,部分原因是数字消费的增长。

音乐

$191亿

根据国际唱片业联合会(International Federation of the Phonographic industry)的数据,2018年全球唱片行业的总销量。订阅音频流占37%,是最大的一块蛋糕;数字音乐现在占所有销售的59%。

以《刺客信条》系列而闻名的法国出版商育碧(Ubisoft)对此并不十分担心。“这对我们来说没那么有趣,”育碧管理合作伙伴关系和收入的高管克里斯•厄尔利(Chris Early)表示。今年6月,该公司推出了自己的订阅服务Uplay+,可以在个人电脑上玩,涵盖了自己目录中的100多种游戏,包括《孤岛惊魂》(Far Cry)和《波斯王子》(Prince of Persia)。每月14.99美元,明年也可以在球场上买到。目前,“出版商成为聚合订阅模型的一部分意义不大,”厄尔利说。他补充道,关于如何将云游戏持续盈利有很多建议,但目前还不清楚“谁将为谁买单”。

For now, publishers are focused on figuring out whether today’s successful titles make sense in the cloud—or whether all-new titles, native to the format, will replace familiar franchises. The interactivity of Twitch and the novelty of so-called freemium mobile games, like Candy Crush, showed that technological leaps could open new paths to gaming engagement. The possibilities that could emerge from running games on the same infrastructure that supports today’s artificial intelligence are something that technologists can only fathom.

就目前而言,出版商们正专注于弄清楚当今成功的图书在云计算中是否有意义,或者全新的原生图书是否会取代人们熟悉的特许经营权。Twitch的交互性和免费增值手机游戏(如《Candy Crush》)的新奇性表明,技术飞跃可能为游戏参与开辟新的道路。在支持当今人工智能的基础设施上运行游戏的可能性是技术人员只能理解的。

“There will probably be evolutions of game design that we can’t even imagine yet,” says Early, “and they’re going to take advantage of the increase of cloud compute.”

“游戏设计可能会有我们甚至无法想象的进化,”Early说,“他们将利用云计算的增长。”

Back in Redmond, I stop by Microsoft’s 343 Industries game studio, where employees welcome me to a visitor center—a shrine, really—celebrating the company’s Halo franchise, which has racked up $6 billion in sales since its debut. Statues depicting its heroes and villains tower over my head—a gallery of Greek gods, so to speak, for the gaming set. There are glass museum cases everywhere packed with memorabilia. On one wall is a rack of replicas of the virtual weaponry from the game, as intimidating in person as they appear on the screen. Bright orange tags with the word “prop” hang from their triggers in case someone takes the “incineration cannon” a little too seriously.

回到雷德蒙德,我来到了微软343个工业游戏工作室,那里的员工们欢迎我来到一个访客中心——一个圣地——来庆祝该公司的Halo系列游戏,自从首次亮相以来,该游戏的销售额已经达到了60亿美元。在我的头顶上耸立着描绘希腊英雄和恶棍的雕像——可以说,这是一个为游戏场景而建的希腊神的画廊。到处都是装满纪念品的玻璃陈列柜。一面墙上挂着游戏中虚拟武器的复制品,就像它们出现在屏幕上一样令人生畏。他们的触发器上挂着带有“道具”字样的亮橙色标签,以防有人把“焚化炮”看得太严肃。

Founded in 2007 and named after a Halo character, 343 Industries is one of the older members of the Microsoft game portfolio. Last year alone, Microsoft acquired six game studios; at this year’s E3 industry confab, the company announced that it had picked up one more. Today, its Xbox Game Studios division is a federation of 15 semiautonomous studios that the company believes will be a key asset in the cloud-gaming wars—particularly against Amazon and Google, which lack strong titles of their own.

343 Industries成立于2007年,以《光环》中的一个角色命名,是微软游戏组合中较老的成员之一。仅去年一年,微软就收购了六家游戏工作室;在今年的E3行业大会上,该公司宣布又获得了一个。如今,它的Xbox游戏工作室部门是由15个半自治工作室组成的联盟,该公司相信这些工作室将成为云游戏战争中的一项关键资产——尤其是对抗亚马逊和谷歌,这两家公司都没有自己的强大游戏。

Not everyone sees it that way. Though Microsoft has won plaudits for successive editions of Halo and the Forza car-racing series, analysts have pointed to the titles’ relative age—Halo debuted in 2001; Forza first appeared four years later—as evidence that Microsoft’s homegrown studios have run out of ideas. “We have work to do there,” acknowledged Spencer, the Microsoft gaming chief. “We haven’t done our best work over the last few years with our first-party output.”

并不是每个人都这么看。尽管微软连续推出了《光环》和《福尔扎赛车》(Forza car-racing)系列,赢得了赞誉,但分析人士指出,这两款游戏的相对发行时间为2001年;Forza第一次出现是在四年之后,作为微软本土工作室已经没有创意的证据。“我们在这方面还有工作要做,”微软游戏主管斯宾塞承认。“在过去的几年里,我们并没有把我们的第一党产出做到最好。”

Frames from Halo Infinite, the forthcoming edition of the sci-fi game series, and Forza Horizon 4, a popular car-racing series.

Courtesy of Xbox Game Studios

由Xbox游戏工作室提供

That must change if Microsoft, the only video game veteran among the Big Three consumer cloud companies, hopes to maintain its natural advantage against Amazon and Google. After all, in video games, as in other parts of the media industry, content is king—which is why Microsoft’s rivals have moved to hire gaming veterans from top shops such as Electronic Arts (Madden NFL, Need for Speed) and 2K Games (Civilization, NBA 2K20) in an effort to build their own franchises. It is an uncanny echo of the moves by Amazon and Google to build their own premium programming, for Prime and YouTube, respectively, to compete with Netflix.

如果微软(Microsoft)希望保持其相对于亚马逊(Amazon)和谷歌的天然优势,这种局面就必须改变。毕竟,在视频游戏,在媒体行业的其他部分,内容是王将是为什么微软的竞争对手已经雇佣游戏退伍军人等顶级商店电子艺界(疯狂橄榄球需要速度)和2K游戏(文明,NBA 2K20)为了建立自己的特许经营。这与亚马逊(Amazon)和谷歌各自打造高端节目的举措形成了不可思议的呼应,Prime和YouTube将分别与Netflix竞争。

But Rome wasn’t built in a day. Seven years after establishing a gaming group in 2012, Amazon laid off dozens of game developers as it reorganized itself for a cloud-based future. (Amazon downplayed the news. “Amazon is deeply committed to games and continues to invest heavily in Amazon Game Studios, Twitch, Twitch Prime, AWS, our retail businesses, and other areas within Amazon,” a spokesperson tells Fortune.)

但是罗马不是一天建成的。在2012年成立游戏集团7年后,亚马逊解雇了数十名游戏开发商,为打造基于云计算的未来进行了重组。(亚马逊对这一消息轻描淡写。一位发言人告诉《财富》杂志:“亚马逊致力于游戏业务,并将继续大举投资于亚马逊游戏工作室、Twitch、Twitch Prime、AWS、我们的零售业务以及亚马逊内部的其他领域。”

Van Dreunen, the SuperData analyst, believes it will take up to five years before cloud-driven efforts by the Big Three will significantly affect the traditional gaming industry. Until then, look for cloud computing’s leaders to continue investing in their data center infrastructure to support the “gradual rollout” of cloud-gaming services, he says.

超级数据分析师范•德鲁宁(Van Dreunen)认为,三巨头在云计算驱动下的努力,要对传统游戏行业产生重大影响,还需要长达5年的时间。他表示,在那之前,预计云计算的领导者将继续投资于他们的数据中心基础设施,以支持“逐步推出”云游戏服务。

Why would Amazon, Google, and Microsoft make so much noise about a future that’s so far away? It’s all a part of the “land and expand” business model familiar to the technology industry, says analyst Pachter: Give a speech, plant a flag, hope that early momentum snowballs into an insurmountable competitive advantage. After all, “Facebook wasn’t a billion-dollar idea until it was,” he says. “Uber wasn’t a billion-dollar idea until it was.”

为什么亚马逊、谷歌和微软会对如此遥远的未来发出如此大的噪音?这一切都是科技行业熟悉的“土地和扩张”商业模式的一部分,分析师帕切特表示:发表演讲,插上一面旗帜,希望早期的势头像滚雪球一样形成不可逾越的竞争优势。毕竟,“Facebook在成为亿万富翁之前并不是一个好主意,”他说。“Uber在成为亿万富翁之前并不是一个好主意。”

Microsoft, in particular, has no intention of missing out. The company still regrets losing the mobile war to Google and its Android operating system. (Microsoft “missed being the dominant mobile operating system by a very tiny amount,” cofounder Bill Gates lamented earlier this year.) To underperform in an area where it has a head start of almost two decades would be, in a word, unconscionable.

微软尤其无意错失良机。该公司仍对在手机大战中输给谷歌及其Android操作系统感到遗憾。(微软创始人之一比尔·盖茨(Bill Gates)今年早些时候哀叹道,微软“以非常微小的差距错失了主导移动操作系统的机会”。)总而言之,在一个领先近20年的领域表现不佳,是不合情理的。

Time to suit up, then. “We’re in gaming for gaming’s sake,” Nadella says. “It’s not a means to some other end.”

那么,是穿衣服的时候了。“我们是为了游戏而游戏,”纳德拉说。“这不是达到其他目的的手段。”

A version of this article appears in the August 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline "Big Tech's New Street Fight."

这篇文章的一个版本出现在2019年8月的《财富》(Fortune)杂志上,标题是“大科技公司的新巷战”。

Follow Fortune on Flipboard to stay up-to-date on the latest news and analysis.

跟随财富在Flipboard上最新的新闻和分析。

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