The Rainway game-streaming app is finally coming together. The beta version will be available later this month, finally giving gamers a chance to experience the developers’ vision of enjoying “device agnostic gaming.” As sweet as that sounds, I’m left wondering: will this really live up to the excitement?
Rainway’s concept on paper sounds very impressive: having access to all your PC games anywhere you go. In the middle of a sweet gaming session on your desktop PC but you have to leave the house? No problem. Just leave your gaming rig at home and take your phone (or even Nintendo Switch) with you and continue your session while you’re out-and-about. Going on a trip? Same thing—your experience gets taken along with you thanks to the power of the Internet.
As I said earlier, this all sounds pretty sweet. But, how does it actually perform in the real world? That question will be answered officially when the beta goes live on January 20th, but I don’t think I actually need to try the app out for myself to give an answer. The simple truth is that as great as a concept that Rainway is, it can’t get away from one undeniable reality: global Internet limitations. What do I mean by that? It’s simple.
Even if the app itself turns out to be as amazing as sliced bread, your gameplay experience will only be as good as the Internet connection that it’s being streamed on. The trailer showing off the app featured a group of people playing in what looked like a cafe. I don’t know about you, but basically, every last public wi-fi hotspot I’ve connected to has run slower than a snail trudging through a puddle of spilled honey. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but still, you get the point—wi-fi speeds are essential for good gameplay when it comes to streaming.
Game-streaming requires high-speed connections.
Rainway’s main feature is streaming on-the-go, but how many people have mobile plans that can comfortably support something as data-demanding as this?
Have you ever tried watching a YouTube video on public wi-fi? What about streaming a movie on Netflix? Be honest, how good is the streaming experience compared to when you’re on your own connection at home? I’m sure you’d agree that it’s not nearly as nice (unless it’s in a place with exceptionally good public wi-fi). Now, some of you may be thinking: “Why do I need to use a public hotspot? That’s what I got my data plan for!” Okay, that’s true. But, how much data do you think streaming an entire game is going to take? That’s quite a lot of data that needs to be transferred since it’s an interactive experience instead of just consumption, like in the case of videos and music. If you have an ‘unlimited’ plan, then you might be fine, unless you have to deal with data caps. Those who have limited plans are definitely going to have to be careful not to play too much or else they’ll most likely eat up all their monthly allowance before they know it. Rainway could remedy this by using compression, but naturally, you’d still want a good viewing experience while playing. The main point boils down to this: game streaming is complicated.
This situation is pretty much the same as Remote Play with the PS4 and PS Vita. It’s a great feature, but having a good Internet connection is essential to it actually working properly. Even if you only plan to use Rainway in your house: how’s your own Internet connection? The reality is that quite a number of people all over the world don’t even have access to high-speed connections in their own homes, let alone outside. Don’t think I’m only referring to people in developing nations; just look at this report from Recode from June 2017. It states that “over 60 million in the United States don’t have access to or can’t afford broadband Internet access.” That’s right, even a first-world land like the USA doesn’t have nationwide high-speed Internet coverage, so what about people in smaller, less developed countries?
My overall point is that Rainway seems like it will benefit only a select group of people: PC gamers who have regular access to an exceptional Internet connection. Trying to stream a gameplay session, especially an online one like Rocket League, is not going to be nearly as simple as your Spotify tunes or even your newest Netflix binge-fest. The most elite of PC gamers already get antsy if their mouse doesn’t have a high enough DPI or if their display is producing too much input lag, so I would hope they wouldn’t go into this expecting a 1:1 experience with what they’re getting natively on their actual gaming rig. This group of highly-particular people within itself is very select, so this probably wouldn’t apply to the majority of Rainway users, but it all still ties into the whole Internet issue.
As I stated in my article about how an all-digital gaming world still not being a true reality, the global Internet infrastructure needs to greatly improve. If even Netflix struggles to run on less than adequate connections, I can only imagine what the Rainway experience would be like. Even Nvidia’s new GeForce NOW service (which is also game streaming) requires at least a 25Mbps connection. The recommendation is actually 50Mbps for an optimal experience. Not only are there areas where that just isn’t possible, but even if it is, those high-speeds don’t come cheap. Looks like Rainway will also continue to push the reality that gaming is quite an expensive hobby. Again, this is a great concept, and I’m glad to see it happening, but it’s just unfortunate that it can’t be fully realized due to infrastructural limitations, at least not yet. Hopefully as time passes, the global internet infrastructure will get significantly good enough to make a service like Rainway a common luxury.