This has been a thought floating through my mind for a very long time. Back when NVIDIA GeForce Now was in beta, Blizzard Entertainment allowed them to have players use the Blizzard Launcher and play any Blizzard game through their cloud gaming stream service. The agreement fell flat off the rails when NVIDIA GeForce Now launched without reaching Blizzard to negotiate the NVIDIA GeForce Now Beta agreement moving forward into the launched NVIDIA Now service. You can read that February 12, 2020 article here with reference links.
Not only were Blizzard games removed from NVIDIA Geforce Now… the entire Activision portfolio of games too. So it was an Activision Blizzard large-scale crackdown.
It is been almost a whole year, with no apparent negotiation to bring back Activision Blizzard games to the GeForce Now platform.
That year has brought a couple paradigm shifts that have opened some new doors for Activision Blizzard to make a move into cloud gaming streaming — if the high executives and investors desired to enter that venue.
The Epic Games/Apple clash in courts over Fortnite has inspired companies like Google Stadia, Microsoft XCloud, and Amazon Luna to circumvent the AppStore. They have somehow managed to develop an infrastracture around the iPhone and iPad Safari browser to allow cloud games streaming outside of the AppStore.
Amazon Luna by September 25 stunned the tech news industry. They had just appeared on the scene, and already developing a progressive web app (PWA) to stream games in iOS, without the AppStore.
Just in November 5, the BBC reported that Fornite was set to return to iPhone through the Geforce Now cloud gaming service via the Safari web browser.
By the end of October 2020, Amazon invited a select number of players to test Amazon Luna Early-Access in iOS and Mac — with Apple’s blessing. By November 5, Apple News sites were already reviewing Amazon Luna. One of them claimed “Amazon Luna’s streaming tech is solid.” The reviewer also said that all you had to do was type “amazon.com/luna” in Safari to add the Luna app to the homescreen. They show a short video clip as a step-by-step guide.
In November 13, 2020 — Apple added PS5 controller and Amazon Luna support to iOS14.3 Beta. The iOS14 was launched today.
In addition, today GeForce Now became the first cloud gaming service to officially support iOS devices via the Safari browser — read the press release. GeForce Now is also coming soon to Android via the Google Chrome browser — circumventing the Google Play Store. Stadia is coming to Safari in a few weeks, and XCloud is planning to do so by 2021.
Things are moving really fast and the opportunities for Activision Blizzard are open wide in iOS and Mac at this point.
Why should Blizzard partner with Nvidia Geforce Now, Microsoft XCloud, Google Stadia or Amazon Luna… when Activision Blizzard can launch their own Progressive Web App and allow Activision players and Blizzard players access World of Warcraft, StarCraft II, Diablo III, Diablo 4, Overwatch 2, Call of Duty games, and other portfolio favorites for a flat monthly fee or free with ads, or even without ads.
Microtransactions end when the player logs out and moves on with their daily routine outside of their home. But if you could login into World of Warcraft, Heroes of the Storm, Overwatch, Call of Duty, etc. to play the game via your iPhone or iPad. Or even if you have an old MacBook (in addition to your PC) that can no longer run your favorite games — but you can launch the stream app without graphics/lag impact… that allows Activision Blizzard to boost their microtransactions outside of the comfort of players’ homes: in their commute, their office, their travel, at the park, and anywhere you can muster some downtime to load the app and play.
Not just that, bringing old customers who were basically stranded without their favorite games merely because they haven’t upgraded their computer systems in many years, and their favorite games no longer support their CPUs and/or graphic cards? Streaming to the browser is a welcome workaround that opens that door to Activision Blizzard’s microtransaction games.
By launching their own cloud gaming service, Activision Blizzard would be saving on outrageous fees to pay Apple, or Stadia, or XCloud, or Amazon Luna. All going straight to Activision Blizzard’s pocket. Will Activision Blizzard go for developing their own cloud gaming stream platform? I think it is just a matter of time before they make the official announcement — and I have a feeling the app might come from Blizzard Entertainment’s engineering team.
There were some words spoken by Daniel Alegre at the Activision Blizzard Q3 2020 investors call (read transcript) that probably triggered dread to some players who are against mobile gaming — worrying about Blizzard moving exclusively to mobile gaming. We have heard at BlizzCon a few times that PC gaming development will continue; but what if what Daniel Alegre signaled here is not necessarily development of mobile games — but bringing the existing PC and Console games to mobile via the Blizzard cloud gaming stream service?
Daniel Alegre: “We’re also excited just for the next-generation of consoles and the potential they offer to really bring even more compelling experiences to our players. And you’re already seeing us supporting the new hardware with the launch of Black Ops: Cold War on day one, as Rob was mentioning. Ultimately, for us, our priority is to build the best player experiences where our players want to be and really where they can connect with other members of the community.
It’s just so powerful. That said, though, our development resources just are finite. So we really have to focus on where the biggest opportunities are. For example, we need to make sure that we’re enabling our franchises on the billions of mobile devices that are available right now. That’s by far our biggest opportunity, and we’re investing meaningfully to capitalize on this and to take all our franchises to mobile over time. That’s really important for us.”
This could explain why Activision Blizzard pulled their entire portfolio drastically from GeForce Now, and the EULA/TOS changes to prevent cloud streaming gameplay. They might be developing their own cloud streaming service.
Update: It’s been several months since I posted this article. I had forgotten there was a press release in January 2020 announcing the multi-year parnership between Activision Blizzard and Google. This might be another breadcrumb toward the Blizzard Cloud theory.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. and SUNNYVALE, Calif., Jan. 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Activision Blizzard and Google announced today a multi-year strategic relationship to power new player experiences. Google Cloud will serve as the preferred provider for Activision Blizzard’s game hosting infrastructure and YouTube as its exclusive streaming partner worldwide, excluding China, for live broadcasts of its popular esports leagues and events — including Overwatch League, Call of Duty League, Hearthstone Esports, and more.
With hundreds of millions of monthly active users around the world, Activision Blizzard sought a partner to help enhance its gaming infrastructure, as well as deliver superior, low-latency player experiences. The company turned to Google Cloud because of its highly reliable global footprint, advanced data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, and commitment to open source, creating a platform for building future gaming innovations.
Players will benefit by experiencing premium network quality-of-service, including low latency and packet loss when playing high-fidelity games on any device. They will also have optimal personalized interactions, as Activision Blizzard can tap into Google Cloud’s AI tools to offer curated recommendations for in-game offers and differentiated gaming experiences.
“We’ve worked closely with Activision Blizzard for the past few years across mobile titles to boost its analytics capabilities and overall player experience,” said Sunil Rayan, Head of Gaming, Google Cloud. “We are excited to now expand our relationship and help power one of the largest and most renowned game developers in the world.”
“We’re excited to partner with Google to drive the next generation of gaming innovation for the industry. Google Cloud’s best-in-class infrastructure gives us the confidence to deliver great entertainment to our fans around the world,” said Jacques Erasmus, Chief Information Officer, Activision Blizzard.
Additionally, beginning this week, YouTube will host the official live broadcasts of Activision Blizzard’s popular esports leagues and events including the newly created Call of Duty League, Overwatch League, Hearthstone Esports, and more. The inaugural Call of Duty League season kicks off on Friday, January 24, with 12 teams competing in Minnesota, and the Overwatch League’s 2020 season will follow on February 8. All competitions will be livestreamed on each league’s YouTube channel and will include archived and other special content.
“With more than 200 million gamers a day watching more than 50 billion hours of gaming content per year, YouTube provides gamers and their passionate fans with the most popular video gaming platform in the world,” said Ryan Wyatt, Head of Gaming, YouTube. “Both the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League are the quintessential examples of world class esports content. As a former Call of Duty esports commentator myself, I couldn’t be more excited for Activision Blizzard to choose YouTube as its exclusive home for the digital live streaming of both leagues. This partnership further demonstrates our dedication to having a world class live streaming product for gaming.”
“This is an exciting year for Activision Blizzard Esports as we head into the inaugural season of Call of Duty League and our first ever season of homestands for Overwatch League all around the world,” said Pete Vlastelica, CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports. “It’s our mission to deliver high-quality competitive entertainment that our fans can follow globally, live or on-demand, and to celebrate our players as the superstars that they are. This partnership will help us deliver on that promise at new levels, by combining our passionate communities of fans and players with YouTube’s powerful content platform and exciting history of supporting next-generation entertainment.”
This collaboration with Activision Blizzard represents Google’s ongoing commitment to supporting game developer success around the globe. Across its business units, Google offers comprehensive solutions for game developers, empowering them to create great games, connect with players, and scale their businesses.
You can read more about Google Cloud (GCP) for building games here to understand how Activision Blizzard’s partnership with Google Cloud might be used in the future.
Looking around that page, one of the tools Google Cloud offers is the open-source Agones Game Server management to host, run and scale dedicated game servers. That uses Kubernetes (K8s). So if Blizzard was working on Google Cloud via the Activision Blizzard partnership — and was internally using Google Cloud to develop video games… then logically Blizzard would have to hire people with knowledge of Kubernetes to run dedicated cloud game servers.
Let’s take a look at some recent Blizzard Careers postings. You can read terms like “Cloud” and “Kubernetes.” (Open in a new tab for full size)
Other potential breadcrumbs for Blizzard working on Cloud Gaming comes after reports of employee layoffs to re-allocate resources for digital investments.
Expect all of its major franchises to have its own Warzone-esque component that connects mainline titles with monetized, free-to-play cross-platform titles designed specifically to maximize engagement and revenue through in-game purchases.”
Here you can also learn more about Google Cloud (GCP) running Agones dedicated servers with Kubernetes — which Blizzard might be using internally for a unannounced Blizzard Cloud Gaming service.
Similar topics about the unannounced Blizzard Cloud Service theory:
- Is Blizzard Entertainment planning to bring Games to Android and iOS?
- Speculation: Blizzard Media Network for eSports and VOD Films/Shows?