Orange has launched a video games offering not based on a console or a computer processing the data but managed directly from the Cloud, turning the screen into a mere receiver.

Interview with Jean-François Rodriguez, Head of Gaming at Orange, during the Paris Games Week at the end of October.

L'Atelier: What exactly is Cloud Gaming?

Jean-François Rodriguez: As a general rule in traditional gaming, games are either bought together with a physical device, or are downloaded from the web. With Cloud Gaming, everything happens in the Cloud, which means that nothing is actually downloaded and nothing complex happens at the terminal, which is just used as a screen, with all the complexity retained in the network. I can now access games in the same way as I access video-on-demand, which allows me to play games of a complexity which up to now boxes have not been able to support. In the long term this will also mean that you don’t constantly have to update your computer to meet the requirements of new games.

So the computer no longer processes the information; it becomes just a channel?

That’s right. The computing is no longer done on our desk but in the network. These days games consoles give you slightly better quality, but only for very complex games. For other games, moving to Cloud gaming gives you the same quality as you have with traditional devices. For example PES 2014 is the first-ever game to come out simultaneously on consoles and on Orange’s Cloud gaming service, offering exactly the same gaming experience.

So you’re working in collaboration with development studios?

Exactly. We have agreements with [French] studios such as Ubisoft, and Gameloft, [US giant] Warner, and [Japanese company] Konami. I sincerely believe that by the end of 2014 we’ll be working with all the major studios. Today there are still improvements to be made, we’re going to improve the codecs, we’re going to improve the service quality over fibre, we’re going to integrate social links. We’re just at the start of this adventure. Why has Orange gone into this market? Of course we’re basically a network operator and we aren’t there to compete with games consoles. However, we do supply entertainment to our customers via our box, which up to now has meant video and music. With the expertise we’ve now built up, the next logical step was video games.

Is entering the video games market the future for network operators?

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. An operator such as Orange has a higher turnover than all the videos games studios in the world put together. This is an additional service that we want to offer our customers, an entertainment service which is also mobile. The aim is to show that our networks are capable of supporting Cloud gaming, but that’s just a plus on top of our core business. I think that in any case, with the arrival of these new networks, Cloud gaming will be the standard approach to gaming in future. Not only for operators; console manufacturers will go the same way, and I think we can safely say that this is how the next generation of consoles will work. They’ll be helped by our network, by progress in bandwidth and the systematic use of fibre optics. We’re now starting to see games being played on all types of screens, whether via an app that allows you to continue playing on your tablet, or complete add-ons offering content specifically designed for mobile devices, before switching back to continue your game on fixed equipment. So for example you can level-up your game character on your mobile device and then go and continue the game on your PC. The game is playable on all screens. With a hub in the Cloud managing the game, you can connect to it wherever you are and from whatever screen you like, and go on playing the game. So what we’re talking about here is a connection hub for the world of gaming.

Does this operate in parallel with the increase in network coverage?

Yes, of course. Moreover, with the arrival of 4G, even zones which enjoy rather less coverage in fixed broadband will receive mobile broadband. The digital industrial revolution is moving at a speed unprecedented in economic history. It’s a natural step for Orange to move into this business sector as it’s an extremely dynamic sector which is really driving innovation. And of course gaming has become a mass-market business. Some 48% of gamers are now women and gamers’ average age is 38. It’s certainly no longer a niche market and 75% of all French people play video games because they can now do so on their mobile devices.

By Quentin Capelle