OPINION: A few weeks back, I flew to South Korea to witness Samsung’s latest range of phones, wearables and tablets, including the foldable Galaxy Z Fold 5 and Galaxy Z Flip 5, unveiled in person at Samsung Unpacked.
While there, I attended a roundtable discussion with Samsung’s corporate president and global head of its service business, Won-Jin Lee. Lee oversees Samsung’s Device eXperience (DX) Division and had more recently spearheaded the launch of the Samsung Gaming Hub.
As a streaming service built into all new Samsung TVs and monitors, the Gaming Hub pulls titles from multiple partnered cloud gaming platforms, including Xbox, Nvidia GeForce NOW, Amazon Luna and Utomik. The app requires no additional console or PC, meaning that all gamers need is a Samsung TV, a Bluetooth controller and a subscription to one or more of the supported cloud gaming platforms to get started.
Currently, there are close to 3000 titles accessible through the Gaming Hub and the number of monthly active users increased threefold from July 2022 to May 2023, marking the service a quiet success in its first year.
Lee isn’t done advocating for the rise of cloud gaming, either. During a roundtable discussion that covered a diverse range of Samsung services, the executive repeatedly circled back to the potential of cloud gaming and the direction he hopes it will take in the future.
“I’ve been spending a lot of time looking at gaming opportunities for Samsung”, said Lee. “I think that’s a huge opportunity”.
Lee compared the current trajectory of gaming to other cloud-based advancements that have swiftly become the norm in recent years, including video and music streaming.
“If we look back at the past 15 years or so, we’ve seen video going from downloads to the cloud”, he explained. “Before that, people were actually downloading videos and now no one downloads, everybody goes to the cloud to consume video. You know when iTunes was the place to buy music, now no one buys music anymore, everything has gone to the cloud. People still download games. I think there’s a huge opportunity in the gaming industry where if you can move a service to the cloud then you can remove all the device dependencies and elevate the user experience to another level”.
Samsung is in a particularly advantageous position to push this transition.
“The way the gaming industry is assembled, there’s a console piece, there’s a mobile piece and there’s a PC piece – guess what? We make all of those products”.
So, what does the future of cloud gaming look like for Samsung?
To hear Lee explain it, it’s about giving users the ability to move from one title to another without the restrictions of lengthy download times. Gamers should be able to encounter a game, try it out and determine if they want to continue playing quickly and seamlessly.
The executive compared the console gaming experience with the cloud-based video discovery process on YouTube.
“A lot of times the video experience on YouTube is that you’re going in and out of different content. You don’t really ponder about what you’re going to watch, but if you do see something interesting you’re going to see it and, within probably about five seconds, you’ll know whether you want to continue watching or just move on to the next piece of content”, said Lee. “Now, compare that to your gaming experience if you are a gamer. That’s a very different experience. You really need to think about whether you want to spend the time to download the game and wait for it, and then to find out that it’s not the right game you want to play. That’s a very shattered experience, in my opinion”.
“What if you could do the same thing where you can actually try before you decide to play”, pondered Lee. “I think with the cloud technology that experience can be replicated to gaming. I think that would be game-changing”.
The potential of cloud gaming isn’t limited to the living room, either. After all, a major benefit of cloud gaming is that it releases gamers from the tethers of a console, allowing them to pick up where they left off on a wider selection of devices, and Samsung is a major player in the mobile space.
Lee hopes to see an equally smooth discovery experience arrive on smartphones.
“We talk about being able to play console games without consoles, that’s a pretty big jump. With mobile gaming, it’s going to be pretty similar”, said Lee. “Obviously, you don’t have the device dependency on mobile but the whole discovery experience is pretty clunky in my opinion, so it’s really another level of discovery experience on mobile phones when it comes to gaming”.