Gamers have had a lot to get excited about over the past few weeks, with fresh details about the Sony PS5 and Xbox Series X dropping at a near frenzied pace. But for me, in this sea of headlines there’s been a subtle, but longer term, more important release in the world of gaming: the Razer Kishi.
For those that missed it, the Razer Kishi is the latest peripheral claiming it’s going to revolutionise mobile gaming and let smartphone users turn their handset into a “fully functioning games console” like the Nintendo Switch.
If this sounds familiar, it should. Razer tried to pull the same trick with its older Junglecat peripheral. Before then Asus kicked off the trend with its first ROG Phone, which had a wealth of similar peripherals and a more advanced, Switch-like dock that let you attach the phone to your TV. None of them took off, in the West which is why I’m guessing most readers hadn’t heard of them prior to this article.
But, this time around there’s a crucial trump card, that gives the Kishi an edge no gaming phone, or mobile peripheral, has had before: cloud streaming. For those that missed it, cloud gaming is a new, very young market that started gaining traction last year with the launch of Google Stadia and beta release of Nvidia GeForce Now.
The services aim to shake up the gaming industry by letting users stream full fat, console and PC level games over the cloud using 5G and Wi-Fi connections. This means, if the connection is fast enough, you can play the proper version of games on any device, be it a phone, tablet, laptop or PC, without needing to download it or check if your hardware is powerful enough.
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This may sound niche at the moment, but having tested the Kishi for two weeks I’m more convinced than ever that streaming services like GeForce Now, and peripherals like Razer’s will eventually become the main way people play games. Like Netflix vs Blockbuster and physical vs digital sales, before them, it’s a question of when not if.
This is because the services are so darned convenient. GeForce Now, plus cloud saves, let me seamlessly pick up where I left off regardless of my location. The Kishi then also gave me what is effectively a full-fat Xbox-controller/Nintendo Switch-level pad to play on, meaning the experience didn’t feel at all compromised.
If anything it was a better experience than what I got playing the Nintendo Switch. This is because, from a hardware perspective, most flagship phones have better, and sometimes larger, screens than the Switch. The primary was definitely true for me when I paired the Galaxy S20 Plus to the Kishi. The phone has a sharper, better calibrated, higher refresh rate screen than the regular Switch and honestly, the experience I had jumping between the Switch and GeForce Now version of Daemon X Machina was palpable.
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Before anyone jumps in, the change won’t happen overnight – the ongoing buzz around the PS5 alone is enough to show consoles won’t be going away for at least another generation or two. But it will happen eventually. Microsoft’s already shown it’s aware of this with its investment in Project xCloud, and Sony’s been taking baby-steps towards similar subscription and streaming solutions for quite a few years.
This is because both know that long-term the overall convenience of streaming, plus the money saving element of not having to invest in extra, gaming specific hardware, means it is all but certain consoles and PCs go the way of vinyl and become a market limited to enthusiasts, not mainstream players.