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After some travels, I’m back at home and absorbing some of the things I’ve seen. And one of the things that I found to be truly impressive was the Samsung Gaming Hub, which will debut on Samsung TVs on June 30 with cloud gaming services such as Microsoft’s xCloud (now Xbox Cloud Gaming).
I think this is going to be a pretty amazing service for gamers. It lets you play cloud-based games on the TV — without the need for a game console. The Samsung Gaming Hub is going to be embedded in Samsung’s 2022 TVs this fall, and it will feature cloud gaming services such as xCloud, GeForce Gaming, Google Stadia and Utomik. You will be able to play Xbox Game Pass games on the TV without a console.
I played games from xCloud and Utomik at the Play Days demo event for the Summer Games Fest in Los Angeles. Halo Infinite multiplayer was as smooth as butter. It played at 60 frames per second at 1080p, and you can upscale it to 4K if the TV can do it. I also got a good look at Minecraft and Microsoft Flight Simulator. I flew over the Italian city of Naples, and the textures came in just fine.
I played a match, and I did pretty well, even when trying to shoot other players while I was playing on the cloud. Cloud games use the computing power of datacenters, so you don’t need a powerful home computer to play them. Even the computing power of a TV, combined with the connected datacenter, is enough to run a wide range of high-end Xbox games.
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Don’t just take my word for it. HipHopGamer was there to try it out just ahead of me and he said, “If it works like this when it launches in everybody’s home, game over. It’s over. They did it. Xbox without a box. Xbox without a box. Samsung Gaming Hub. This is unbelievable.”
He added, “I won on the cloud, baby.”
It requires a 20-megabit per second connection, which most people in the U.S. will have if they have broadband service. Mike Lucero, director of product management for gaming at Samsung, said this isn’t a final build but the tech is certified.
Samsung added low-latency response times to its TVs to ensure they could display games without delays. It also added an Xbox section to its hub screen, as well as the Xbox App within the Samsung Gaming Hub on its Neo QLED 8K/4K, QLED TVs, and Smart Monitor Series. In gaming mode, the TVs reduce latency by 30%.
“The whole idea was to make gaming a first-class citizen on our TV, and provide all things gaming together in one single experience,” Lucero said. “The pain point we’re sort of solving was that today when you turn on a TV, you see all these video apps, and if there’s anything gaming, it might be somewhere way on the end, but there’s no place dedicated the gamers. So the whole point of the Gaming Hub was to create a place where all things gaming are together. And that was just our acknowledgment that gaming is the biggest form of entertainment. So gamers should have their own special place on the TV.”
Through the Xbox App, you can play Fortnite for free. And you’ll be able to stream over 100 high-quality games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. You can also play can play new games on day one of release from Xbox Game Studios and enjoy iconic franchises from Bethesda Softworks and more.
You can pair either an Xbox controller or a PlayStation controller (as well as most modern controllers) with the app. When you hit the home screen, you can see your recently played games. If you are an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscriber ($15 a month), you can get to your catalog of hundreds of games. The TV connects you to the optimal gaming datacenter, and you can pick up where you left off. When Xbox titles like Starfield come out in 2023, they will be on the Samsung Gaming Hub’s Xbox App on day one.
Doki Tops, CEO of Utomik, showed me some of the indie game available on his company’s cloud gaming service, which will also be available on the hub. If you are looking for indie games off the beaten path, you can find them here for $9 a month for early access to a library of more than 1,000 games on the PC and 100 games on the Samsung TVs. You can transition from mobile gaming to the TV or PC, and Tops showed me how that will work seamlessly. You can pick up in the same place you were, whether you’re on the mobile app or the TV or PC. I played a platforming game, and it was pretty fluid.
Lucero talked to me about the backstory at Samsung and how it is expanding from mobile to TVs and from entertainment to gaming with its content strategy. The company added game-savvy people and started establishing relationships with companies like Microsoft.
“We realized that by not having a serious commitment to gaming, we were missing out on the biggest piece of the pie in the entertainment world,” Lucero said.
And so the team focused on building out the gaming hub over the past couple of years. During that time, game streaming became bigger and bigger. And Samsung focused on being a kind of Switzerland for games. All told, it should have a thousand games available.
“Now we are in a really good position,” Lucero said. “We saw a lot of consumer pain points, and they liked our idea. To the customer, we’re invisible. We’re just a convenience. We’re not picking sides. We love consoles. We love cloud streaming services. We’re just about giving consumers as much choice as possible.”
If I were Nintendo and Sony, I would worry about how Xbox and Samsung could team together and take gaming to people who don’t have game consoles. At a time when component shortages mean we can’t get our hands on the next-generation consoles so easily, it might make a lot of sense to get our hands on a TV instead.
It reminds me of the old fear that Microsoft used to have of the PlayStation 2. It would get into the home as a gaming box and take over all of computing in the home. Now, we have the opposite. Samsung brings a TV into your home, and it gives you the equivalent of a console in your living room.
So what I sense with the Samsung Gaming Hub and the launch of these cloud-gaming-ready TVs is some kind of disruption to the market, and perhaps a reawakening of the old notion that we could play games across so many devices that we might not actually need a console anymore. Just ask HipHopGamer about that. He’ll back me up.
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