Sony is gearing up for another cloud gaming push amid PlayStation handheld rumors

Now that Google Stadia is dead and buried, it looks like Sony is serious about cloud gaming again. Despite a recent string of layoffs, Sony is currently hiring 22 cloud gaming technology-related positions, including one person whose job will literally be to “develop and deliver the strategic vision for cloud game streaming on PlayStation.”

“Are you a revolutionary innovator in the field of cloud streaming products? Then you would probably agree that Cloud Gaming is fast becoming an important part of the gaming industry,” reads part of an offer. job offer for a Director of Product Management for Cloud Gaming.

This person will not be alone: ​​Sony is Also hiring five senior platform engineers, three software engineers, two technical project managers and at least one technical writer, four reliability engineers (and one manager), one additional devops engineer, one junior network engineer, one senior business intelligence analyst , a security architect, and a network capacity planner, many of whom will report to the company’s Future Technology Group.

These job openings start:

As a member of Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Future Technology Group (FTG), you’ll have the opportunity to lead the charge in the cloud gaming revolution. FTG is at the forefront of bringing console-quality video games to any device.

The company has also appointed a Director of Hardware Engineering, responsible for driving “the vision, research and development for SIE’s custom servers, rack designs, and high-speed fabrics” and “innovation toward our next-generation technology. Sony was also looking for a lead hardware architect “to shape the future of PlayStation’s composable data center infrastructure for cloud gaming and machine learning” in 2021, as well as a cloud gaming systems architect.

While the Future Technology Group also states that it does R&D for VR headsets, game controllers, and even Sony software features like the “GT Sophy” AI driver in Gran Turismosome roles are very clearly pointed to the service formerly known as PlayStation Now.

“Cloud gaming” is not an understatement here

The Senior Business Intelligence Analyst, for example, will work on “cloud gaming experience analytics”; the security architect “will focus on the Future Technology and Cloud Gaming business area.” The posts make it clear that the goal is to deliver games to millions of people on a variety of devices. Unlike Google, Sony doesn’t use the term “cloud gaming” as a euphemism for live services.

Many job postings are also looking for candidates in Aliso Viejo, Calif., the former home of Gaikai, the cloud gaming pioneer Sony bought a decade ago. “Future Technology Group” seems like a relatively new name for this team: it was previously called Cloud Gaming Engineering and Infrastructure, or CGEI for short. Some of the networking roles are also in Australia, suggesting that Sony may finally be bringing cloud gaming to the country.

The job postings also suggest that Sony is working on a new hybrid cloud infrastructure with Kubernetes and Amazon’s AWS – not necessarily Microsoft Azure.

The fact that job postings mention Amazon’s cloud and not Microsoft’s is intriguing in itself: didn’t Sony publicly announce that it would be using Microsoft’s technology in 2019? But as of 2021, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan said Nikkei (via VGC), the two companies had not yet moved beyond the stage of “exchanging ideas”. And it’s not like companies still have to protect themselves against Google Stadia and Amazon Luna, as both competitors had anemic market share even before Google killed off Stadia.

Plus, Microsoft looks a lot more like a competitor to Sony than a friend these days. Even if we ignore their increasingly public fight over the Activision Blizzard deal, the UK Competition and Markets Authority estimates that Xbox Cloud Gaming had three to seven times the market share of Sony’s efforts in of cloud gaming last year. Just today, Microsoft hinted that it would add PC games to its cloud gaming service when it launched its non-cloud PC Game Pass in 40 new countries.

There is no indication that Sony will launch its own next-gen cloud gaming service anytime soon. I would expect the opposite, given that the company is still hiring people to understand its cloud gaming vision and develop the underlying infrastructure.

But it’s clearly a priority for Sony, and not just because the Future Technology Group is currently hiring for more roles than any other part of PlayStation, but also because Sony is aggressively pushing to patent cloud gaming technology.

Mark Cerny himself, the man who spearheaded the development of the PS5 and PS4, now has his name on a slew of patent applications from 2022 and even 2023 around cloud gaming, and the company has filed dozens and dozens of patents and patent lawsuits directly related to the technology, according to my research.

Some of the pending patents date back to Gaikai’s early days, but many new ones explore using the power of multiple GPUs to power single-person gameplay – or even single-person viewing through a VR headset. One of the holy grails of cloud gaming is an experience that would never have been possible outside of the cloud, but no company has yet released a cloud-native game, only features for those who still work without its help. (Hideo Kojima said he was working on one with Microsoft, though, and Microsoft hired Kim Swift, the woman behind Gateto build a cloud-native gaming team.)

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Sony has also been trying to patent ways to share a single GPU across multiple applications – which could help with the heavy economics of cloud gaming, where a company traditionally has to have a remote computer waiting for each gamer to pause and resume. cloud games, transfer them to different devices, stream them to a web browser, manage unreliable cellular internet connections, and more, the patent applications reveal.

Sony may have wasted the future of gaming, but it seems like a lot has happened since I wrote this story in 2019. I’m not even counting how the company got Jade Raymond and her new studio Haven back fresh out of a stint leading cloud-native games for Google Stadia.

(That’s not rhetorical; I don’t count because she said GamesIndustry.biz it now focuses more on helping developers create games in the cloud than letting users play them. Sony even refers to the company as a “live services developer,” not a game studio, in financial briefings.)

So let’s talk about the Q Lite, that rumored new PlayStation handheld.

I’ve been thinking about it for days, and I can’t believe Sony would create a new portable gaming system that only stream games from your own PS5 via Remote Play, like Insider game”, suggested the sources of Tom Henderson. If such a handheld existed, why would Sony deliberately block it from playing Sony’s cloud games as well? It’s not like it’s going to make a handheld any more expensive – whether you’re streaming across a room or across the country, the core technology is the same.

But I couldn’t see Sony lean on its lackluster current cloud gaming services to sell a new handheld, either, not after hiding its entire PlayStation Now cloud gaming service behind the more expensive PlayStation Plus tier, bundling it with features that only console owners would spend money on.

So of course, let’s imagine the Q Lite is just a console companion at launch. Maybe Sony even bundles it in with a multi-year subscription at that pricey PlayStation Plus tier for those who want to do everything possible with their console. But maybe it won’t stay that way for long.

When Sony is ready with its next-gen cloud gaming service, I imagine any Q Lite would be ready too – with the built-in controls, interfaces and purpose-built streaming hardware it needs to become a genuine PlayStation Portable.

If you have inside information about Sony’s cloud gaming plans, contact me at sean@theverge.com from a non-business machine; I’ll give you my signal so we can talk safely.

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