A key way for Scotland to greatly boost their tech sector and overall economy is to specialize in particular niche fields, through hyper-growth ‘micro clusters’.
Clusters have long been a staple of government’s Economic Development strategies but are often organized by government in a top down fashion around large, broad industries like aerospace, and typically feature mostly large enterprises.
For smaller countries like Scotland with mostly SMEs this can be a limited approach, and so an alternative model I’d suggest is one of “micro clusters”, a bottom up forming up of an industry group around very specialized, small but very high growth niche segments.
For example one scenario I’d propose is Cloud Gaming, the intersection of the massive computing trend with the equally massive gaming sector, worth $138 billion this year.
For Scotland there are giant shoulders to stand on, headlined by the massive success of Grand Theft Auto, a single game alone that has generated $6 billion in revenues for the latest release, and with a supporting ecosystem to cultivate the next big hits such as Abertay’s game innovation partnership.
It has recently reached fever pitch through news of major ventures coming to market, such as Google launching Stadia, Samsung launching a service to compete with Apple and Tencent with their ‘Start’ pilot.
As The Verge writes it’s an especially potent innovation when combined with device scenarios like the Nintendo Switch:
“The Nintendo Switch isn’t powerful enough to run many recent high-end games on its own hardware, but it is a self-contained portable system with all of the controls you’d expect to find on a full-sized console controller. And, of course, Wi-Fi.”
This highlights the different specialism opportunities within the overall trend, such as the devices and also the underlying nework, such as 5G and Cloud Gaming.
One thing is absolutely clear, the breathtakingly large opportunity presented, one very accessible to Scotland, building on the shoulders of giants to reach it.
Rockstar Games are expanding their success even further through their latest title release Red or Dead Redemption 2, and similar mind boggling levels of revenues has been achieved by Fortnite, drawing in a massive $1.2 billion.
Fortnite and Epic Games is the ideal context for this article, as the most effective way to define the relationship between Cloud and Gaming is to highlight a Scottish success story in the field. Cloudgine, an Edinburgh-based startup, was acquired by Epic early this year.
As the news highlights Epic acquired them for the ability to enable their Unreal Engine to span out and harness Cloud resources to expand its processing capacity.
“Cloudgine’s tech uses cloud servers to enable console, PC, and virtual reality games to render content and interactive objects without worrying about the platform. This is a concept that has shown up in a handful of games, like Titanfall and Forza Motorsport 7. In those online shooters and racing games, the developers offload artificial intelligence routines to the cloud.”
This starts to highlight the different segments within this trend.
For example there is ‘Gaming as a Service’, referring to a centrally hosted model for the game to be played across the web, such as Gloud and Vortex, which is like Netflix streaming movies but for games. It’s also called Cloud Game-streaming, as Microsoft describe for their Project xCloud.
The core idea is that these are device independent, freeing the player from needing an X-Box of Playstation, but with the console makers continuing to advance the local computing power of their machines it won’t end that scenario either. Bloomberg reviews how Sony is planning to respond to the game streaming trend.
As the VentureBeat news about Cloudgine highlights, the other scenario is where the game still plays on the local console, but offloads some of the processing requirements to the Cloud, opening up an entirely new realm of game capabilities and capacity, and hence this niche opportunity – An entirely new playing field.
It’s a very accessible opportunity too. AWS and Azure both offer gaming accelerators as part of their Cloud services portfolio, with template configurations that can be spun up to provide the building blocks to then create your game upon, for example for multi-player gaming.
VR and AR Gaming
The specialism can be further refined and tremendously exciting innovation opportunities conceived when we further factor in Augmented and Virtual Reality.
This of course is another field packed with a raft of amazing concepts being pioneered, with ventures like Pokemon Go demonstrating just how vast a fully scaled idea can be.
With new games like Haunted Graveyard coming out and early stage deals being done like Resolution Games raising $7.5m, it’s clearly a hyper-growth market that Scotland could establish a presence in to ride that wave.
And what a fun wave it would be – Imagine this World of Tanks demo scaled up to a massive size when plugged into the full capacity of the Cloud!
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