Playtesting is a crucial step in the game development process. With the rise of the cloud, the increase in users from 160.2 million in 2021 to 220.2 million in 2023, as well as the growth in market capitalization from $1.3 billion in 2021 to $2.3 billion in late 2022, playtesting in the cloud is becoming a popular option for game developers. This research will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of playtesting in the cloud and provide insights into the current supply and demand of cloud playtesting solutions.
#1: Advantages of Playtesting on the Cloud
The cloud is a great remote playtesting tool that makes reaching a wide target audience around the world possible without large logistical efforts from developers. Playtesting on the cloud eliminates the need for physical hardware, such as consoles or powerful PCs, that would otherwise be necessary for traditional playtests. Additionally, online tests help developers save on rent costs, as they are conducted remotely. This makes playtesting easier and more cost-efficient than ever.
Moreover, the capacity of playtests can be increased, since the cloud enables:
- Several different types of playtests (for example, A/B tests)
- Testing on different devices seamlessly
- Scalable and flexible playtester numbers
A platform with a range of these services gives developers an opportunity to level up their playtests’ customization by changing the settings and design of playtests easily.
Compared to traditional playtesting, users can get the same game experience on the cloud because they don’t need additional equipment and a very fast Internet connection (even 15 Mb/s is enough). If a company has servers in different countries, they can also choose a location with minimal ping in order to reduce delays in playtests on the cloud.
There are benefits of using the cloud for playtests:
- The company can be sure that it’s possible to run games for every respondent because there are no hardware compatibility issues as if the game were running on the responders' devices. So, the cloud can save time and give exactly the same gaming experience for all respondents;
- Respondents don’t get access to files. Even the passing of login and password happens when screen sharing is enabled.
The main difference between games in the cloud and local devices is that in the first case, there’s no need to set up a game. After logging in to the cloud, players only need to wait 2–5 seconds to start the game. Therefore, respondents don’t face the device preparation process.
To run a game with FHD 60fps in the cloud, people only need to have an internet speed of only 15 megabits per second. So, the custom cloud works regardless of the quality of the internet.
Growth & Partnerships Manager at Playdew, Urooj Iqbal
The main advantage of playtesting in the cloud is reaching a wider audience in different countries, because you don’t need to do playtests in-person or in-house.
#2: Does the Cloud Solve Safety Issues?
Game studios care a lot about safety. Even the smallest information leaks affect brand perception, marketing plans, and company reputation (for example, EA and Ubisoft). So, developers want to control every step of playtesting to avoid data leaks. As a security measure, developers keep a user database with a wide range of playtesters’ parameters, apply additional verification layers to users’ information, and use special security systems allowing them to identify data leaks. Cloud game testing minimizes the risk of code leaks, but does not protect against gameplay and story leaks. Unscrupulous testers can still take photos, screenshots, and make video recordings.
Co-Founder at PlaytestCloud, Christian Ress
Game source code leaking is, by itself, impossible. Studios only ever share playable builds, so the only possible risk would be from that.
Each and every playtester agrees to an NDA before each playtest. It’s all done automatically through our platform.
We track many interactions that players have with the game and have numerous legal and safety measures to ensure the risk of leaking is as low as it can be. If a leak ever happens, we’ll use all means at our disposal to take action.
There’s a possibility that respondents can screen capture something. They can also save materials if the company gives them a setup file.
Game sessions are recorded on video but there’s a possibility that respondents can screen capture something from aside camera or in a different way.
Each respondent agrees to the NDA, so legally it’s well protected. Still, players tend to share experience when they have plenty of emotions, generated by a game. So it’s impossible just to restrict, instead, we suggest freely sharing experience from playtest regarding company, moderators (if are), and any experience, related to the company - then it’s easier to not violate NDA sharing emotions, related to the playtested game.
#3: Supply & Demand
The demand for cloud playtesting solutions is rather low so far. Developers may not be aware of cloud playtesting due to limited knowledge, lack of experience with cloud services, or the belief that it's not necessary for their development process. They also seem hesitant to adopt new technology and change their established workflow due to the uncertainty of cloud playtesting benefits. Developers want a platform that allows them to reach a large audience quickly and test their games efficiently, while also gathering qualitative data such as engagement and satisfaction.
Founder at Playcocola, Fernando Guillen
Placocola focuses on indie developers and their special needs. It translates to an affordable, easy-to-use, low-friction, and quick feedback loop. If people have to register and be accepted on other platforms, it can take days with Playcocola. You can receive feedback in 10–60 minutes and don’t need to go through the acceptance process and learn the contract.
The demand for developers to do playtests through third-party services depends on the market. Indie developers don’t pay much attention to professional playtests. The reason is the budget. Before Playcocola, If you want proper playtesting, you need to invest a lot of money.
#4: Costs & Outcomes
Cloud gaming is 2.5 times more cost-effective than traditional methods. Cloud gaming platforms provide their services at an average price of $1,500–$2,500 per month. Renting servers from Amazon GameLift costs between $50–$2,500 per month based on server capacity. "Classic Playtests" among AAA and AA companies cost around $15–$30/hour per tester.
Cloud playtesting services aim to provide a solution that caters specifically to the needs of mid-tier/indie game developers by offering a fast, affordable, and user-friendly playtesting platform.
We need to keep a close eye on the development of gaming tests in the cloud because this is the technology of tomorrow, available today.
Dying Light Franchise Director at Techland, Tymon Smektala
Techland playtests are focused on the quality of the experience, not using it to catch bugs. Playtests are used for gathering data about how players consume products and collecting feedback and information regarding specific features that the company has doubts about. Playtests are done before putting features into the game and before this game is released to the market.
The application of cloud technology depends on technical progress. It also comes from the change of perception and perspective. If studios do playtest through the cloud once and it works, they will try it again and again. They will be braver about it because people are always a little bit hesitant about something new. So, if the risk of latency is solved and there’s a mental willingness to do something new, then the company will be able to conduct playtests in the cloud.