Last week, a Famitsu reporter teased a "revolutionary scoop" in this week's issue of the magazine. Initial reports stated that this could be related to a "fog gaming" system in Japan, and now the issue is available and has been properly translated, we're seeing more solid information appear.
According to Ars Technica, Sega's big plan is to use its idle arcade machines – which have powerful CPUs and GPUs and are already widely connected across the country via the company's All.Net infrastructure – to power a massive cloud-based home streaming platform to rival that of PlayStation Now and Google Stadia.
It might sound crazy, but when you look deeper into the mechanics of arcade gaming in Japan – and how heavily Sega is entrenched in that particular business – it begins to make sense.
Arcades are still incredibly popular in Japan, despite the fact that the industry has perhaps never been smaller. Sega has plenty of All.Net-ready arcade cabinets out in the field already, but it also allows amusement centres it doesn't own to run these connected devices, for a fee.
According to Adam Pratt, an arcade operator who runs industry website Arcade Heroes, the current coronavirus pandemic has hit Sega's arcade business hard:
One contact I have in Japan was telling me that [All.Net] has been bombing out with the pandemic. Few locations outside of Sega-owned ones were already using it and now they are dropping it... as the fees make it untenable.
Pratt – who has been speaking to Ars Technica on the matter – thinks this "fog gaming" concept could be exactly what Sega needs to bring its arcade business back from the brink:
So, if this allows arcades to serve arcade content when closed, that could be a nice lifesaver for Sega and for the [operators]. If it is designed to help operators and has reasonable costs, then it could be a great solution to generating income while closed, which is still an issue for so many in the biz... If ops don’t get a piece of the payment pie, though, they won’t touch it.
The idea is pretty simple; during large portions of the day, Sega's All.Net-connected arcade machines are sitting idle. That processing power could be harnessed using a low-latency network connection, allowing the company to generate revenue from otherwise unused resources. This revenue is shared with arcade operators, which in turn keeps the arcade industry alive.
It's an interesting idea and we can see why the Famitsu reporter felt it was big news – but that's only true if you happen to live in Japan. Unless Sega opened up a chain of All.Net-ready arcade centres all over the world, we can't see how this concept would travel outside of the company's homeland.
Were you expecting more from Sega's big news? What do you make of this concept? Let us know with a comment.