Bethesda says its Orion tech can make all cloud gaming better, faster

LOS ANGELES—Bethesda Softworks announced Sunday that it is getting involved in the increasingly competitive field of cloud gaming. But rather than announcing a service to compete with the likes of Google Stadia or Microsoft’s Project Xcloud, Bethesda’s Orion system is focused on improving streaming performance on the platforms that already exist.

While most cloud gaming efforts try to improve performance by throwing hardware at the problem—often in the form of prime data center locations loaded with high-end servers—Bethesda says Orion is instead incorporated “at the game engine level.” The result of what Bethesda calls “years of research and development,” the company says its group of patented Orion technologies can optimize frame rendering time by approximately 20 percent per frame. Improved compression also leads to streams that require 40 percent lower bandwidth for the same quality, reducing the potential costs for both users and streaming services, Bethesda said.

At a pre-E3 demonstration attended by, the 2016 edition of running on a MacBook went from 7 ms of combined GPU rendering and encoding time to 5.3 ms. That may not sound like much, but when it comes to increasing streaming quality and reducing apparent latency, every little bit helps. Average bandwidth usage in a 10-minute gameplay test reportedly dropped from 23.43 Mbps to 13.67 Mbps at the demo, while GPU utilization on the server side dropped from a high of 64 percent to a low of 55 percent.

To show off the Orion technology, players that sign up for the Slayers Club will be able to try out a streaming demo on iOS11+ devices in a public trial later this year. Additional tests for PC and Android devices will come later.

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