5G’s extra G matters after all – to gamers, at least

The Drum 26 May 2021 01:00

The launch and uptake of 5G has been somewhat underwhelming, but as Will Guyatt explains as part of our deep dive into all things gaming, the mobile game space could prove to be where the tech really takes hold.

The Drum is a safe place, so I think it’s time to finally admit what many of us already realize – the launch of 5G networks in the UK was an absolute dog’s breakfast.

For some reason, a little dribble of 5G just trickled out. Where were the hordes of punters queuing for a new device that embraced the benefits of our ultra-fast future? They weren’t there on day one and arguably haven’t turned up still.

Today, 5G is better known in the UK for its suggested mind control benefits, as across the country swivel-eyed councilors consign their communities to the dark ages and high-five each other about making their towns or cities ‘5G free’ – despite there being no actual proof to their claims, just lots of Facebook posts and YouTube videos.

In previous missives for The Drum, I’ve suggested the industry consider dumping 5G and move straight to 6G, but I’ve upgraded my take. Something needs to be done quickly because even those who don’t believe 5G is going to kill them simply aren’t upgrading – and unless you’re Lemmy from Motorhead, speed isn’t everything. But there is another group for whom extra G really matters – gamers.

The mobile gaming space is also increasingly big business – we recently heard in US courts that Fortnite developer Epic Games made around $700m revenue in two years from its Apple iOS version, while Nintendo – known for the fierce protection of its own brands – has now made respectable $1.5bn from mobile games.

Gamers rely on network response times to be truly professional, and while you might not give a stuff about waiting an extra 0.5 seconds to download the latest Bridgerton on 4G, the choice to go 5G makes all the difference for a gamer where in-game action has to be buttery smooth to be in with the chance of winning £10k in a Call of Duty tournament, rather than being the first to exit in a digital bodybag.

These smartphones don’t follow the refined style of the mainstream. They tear a leaf out of the gaming PC design book, complete with garish LED lighting, water cooling and the like. I got my hands on a Lenovo Legion Duel 2 recently and despite sounding like a straight-to-DVD film, it impressed as an Android device, rich in features for those into gaming and resplendent with two big-ass cooling fans.

EE is one network certainly leaning into the perfect storm of conditions that 5G can offer to gamers. It’s currently offering Microsoft’s bloody amazing Game Pass Ultimate for free as part of its bundles with a number of Samsung smartphones.

It’s possible 5G might be even more attractive in the future thanks to new developments coming down the line. The exciting world of augmented reality has been teased since idiots started walking into the sea at Weston-Super-Mare to catch some rare beasts in Pokemon Go, but if long-rumored AR glasses tech from companies like Apple and game developers Niantic come to fruition, gamers are going to need ultra-fast internet connections in order to benefit from the experience of chasing a Pikachu around Clevedon’s Junior Poon (a fine Chinese restaurant if you’re wondering).

Will Guyatt is a comms consultant and tech journalist.

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