Will AAA games be the future of in-vehicle entertainment?

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

Cars will be driverless and controlled by the platform. It is no longer just a travel tool, but a mobile terminal, where people can relax, work and entertain themselves. That's right! Cars are slowly changing. You can play AAA games in your car, not in the future, but now!

On December 14, 2022, Tesla announced on Twitter that its "Holiday Update" was now available. In a major annual update, Tesla has built Steam directly into the Model X/Y's onboard system.

By installing the client, owners can get access to a huge number of game titles, and with the addition of unlimited controller support, Tesla becomes a big game console. Tesla's move comes as no surprise. Last year, Musk teased the possibility of playing Cyberpunk 2077 on his car.

As early as the end of 2021, all Tesla models have been converted to a new generation of entertainment system processor AMD Ryzen. Many people are familiar with this processor. It has ten trillion floating point computing power per second and its performance is comparable to SONY's latest generation of game consoles PS5, so there is no problem running games on the Steam platform.

However, in order to support AAA games, which often cost hundreds of GB, Tesla also put a 1TB car-scale solid-state drive on the official store. This solid-state drive has a longer life, read/write speed optimized for gaming, and Steam gaming support. It is designed to withstand extreme cabin temperatures, vehicle shocks, and array vibrations, and can be adapted to more complex environments than other solid-state drives. The solid-state drive will be available in February 2023 for $350, which is close to the price of a digital PS5.

In conjunction with the launch of Steam, Tesla also released a promotional video. As can be seen from the official promotional video, the demo vehicle supports popular AAA games such as Cyberpunk 2077, NBA 2K23, and Forza Horizon 5. Not only can it connect to external controllers, but the actual picture quality and fluency of the game are also mature, which meets the needs of players just from the look and feels.

In fact, Tesla isn't the only car company working to turn in-car space into a mobile video studio.

SONY and Honda are also actively exploring. They have formed a joint venture called Sony Honda Mobility, whose first all-electric vehicle will be unveiled at CES 2023. Meanwhile, SONY's chief executive has revealed that the new car will use technology from the PS5. The vehicle will provide new cars with the latest in-car entertainment, intelligent software, and autonomous driving assistance.

In addition, at CES 2023, chip company Nvidia announced that it is partnering with Hyundai, BYD, and Polar Star to bring GeForce NOW, a cloud-based gaming platform, to car systems.

Why are car companies interested in AAA?

Why don't car companies concentrate on building cars and turn their attention to in-car games and entertainment? After all, playing games in the car is seen by many as a bogus proposition that is energy-consuming, inconvenient, and potentially unsafe.

But in fact, there's a reason why car companies are rushing to the in-car entertainment system battle. On the one hand, the improvement of the strength of car games is also the embodiment of the hard strength of car manufacturers. Take Tesla as an example, if you want to run AAA games on the car system, you naturally cannot do without the support of powerful hardware, which requires you to have strong image processing ability.

On the other hand, the level of in-car entertainment has the opportunity to become the next competitive point for auto companies as the competition for smart-connected cars heats up. Launching game platforms and AAA games is not only an effective means to improve the ecological loop of automobile enterprises' software, but also one of the advantages and flashpoints to attract consumers under the trend that vehicles become the second space for users.

In addition, the layout of the in-car entertainment system is also laying the groundwork for the realization of fully autonomous driving technology in the future. 

Will AAA games be the order of the day?

So, when AAA games gradually become the standard in the era of smart connected cars, will the traditional console and PC AAA games ecology be affected?

Not so far, at least. First of all, from the perspective of ecology, although car companies for the vehicle are equipped with powerful graphics processing chips, only the hardware level completes the optimization. Hardware performance is only the most important part to determine the game experience, the console is always a system engineering, and software adaptation is also an important part of it. In addition, even if the auto companies have completed the software adaptation of a large number of AAA games, they still need to negotiate with Steam, Switch, and other game platforms for authorization, improve the game certification system, breakthrough, profit sharing, etc. Such workload and input cost, for the new energy vehicle enterprise, are also worth losing.

Secondly, from the perspective of users, when playing AAA games in the car, users generally pay more attention to the key factors such as whether the adaptation of game peripherals is perfect and whether the impact on vehicle energy consumption is too large. After all, the basic form of a car vehicle is not the same as a game console, which means that it is very uncomfortable with touch screens, difficult to use mice and buttons, and relies on controllers making many games less enjoyable. Especially for AAA games, subtle controls, and rich sensory feedback are important to ensure a great game experience.

All of the above, have a profound impact and determine whether the car machine system can perfectly restore the real experience of AAA games.

Since entering the era of intelligent networked vehicles, the functions of the vehicle have been enriched, but whether AAA games are suitable for the vehicle system? The debate about this continues, but what is certain is that, at least for now, there are countless ways for users to experience AAA games, at least in the current vehicle ecology and vehicle form conditions, AAA games can only be the icing on the cake. From this point of view, it is more practical for car companies to focus more on autonomous driving.

This article was written in cooperation with Natalie Warb