Live streaming companies are promising a bright future in gaming: One second you’re watching your favorite streamers, and with a click, you’re playing with your idols -- without having to download the game.

Cloud gaming (or game streaming) will herald a huge change in the way the industry works, with games running not on your device, but in a server in the cloud. And some of the biggest names in Chinese live streaming are getting ready for this future by jumping into game publishing.

The Twitch-like platform Huya recently announced that it would be the publisher of two major games: Control and Boundary.

Control is an action-adventure game in which the protagonist Jesse Faden uses telekinetic powers in a Matrix-like world. (Picture: Remedy Entertainment)

It follows the footsteps of streaming service Bilibili, known for its wide selection of anime and now live streaming, which just announced in July that it would release two premium games. Huya competitor Douyu is also reportedly looking into publishing games in Japan.

Interest from streaming companies comes as cloud gaming platforms are just starting to roll out to consumers. The games these platforms are looking to publish are all premium games, which traditionally run on consoles and require a lot of computing power. Industry insiders say that emerging technologies, including cloud gaming and 5G, are presenting opportunities for new game publishers.

“In China, not even game media wield the same level of clout as live-streaming platforms,” said Xuan Li, co-founder of Chinese game publisher Zodiac Interactive. “So if you want to sell a game to Chinese gamers, these platforms-turned-publishers will be the most powerful competitors in the field.”

As a platform with 100 million monthly active users, Huya’s move to publish Control is a big deal. The supernatural action-adventure game is developed by renowned Finnish company Remedy Entertainment and was highly anticipated leading up to its release by 505 Games on consoles and PC this week. So far, it’s received overwhelmingly positive reviews in the West.

The game hasn’t been released in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan yet because that’s where Huya has the publishing rights. It’s also unclear if the Guangzhou-based company has the rights to mainland China. Huya hasn’t announced a release date yet and declined to comment for this article.

For Boundary, though, Huya appears to be the global publisher. The game will be released on PlayStation 4 and PC next year. 

Boundary is a space-based, tactical online shooter and it already has a loyal following. It’s the first game that was featured by Sony’s China Hero Project, an incubator program that supports Chinese developers.

Boundary is a Chinese online multiplayer game scheduled for release early next year. (Picture: Surgical Scalpels)

While we’re clearly not there yet, streaming services seem to be preparing for a future in which interactive game streaming is both possible and popular.

Chinese gaming giant Tencent -- a major backer of both Huya and Douyu -- has been actively exploring the possibility of merging live-streaming and gaming. The company is also preparing its own cloud gaming solution for other businesses.

This merging of two mediums could mean jumping in and out of games, moving from spectator to player and back again.

“Chinese gaming companies all want to be a service provider with multiple functions,” Li said. “Alternating between [live-streaming and gaming] is probably where all the live-streaming platforms want to go in the future.”

So when can we live this exciting future of cloud gaming in live-streaming platforms? Not soon, according to Li Guolong, product manager of Tencent’s cloud gaming service.

“Probably not within this year,” Li said. “But I think as competition heats up among live-streaming and short video platforms, there needs to be new features to achieve differentiation. We have indeed been talking to clients about possible future directions.”

Analysts at China Merchants Securities also believe that 5G and cloud gaming will bring new opportunities to more gaming companies.

“With the implementation of 5G, cloud gaming could disrupt the current landscape with the existing dominant publishers,” the firm said in a recent report.

But even if gaming and live-streaming won’t merge soon, Li of Zodiac Interactive said live-streaming platforms in their current form already have an advantage over other competitors in getting game publishing deals.

“My assumption is that they will provide developers with streaming deals for free or at lower prices, which guarantees a ton of exposure during the campaign window,” he said. “This sounds very appealing to small-sized game studios.”

Nonetheless, Li said that his company is an experienced game publisher and isn’t afraid of the competition.

“It takes more than a streaming package to promote the product well,” he said. “An elite publisher requires knowledge, experience and resources to guide the way to commercial success for the developers.”