Dissecting The Rise of Game Streaming Services With Antstream Arcade CEO Steve Cottam

What does the future hold for this side of gaming?

From the Xbox Game Pass offering this service to lackluster Nintendo Switch ports relying on it, recent years have given gamers a glimpse of the ups and downs of video game streaming. That said, retro games have thrived with this new way of gaming.

Leading the charge of bringing games directly to a user’s browser is Antstream Arcade, a retro gaming service. In November of 2019, Antstream Arcade successfully closed an external financing round of $3.5million led by the Atari Group. This acquisition is truly apt as it adds classic Atari games on top of Antstream Arcade’s already robust library of games.

To learn more about Antstream Arcade’s upcoming expansions, IGN Southeast Asia reached out to CEO of Antstream Arcade, Steve Cottam on the future of game streaming as a whole.

Hi Steve, can you introduce yourself and tell us how you got your start in the video game industry?

My name is Steve Cottam, the founder, and CEO of Antstream Arcade. My heart has always been in gaming and technology, and I consider myself very fortunate to be in a position to bring those two passions together.

You could say that my journey in the industry started at 12 when I realised that I wanted to make games, and I set about teaching myself how to code assemblers on the MSX, Amiga, and PC.

I continued to test and learn until forming my first gaming studio in 1994 when I signed Nitro Racers with 3do. I made every mistake a young entrepreneur could make back then, but had an absolute blast doing it.

How did Antstream Arcade begin? What was the genesis for this idea?

It was back in 2012 - the transition of Music and Movies from physical/download to streaming was well underway with services like Spotify and Netflix enabling me to access decades of my favourite content on any of my devices.

Nothing like that existed for gaming, there were (thousands) of games I wanted to play that had been lost to platform obsolescence. I wanted an easy way to play these games with my friends, and it was clear to me that cloud streaming would be the perfect technology to make decades of iconic games as accessible as watching a clip on YouTube.

At the time, there was a lot of cynicism around cloud gaming, and high-profile failures like Onlive added fuel to the fire. However, if there’s one thing that will motivate me, it’s someone telling me something can’t be done!

The business started to take shape in 2015 after I showed the concept to Sir Ian Livingstone. Ian introduced me to industry veteran Darren Melboure and at that moment, the three of us formed the Antstream board.

In 2016, we applied for and then graduated from a Microsoft startup accelerator program which gave us a great jump start with credits to work with Microsoft Azure Cloud services. After this, we raised seed investment from Creative England and then from industry legend Jon Burton of TT games fame.

This gave us the capital we needed to build the beginnings of the product that you see today. We demoed Antstream at Gamescom 2018 and within weeks had received a number of offers from major gaming companies looking to invest.

We ended up closing a Series A round with Tencent Holdings. It's been three years now and we are continuing our development and expansion into North America, Asia, and Europe.

After the Atari investment, do you think we'll see the integration of classic Atari licensed games from the 2000s, like the Godzilla or Dragon Ball games, be included in Antstream?

In addition to an existing library of 1,500-plus officially licensed games from the ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, the exclusive Antstream Arcade Atari VCS app will include the largest collection of Atari games available on-demand, in both original and enhanced edition formats, curated from across the brand’s many arcade, home, and handheld platforms.

Popular Atari titles appearing via the Atari VCS Edition of Antstream Arcade include standalone retro classics — from Adventure, Night Driver, Pong, Tempest 2000, (to) Yars’ Revenge — and a raft of new Atari content being added this year, including titles from the PlayStation era.

Classic games are enhanced to include new functionality, such as multiplayer and leaderboards. In addition, Antstream Arcade delivers a steady flow of creative social challenges to engage and incentivize fans to experience their favorite retro games in unique ways.

Will we see some brand new games on the platform someday, games based on older Atari IP and are exclusive to the platform perhaps?

Yes - Antstream is expanding its Indie catalogue with this in mind. Some of these new indie games offer some of the best Arcade style gameplay you will find anywhere.

The developers have applied decades of game design principles in their creations - anyone who understands the constraints of original hardware will appreciate just how remarkable some of these titles really are.

What do you foresee in the future of cloud gaming?

Every game ever created, instantly accessible on any device.

Do you think we can get a dedicated Antstream console someday like the Atari VCS or maybe a dedicated app for Smart TVs?

As cloud gaming becomes mainstream, gamers are going to be less concerned about the hardware they are playing on and more concerned about convenience, choice and value for money.

While a dedicated Antstream console is within the realms of possibility, our mission is to offer the best value for retro gamers on whatever device they choose.

What were your favourite video games growing up?

There are so many games that influenced me growing up. At home, Manic Miner, created by the legendary Matthew Smith, was a pixel-perfect platform game on the ZX Spectrum. At the time, this game seemed so perfect that it inspired me to learn to code.

In the arcades, R-Type was a groundbreaking side-scrolling shoot 'em up that set the standard for me to try and emulate when learning to code on the Amiga.

Are there plans for Antstream Arcade to go into esports, like maybe become the leader in large-scale, competitive retro gaming?

Antstream is all about competitive play, so this is definitely a focus for us. We regularly feature sponsored tournaments where we will see thousands of players competing for glory. Our mission is to be the #1 destination for retro.

What is next for Antstream Arcade, and what can users look forward to in 2022?

We have a raft of new features and game modes coming this year. Expect to see a lot more ways to play and compete with your friends and the global community.

What is your advice for up-and-coming video game developers in Southeast Asia?

Build!! Build a small team, build a community and build a demo quickly. It’s a noisy world out there and trying to get noticed is tough. The more the community gets behind you, the better your chances of success.

Once you have some traction, show your product to indie publishers that can help you get to market. There has never been a better time to be making games. Good luck!!

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