At Logi Play in Berlin last month, Logitech announced its G Cloud Handheld gaming device. We sit down with Ahmed Riaz and Rob Carter at Logitech to chat about this new device, and the rationale behind creating this new hardware.
Logi Play is a busy event, and through the hustle and bustle, we were guided through the tight halls of the event floor into a small, quiet nook. Inside, we saw Ahmed Riaz, Global Head of Design at Logitech G, tinkering around with the G Cloud device in his hands. It’s white, sleek, and can play almost every modern game without the hassle of rendering them natively. Next to him was Rob Carter, keenly looking on as Riaz shifted through the menus on the device, before setting it down as we entered the room.
We’ve published fleshed-out thoughts on the handheld, but in reality, we wanted to know why Logitech wanted to enter the handheld market, since it’s becoming saturated with devices all across the spectrum from low-to-high ends, with companies all the way from Anbernic, Ayaneo, and Valve themselves getting in on the action.
Riaz responded by stating that they wanted to cater to gamers with differing habits “I think there’s a type of gamer that just wants to be able to have the simplicity of having an entire library at their fingertips. And so the cloud gaming world was something we really wanted to focus on.”
So, it wasn’t the idea of creating an all-powerful handheld that spurred development, but instead quick and easy access to a large library. Riaz continues: “So this product was built based on that, you know, in a second, you could be playing Forza, and then switch to Powerwash Simulator or something.”
However, with the basis of the handheld being only about Cloud gaming, with less of a focus on native rendering, which is clearly seen in the relatively light specs of the Android-based handheld, which only sports a Snapdragon 720G and 4GB of RAM.
Why cloud gaming?
But, taking Cloud gaming on is no small task. Google most recently shuttered Stadia after a failed attempt at launching a service, and there are other barriers such as latency, since every game is being streamed over WiFi. We had some mixed results with the handheld in a saturated network, where over 10 devices were running concurrently. Halo: Infinite managed to run just fine, but the day after, when we attempted to play Metal: Hellsinger, we were left with a laggy, artefacted experience that didn’t live up to the device’s promises.
Riaz stated that the experience afforded to the handheld was built based on Logitech’s ability to partner with the likes of Tencent, Nvidia, and Microsoft. “Everyone is willing to play with us. And so we ended up being the party that that can sort of negotiate those areas. I think that’s also why this device exists because we can be that central platform for these things.”
Carter calmly interjected after we quizzed them on more latency-based questions: “One thing that we always take very seriously is optimization, right? It’s not just about speeds and feeds, it’s about being able to take the resources that are available, and you optimize those.”
He continues: “This isn’t just a default Android device, you know, we have a launcher system that helps kind of enable that, that process management, having the ability to also be able to run, several different applications. So using anything from Xbox cloud using GeForce Now. And really working with those partners and helping optimize around that, I think, really kind of bridge the gap from what people believe Cloud gameplay would be like an entry point, what it actually turned out to be. And I think that’s what makes it really special.”
Mastering the hardware
One thing that the Logitech G Cloud handheld nails is comfort, coming in at 463 grams, which is roughly equal to carrying around a Nintendo Switch. But, aside from the SoC, Logitech has clearly done some work in making this a reality. Riaz perked up in his answer:
“We wanted to be really light. We actually thought what would be really amazing if not only is it light, but it’s actually also incredibly comfortable, your hands won’t cramp up, right, and you’ll be able to play it for a really, really long period of time.”
He then further extrapolates that during the design process, they researched where and how people would use a device like the G Cloud around their homes. But, there’s one looming specter over most companies making any device with an analog stick, which is traditional sticks, which can degrade over time. The smaller these sticks gets, the higher the chances of them wearing out, causing stick drift. The only way around this is to use a hall-sensing stick.
At the time of the interview, Logitech could not confirm that the G Cloud was using a hall-sensor, as used on the likes of the Ayaneo Air Pro and Gulikit King Kong Pro 2 controller. Riaz was quick to state:
“So we also design a controller called the [Astro] C40. And if you look at that, one of the cool things about the controller, is that you could take out the sticks and put in another stick, you know, and it was made for competitive play, because people get very aggressive with the controllers, what we learned is that, as people were replacing the stakes, we actually were able to optimize and make the sticks better. And, and get to a place where you know, the way that we did sticks got improved. And so we added all those learnings into the steaks over here. So you know, while we can’t promise what’s going to happen, but we’re we’ve taken all the learnings we have on the C40 and applied it to the [G Cloud’s] sticks.“
Unfortunately, there are only two technologies, and no matter how much Logitech has improved its stick technology, nothing really compares to the longevity, and accuracy of a hall-sensor.
Logitech already wants to make a follow-up
The Logitech G Cloud Handheld isn’t cheap. Coming in at an MSRP of $349.99, the handheld is almost as expensive as a Steam Deck, and others, like Anbernic, Razer and more are all angling to get in on this emerging market. We’ve covered Riaz’s comments separately, but it appears that Logitech does face a significant challenge in selling consumers on a low-powered, cloud-based handheld.
But, he also sees a bright future for the G Cloud line of handheld devices, should the G Cloud prove to be lucrative for the company.
“I mean, we envision that many people will bought by the hell out of this. And you know, we’ll continue to make cloud devices, right. So you want to build something that’s exceptional first.”
Riaz then went on to stress that they have done everything necessary to ensure a good user-experience, and he does have a point, many companies making handheld devices currently do not have great warranties, or consumer protections in place if anything goes wrong.
Riaz then continues to double-down on the idea that Logitech is specifically interested in Cloud devices, and not simply handhelds.
“We think that is a really interesting future for gaming. And, you know, I think we want to be in it first, and we want to be in it. We want to be in it. Because we believe in the longevity of it.”
Logitech G Cloud vs Steam Deck
When quizzed on how the Logitech G Cloud will be competing against devices like the Steam Deck, Riaz retorted with the following:
“We’re trying to offer a completely different proposition for gaming, you know, and I think there’s space for all those consoles. I think there are different ideas. You know, we love Nintendo, we love Steam, we have Steam Link here, you know, we’re not actually trying to come in and be like, Oh, this is, this is like, in direct conflict with us. I think we’re trying to say, Hey, this is a unique thing that has all the edges sanded off. Or I would put it as an experience that’s fully fully thought through. And if anything else, I mean, we want to continue to find and get feedback and see like, What are the missing pieces of that experience? But we’re very early in this world of cloud gaming. And we will keep a very careful eye on that and say, like, hey, how do we continue to improve things?“
A muted reception
So far, after the announcement, there has been relatively muted response by consumers about the Logitech G Cloud handheld. It’s expensive, it’s a new product category, and it’s expensive. This isn’t a cocktail that consumers really love diving into, even though the handheld is indeed high-quality.
The future of Logitech’s cloud devices remains up in the air for now, but we’re still taking pause in how well it’ll go down with consumers, and if they will indeed even buy one.