Cruise Ships Add Fast Internet - For Gaming

The XBox Lounge aboard Anthem of the Seas (pinterest)

By MarEx 2016-09-28 21:38:59

Cruise lines are finding that their younger customers want the same kind of internet connectivity at sea that they are used to at home, and especially for one purpose: gaming. 

"People just expect to be connected, especially the Millennial generation,” said Max Schmidt, vice president of IT operations for Royal Caribbean International, speaking to Fortune. “They want to be able to play the games that they have at home.”

The phenomenon could be partly responsible for driving improvements in satellite data service at sea. Royal Caribbean's Anthem of the Seas boasts a dedicated "XBox lounge," and the line says that its VOOM brand of internet services – a Ka-band connection via O3b's new satellite fleet – gives speeds sufficient for online gaming under way, and even for video streaming. 

Some cruisers are interested in a more immersive gaming experience, and to fill that niche, the Carnival Sensation will host the Game Culture Con Cruise and Expo (or "GaCuCon") from January 26-30, departing Miami on a round trip to Cozumel. The voyage will feature discussion panels, industry awards and, naturally, gaming. 

In another new take on the themed cruise, the world of competitive (paid) gaming is headed for sea, facilitated by high-speed satellite internet. Multi-player gaming competitions are popular in China; China also has the world's fastest growing cruise market, and last week ESPN reported that these two trends would converge in a first ever "Nanyang Cruise Cup" aboard the Sapphire Princess, sailing October 13-17. 

Two leading Chinese teams were invited, and qualifying events will provide two more to compete on the ship. All of the matches will be held under way, and the vessel will have a dedicated satellite connection to broadcast the tournament. The prize purse comes to about $50,000.

"In China there are many tournaments now, but tournaments are almost the same, only a few can be remembered," said organizer Wang Zilin, speaking to gaming journal JoinDota. "We wanted to do something new and bring the audience a new experience."

"Another reason is an [event] on a boat can combine tourism and competition perfectly," he said, adding that it would also bring fans into closer proximity with the players they admire.