Gaikai Launches a Streaming Video Game Sampler

By  |  Monday, February 28, 2011 at 9:51 am

Gaikai, the yin to OnLive’s yang, has entered public beta with video game demos that are instantly playable in a web browser.

Like OnLive, Gaikai uses its own servers to perform the heavy graphical lifting that modern PC games require. Users play the game through highly compressed audio and video streams, which are capable of running on low-end PCs. But instead of selling games to consumers through a software client, Gaikai wants game publishers to serve instant demos on their websites or Facebook pages. All the player needs is Flash and the latest version of Java.

Demos are available for Mass Effect 2Spore and The Sims 3. You can also play a demo of Dead Space 2 by taking a short survey. They’re all published by Electronic Arts, which entered a “multi-year” licensing agreement with Gaikai in June 2010.

My experience with Gaikai’s demos was similar to that of OnLive. The games are sometimes grainy and choppy, but they’re functional enough to enjoy. A slight amount of input lag is noticeable, but not detrimental, and on one occasion, my game temporarily stalled due to a drop in bandwidth. Game quality will vary depending on connection speed and reliability, but I at least had the minimum bandwidth that Gaikai requires for the public beta.

As for Gaikai’s business model, I’m still concerned about the disconnect between playing a game instantly over the web and then being required to either download it or buy a boxed copy at a retail store. With demos that simply give you an hour of free play time, you lose that time investment with a separate copy, and if you’re playing locally on a PC, your computer may not have the processing power that the Gaikai version doesn’t need.

That’s why I think Gaikai and OnLive would be perfect partners. You try the demo in the browser, then you grab OnLive’s software client to pick up where you left off. Unfortunately, Gaikai and OnLive have been a bit snippy toward one another in the past; they act like competitors even though their business models are complementary.

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