Tag Archives | Gaikai

Gaikai Launches a Streaming Video Game Sampler

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.

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OnLive's Online, But What About Gaikai?

On the opposite side of the Los Angeles Convention Center from OnLive’s glitzy E3 booth, Dave Perry held a small briefing in a cubicle to talk about his own cloud gaming service, Gaikai.

Perry wanted to clarify that Gaikai is “the ultimate lead ever for a publisher,” as opposed to a full-blown gaming service for consumers. He’s positioning Gaikai as a try before you buy service, kind of like the InstantAction service that debuted in April, but with all the heavy graphics processing done on remote servers, allowing for immediate access to the latest PC games. The idea is to let publishers, and eventually gaming websites, embed video games directly into the browser, so readers can instantly try the game instead of watching trailers or looking at screenshots.

This stands in stark contrast to OnLive, which on Thursday launched its subscription service. Though OnLive subscribers can play demos for free, the service is less of a promotional tool for publishers and more of a final stop for gamers who have committed to spending money.

In my meetings with OnLive and Gaikai, each company displayed a gentle animosity toward the other. Perry said his data centers are going to “end up in rings around [OnLive’s],” and claimed that each of his servers can run many more virtualizations. He also questioned OnLive’s subscription model; Gaikai won’t charge anything to consumers, and will instead charge publishers, likening server time to advertising.

OnLive’s director of games and media development, Joe Bentley, said he has yet to see Gaikai in action. Though Perry showed embedded streaming games — along with software such as Adobe Photoshop — on a PC and an Xbox 360, the server was in the same room. OnLive’s E3 demos were running on a server in Silicon Valley.

My problem with Gaikai is the disconnect between trying a game and buying it. Let’s say you play the first 20 minutes of a game through your Web browser and are persuaded to buy. Then what? Do you start a lengthy download through Steam? Run to GameStop to buy the boxed version? The ideal solution would be a full cloud gaming service that players could easily jump to once their trials end, because once you’ve experienced instant gratification, it’s hard to go back.

That’s why I think Gaikai’s advertising service and OnLive’s subscription package would work wonderfully together, if only they could stop sniping at each other.


Skepticism Catches Up to Cloud Gaming

cloudgamingWhen OnLive revealed its plans last week for a streaming computer game service, it was hard to pick out the criticism with all the buzz in the air. Admittedly, I didn’t bother to question the service’s technical feasibility (I’m still fixated on whether OnLive can really compete on pricing), but now that the dust has settled, there’s plenty of skepticism to go around.

If you missed it, OnLive is supposed to stream high-end PC games to practically any computer with an Internet connection. It does this by handling all the processing on its own servers, and then sending packets of compressed data to the player. A day after OnLive’s unveiling, former Acclaim creative director Dave Perry announced a similar service, called Gaikai.

Shortly after OnLive’s big reveal, an article in Eurogamer challenged the service on processing power and compression abilities. At one point, the article claims OnLive would have to run games at 1,000 frames per second to achieve its claims of 1 ms latency. A video encoding specialist literally laughed out loud when Eurogamer described OnLive’s plans. Still, OnLive is supposedly using new technology, so I’m a little wary of Eurogamer’s argument myself. OnLive founder Steve Perlman told the BBC that Eurogamer wrote “a very ignorant article” that improperly conflates framerate and latency.

Now, a new nugget of doubt has arrived. Crytek, the company behind PC gaming’s gold standard, Crysis, said its own research found that cloud gaming won’t be feasible until 2013. OnLive is scheduled to launch later this year. “They have to provide fast bandwidths and connectivity in order to allow such technology to excel,” CEO Cevat Yerli told GamesIndustry.biz. “So as it was dependent on somebody else, we decided to wait.”

On a related note, Business Insider’s Eric Kangel wonders whether cloud gaming will die if Internet service providers adopt bandwidth caps. Certainly, the dollar per gigabyte model that Time Warner Cable is testing in some cities could make the cost of OnLive and Gaikai spiral out of control.

All of this reinforces what skeptics have been saying all along: Successful tech demos and a bundle of licensing agreements with publishers only go so far. Eventually, cloud gaming will simply have to prove itself in the field.