Storm Clouds: Gaikai Boasts Tech Prowess

By Andrew Smee on June 30th, 2011 at 11:01 am.

Dave Perry no longer makes game. A shame.
Cloud Gaming company Gaikai are making it known that they’ve got their eyes on the prize. Speaking to Reuters, CEO Dave Perry spoke about the service’s superiority to those clunky old console things, and argued that the speediness of his tech made up for latency issues: “Gaikai’s servers are running at 60 fps. We’re using modern hardware and not five-year-old hardware.” Take that, old hardware. Perry also spoke of “new deals”, signalling a broader range of services to come.

Read on for some more thoughts on this.

Alec’s talked about the difference in aim between OnLive and Gaikai before, but here’s the TL;DR: OnLive are you-focused and Gaikai are industry-focused. Take one look at their websites and the difference is blinding: OnLive is all gaming all the time on everything you own with offers and deals out the rude posterior, whereas Gaikai doesn’t even mention us dirty stinking consumers. The “You” Gaikai is talking about is the ivory-clad publisher sitting on his ivory throne, or being driven around in her ivory car by her ivory chauffeur. What they’re interested in is getting people to use their tech to distribute game demos and the like directly over the web. Demos streamed straight to websites, that sort of thing. OnLive is very much the big-business supported muscle, backed as it is by AT&T and the HTC Corporation, intent on making you, the gamer, subscribe to a new service. There’s no doubt that their deal makers have a thick contact book full of tempting cash, so Gaikai publicly going after corporate side of things is a smart move.

Outside of the rivalry between the two companies, there’s no doubt that the optimistic, futuriffic comments by Perry are on the whole true, even if he does say things like “bi-directional.” Hardware has indeed taken a backseat during the last half of this decade (though one wonders if that’s really such a bad thing), and social networking’s influence can’t be ruled out either. As Perry says, “Our focus is on how to make these big games convenient for playing on a platform like Facebook.” Counting how many clicks it takes to start up World of Warcraft as opposed to Farmville might seem an odd point, but I’ve no doubt we’re all becoming more and more expectant of easy convenience as technology develops. (The bigger issue is just how long it takes to install World Of Warcraft from scratch. Have you tried to do that recently? Ugly business.)

Anyway, it’s still quite remarkable that these services work, right now, today. Playing a game through OnLive – seeing a game appear on a screen with no disc, no installation, and nothing more than the flicker of a few web pages, honestly feels like glimpsing the future. However, the future is a famously difficult place to visit, and all this still hinges on some hopeful future-society of super-fast internet connections with no server downtime, whether that be the fault of hackers or otherwise. It’s a disquieting feeling, seeing the gradual trend of gaming turning towards rent-based economics, further removing the ownership and control over the things you buy.

Ultimately we’ll have to wait and see how the world of gaming responds to Cloud Gaming, but if (and that’s a big if) Gaikai’s intention – which is to largely let gamers sample almost any kind of game on any device, and then perhaps buy the full thing for a proper game machine – works, then it could be the successful first step toward a bright cloudy future. Either way, the industry has been undergoing intense change since its inception and there’s no sign it’s going to stop yet.

We certainly live in interesting times.

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53 Comments »

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  1. Hoaxfish says:

    How exactly do you pronounce Gaikai? Gay-Kay, or Guy-Kye? Gay-Kye? Guy-Kay?

    Their FAQ has the question… but only tells us what it means (and to confuse matters it means “Open Ocean”, which is the opposite of Clouds).

  2. Player1 says:

    Call me old fashioned, but i still don’t like the idea of games becoming mere services instead of products i can own. As historian this poses a further problem: games which become unpopular will just die a digital death eventually getting erased from the developer’s hard discs. Conservation of digitally distributed games will pose a big problem.

    • Jumwa says:

      You raise a good point about the loss of games.

      All in all I really don’t like the idea of divorcing all control of the products we pay for from consumers.

      With how gung-ho the games industry has been for draconian DRM measures I’d be terribly surprised if they don’t jump at the opportunity to do this, however. I suppose it’s only a matter of waiting for internet access to read a point where it becomes practical.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      It’s basically rental a-la Blockbusters. Which is basically a step backwards, since it’s clearly designed to not be purchased, but rather loaned… something which is treated as second best in almost every market it exists in.

    • Rii says:

      @Hoaxfish

      The industry’s excuse is that this has always been the case, it’s just that they haven’t previously had the opportunity to disabuse you of your mistaken impression that you own the game you’ve purchased.

      Not incidentally, the purveyors of Intellectual Property will be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.

    • johnpeat says:

      As I’ve said before, that ‘control’ you speak of is an illusion and always has been.

      Even when you bought a large, stout box with discs in it – if you lost or damaged those discs you were screwed (no control) – if you upgraded your PC and the game no longer worked you were screwed (no control) and so on.

      This ‘games as a service’ thing isn’t really new but it IS inevitable. What we have to do is see what we can get back when they make this ‘non-existant’ transition.

      Personally I want a demo of everything and games available on a ‘pay for how long you play’ basis which

      a – means I get to play everything cheaply
      b – means the developers of the best games make the most money

    • Rii says:

      @johnpeat: “As I’ve said before, that ‘control’ you speak of is an illusion and always has been. Even when you bought a large, stout box with discs in it – if you lost or damaged those discs you were screwed (no control) – if you upgraded your PC and the game no longer worked you were screwed (no control) and so on.”

      What nonsense. If you lose the game, it’s because YOU lost the game. If you damage the disc, it’s because YOU damaged the disc. If you upgrade your PC to a non-supported OS, it’s because YOU upgraded the PC to a non-supported OS. YOU were in control.

      I guess when the car manufacturer comes by to take the car back that you’ve purchased you’ll be all “oh it’s alright, I mean I never had any control over it in the first place, could’ve been struck by a meteorite at any time.”

    • nofing says:

      As long as we have the choice between “owning” and “renting” a game, I don’t see a problem in this. There are a lot of 50-60€ games with a less than 5 hours campaign and a shitty MP. With those games it would be way easier to just rent it for a couple of days for maybe a 5er.
      The problem I see with Gaikai, is that you can test the game, but you can’t test how it runs on your PC and let’s be honest, those system requirements are far from being accurate.

    • Howl says:

      You should be promoting it if you were old-fashioned as this how the industry started off. The 10p a go for 10 minutes of fun made for focused gaming experiences. Home consoles killed off the arcades due to convenience but the downside was having to own the games. The games got more and more bloated and expensive until we’ve hit the point where decent schmups like Child of Eden get slammed for not providing a bazillion hours of ‘content’ and series like Grand Theft Auto force you to endure hours upon hours of cinematic waffle and bowling mini-games before you see any semblance of a game develop. These streaming services might be able to provide the arcade in your home philosophy for games with high production values.

    • mrtypo says:

      I see it as the illusion of ownership versus potential elusive access to a licence. The physical media illusion did hold up fairly well for decades but with modern Internet registration requirements, it seems to have fallen apart. It is entirely possible to pretend it was never an illusion but all it ever was was a licence and some plastic.

    • edit says:

      Streaming demos on websites is something I can get behind (although as has been pointed out the inability to see how it will run on your machine devalues such a demo significantly), but I’m just not into the idea of streaming games as a replacement for running them on your own machine. Latency problems will improve in time, sure, but what’s the point in having a nice bit of technology in front of you if it’s not doing any of the processing? Streaming games is no doubt great for people who don’t have or want powerful machines and would be happy to do everything with a screen and a mouse and a connection to a cloud. Me, I’m a PC gamer. I want my PC to run the bladdy games. That way I can get the most immediate, latency-free experience while being able to customize the experience and so on.

      What is going to happen to modding if nobody is running games on their PCs? Oh well. Let the big companies embrace streaming so they can control everything, like they’re so desperate too. Just watch the indie old-school-actual-programs game industry become the preferred source of entertainment for those who still consider themselves PC gamers.

    • Premium User Badge

      joeymcjoeysalot says:

      @edit What is going to happen to modding if nobody is running games on their PCs?

      I have actually used Onlive a decent amount now, and I do think it is a really cool service. Being able to play a triple AAA game on my girlfriends netbook is pretty sweet (if I wire it usually). The one gripe I really have is the inability to mod my games. It’s the main reason that the PC is still the preferred format for me, and I am scared that that could be lost in the cloud transition that I believe gaming is moving toward (especially console systems).
      Still, a 30 min. free trial with no download and the ability to “rent” a game for a small amount of cash is something we’ve never really gotten to experience on PC. I love the features, but I also just sold most of the dvds I’ve owned so long as I can access them on Netflix. Space is a premium for me (hardrive space as well), and so far I’m quite happy with the cloud transition overall.

    • Frank says:

      @Rii, johnpeat: I agree with johnpeat’s “nonsense.” I’ve played a lot of games, but my life doesn’t revolve around them to the extent that I’m careful with my discs and always have Win95 on hand. Likewise, I don’t have a hard-drive backing up all my Steam “local content” and GOG installers, and never will. Box- and disc-fetishists may disagree**, but most people reasonable don’t hold onto this stuff. I can remember buying three copies of HOMM2 (in pawn shops and such), and don’t have any nostalgia for the 90s.
      ** That’s my come-back for your “nonsense” comment.

  3. DK says:

    It’s always great when the people who’s business is literally based on networking don’t know the difference between graphical and network lag. It doesn’t freaking matter what fps your goddamn boxes are running the games at – that has nothing to do at all with latency.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It was sheer marketing misredirection. I’m kind of miffed RPS swallowed it whole. Come on guys, you’re better journalists than thi—

      Andrew Smee

      —who? Take your “there’s no doubt that the optimistic, futuriffic comments by Perry are on the whole true” and naff off, there’s a good chap.

    • Urthman says:

      Worse yet, who decided it was OK to use the networking term “lagging” for low or stuttering frame rates?

  4. Premium User Badge

    luminosity says:

    I’ve got no problem with the idea of games as rentals as long as that’s reflected in the prices — there’s so many games that few stand out enough to warrant replaying. Of course the publishers aren’t going to jump on board with rental gaming unless they think they can make more money rather than less.

    The bigger problem here is graphics quality, latency, bandwidth and distribution. I can’t see how a service can sell the same quality I could run on a home computer, at the same price while paying hardware and bandwidth costs, and come out on top.

    • PiP999 says:

      If we think about this in the most positive light possible, cloud gaming could become a console killer. If this becomes multi-platform (just emulate 360 or PS3 games on PC) and you can hook it up to any internet-enabled TV, tablet, or phone then who needs to buy a $400 box to stick under your TV when you can just download a simple app that allows you to stream everything? I think that publishers would be more than willing to deal with lower prices (or micro-transactions which are such a hot item now) if the entire player-base of the major gaming platforms were merged into one pool. Not having split fan-base would mean that a single game could be released for everyone to play without any sort of hardware requirements (well besides the TV, phone, PC…). This unified gaming platform could push the boundaries of gaming as we know that many games today are being held back in the graphical department due to console hardware limits, but if everyone were to primarily develop and publish for PC, then problem solved!

      Anyway, that’s my small and positive outlook on the future, though I doubt it will be so nice and prosperous for everyone involved…

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      I can’t see how a service can sell the same quality I could run on a home computer, at the same price while paying hardware and bandwidth costs, and come out on top.

      Well, it sorta makes sense due to time-sharing. If you buy a computer, you’re usually buying it just for yourself, but imagine if you could split the cost between a dozen people and know that you never game at the same time so it’s okay. That’s what a system for a cloud gaming service is like — as soon as you stop playing, they can slot someone else in on the same computer. They might also be able to get similar deals for the licensing costs of the software. So with an ideal (even) distribution of users, they can deliver it for cheap.

      The problem then becomes peak capacity, since the actual distribution of gamers isn’t ideal. If there’s a huge rush to play at the same time (say, weekday evenings in your country’s time zone), you save a lot less because you’ll need a lot of computers, and (just like someone’s home computer) a lot of your systems are going to spend a lot of time idle, and only need to be there to satisfy the peak usage.

      That means that if you want to minimise costs and maximise profits, you either need to be renting machines from a service that has other uses for them (but that’s unlikely due to the specialised nature of the systems), or finding other uses for them during the off hours (including renting them out to other businesses). There actually are some uses for GPU-focused machines out there, like the emerging Bitcoin market, but that’s another topic.

      It also means that they need to either charge by the hour, or otherwise discourage people from sitting in a game for hours. If they’re charging per title rather than per hour, they’re making the most money from people who only play a few hours per game; anyone else is wasting their hardware. It’s not unlike the ISPs who oversell their capacity and then just crack down via overage costs on people who run torrents 24-7.

      I imagine that won’t be an issue for now, since most people I know are stuck with monthly download limits and will naturally be limiting their game-streaming to save on bandwidth. But if/when that situation starts to improve, it’ll be interesting to see what sort of stance the cloud gaming services take on that issue. (Who knows, maybe they really are making enough to ignore it.)

  5. Rii says:

    “Counting how many clicks it takes to start up World of Warcraft as opposed to Farmville might seem an odd point [….] The bigger issues is possible how long it takes to install World Of Warcraft from scratch. Have you tried to do that recently? Ugly business…)”

    Err, have you tried to do that recently? The new launcher will download and install the game on the fly, allowing you to start playing with less than one-third of overall content downloaded. It’s a very slick piece of software and offers a better user experience than installing most PC games outside of Steam, with which it is comparable although rather more impressive both in the play-before-the-game-is-done functionality and the fact that WoW is portable without having to faff about for an hour with a laborious backup/restore process.

    • Pete says:

      WRT “labourious backup process”: you don’t actually have to do that, you can just copy the folder with the game + its identifying file in the steamapps directory over to another Steam installation. Then next time you start up steam it spots the game, checks for updates, and will allow you to play it.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I think part of the problem with Steam’s backup/restore is that is compresses and encrypts the backup, the latter being some misguided attempt at DRM. It’s way more CPU-intensive than simply bundling the files into a set of archives.

  6. PiP999 says:

    I’m excited about cloud gaming. I tried out F.E.A.R 3 on OnLive just a few days ago and while there was some lag in responsiveness and the graphics looked muddy, I can only see the service improving over time IF ISPs upgrade their infrastructures to support higher speeds for everyone around and do not enforce “download caps” which aren’t too prevalent here in U.S., but I hear they are quite a bother over in Europe.

    Either way, I think we still have several years until this tech really catches on and the kinks are worked out and perhaps some more competitors start drumming up improvements (I’m looking at you Valve! They could totally roll out a cloud gaming service called Steam Lite!)

    • Hoaxfish says:

      At least in the UK, there are more bottlenecks that arbitrary “download caps”… one of which is that the whole country’s infrastructure is still on piss-poor copper cabling and as soon as any talk of upgrading occurs they all start whining about how expensive the very idea is.

      “Invented here last century, so we don’t need to upgrade it” seems to be a common ideal

    • skurmedel says:

      Come to Sweden… we will caress you with sweet 100 mbits.

    • johnpeat says:

      Problem with onLive is that they’re pushing technology pretty bloody hard and they’re still “a bit laggy” and the graphics are “a bit muddy”.

      Removing those ‘bits’ is impossible tho – not just hard, not just expensive, impossible – even if you upgrade everyone to fibreoptics – you’ll still have a ‘bit’ of lag and a ‘bit’ of blur (you just won’t notice the improvement).

      Onlive should (and geekee seem to be) selling the service to people who don’t notice the difference or even realise that less laggy/less blurry options exist – at which point it doesn’t matter if their connection isn’t quite as brilliant as it could be.

    • Rii says:

      Australia is in the midst of rolling out a gigabit-class fibre-based National Broadband Network which would certainly support the widespread implementation of this sort of thing. On the other hand we’re currently saddled with anemic download caps and I suspect that won’t be changing in the near future. Hail our glorious future of blowing through an entire month’s data allowance in 8 hours!

    • PiP999 says:

      Yeah U.S. is not that much better off. The only thing really pushing the ISP’s upgrades are companies. Hell I can remember DSL becoming “mainstream” in 2004 or so, which I hear was about the same time that many countries in Asia started switching to IPv6… Either way I think with telephone-over-IP and well just about anything becoming over IP, we should see major upgrades in the the next decade (one can only hope).

    • Tams80 says:

      @ skurmedel

      Oh you! Stop it! ;-)

      In some parts of the UK connections are so slow that caps don’t really matter. The ISPs will be more than happy to implement more caps if they actually bother upgrading the infrastructure (haha, who am I kidding?!).

    • 0p8 says:

      “At least in the UK, there are more bottlenecks that arbitrary “download caps”… one of which is that the whole country’s infrastructure is still on piss-poor copper cabling and as soon as any talk of upgrading occurs they all start whining about how expensive the very idea is.”

      just use virgin.easily the best in the country from my experience.Currently 50Mb(fibre optic cable) is the best but they’re rolling out 100Mb soon.awseome!i wouldnt use any other as you get excactly what you pay for.
      edit.
      just realised they have 100mb available already

    • Shuck says:

      Comcast and AT&T have introduced download caps, for cable and DSL respectively, here in the U.S. recently. Playing games via Gaikai or Onlive would cause one to exceed those caps if one did a large amount of gaming. It’ll be interesting to see how these services play out in relation to that new limit.

  7. PiP999 says:

    @ johnpeat:

    Surely the biggest two problems for cloud gaming are streaming HD video to the end user and reducing input lag. However, while I do agree that even on the best connection there will be input lag, I think that there can be a work around to this. I’m sure that in the future we will see a more efficient process for transferring video and likewise something to do for the input lag. Perhaps they will find a way to process the input on the user end while only using the cloud machines to render the graphics. All I’m saying is given enough time and support I’m sure we can only see better things. (Plus the consolers are always locked in at lower frames and crappier graphics so this is a win-win for them!)

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      Unfortunately, I can agree on that point.

      Here’s a theory: certain games have basically devolved to accommodate controllers because of the large market of consoles. Fast paced manshoots like Quake too fast for controllers? Kill ‘em off, and make even the most arcade shooters have iron sights to slow down the shooty bits. Looking at you Bulletstorm.

      If they can do this for one market, they’ll do it for another if its substantially large. I can see games no longer, for better or for worse, relying on twitch gameplay so that input lag isn’t a bother.

  8. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Now that the news has been posted, can we please go back to the interesting topic?

    C’mon Smee, tell us about those clouds you saw…

  9. Radiant says:

    DAVE PERRY ALERT!

    My bullshit detecter just exploded in my hands.

    • JFS says:

      Is this even Dave Perry? Isn’t this his dark and edgy brother, Dave Gahan? Looks like him, but alas, I can never tell those two apart.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      Uh what? Bullshit detector? This is the Dave Perry formerly of Shiny Entertainment that created Earthworm Jim, MDK & Sacrifice.
      Are you confusing him with Dave Jones formerly of Realtime Worlds?

    • rocketman71 says:

      He’s also the Dave Perry that created Enter the Matrix, and the Matrix MMO.

      And the man is a BS spewer. Only Molyneux surpasses them in that area.

  10. SpinalJack says:

    The problem with Gaikai is that it entirely depends on whether or not publishers want to put out demos. Given the recent trend I very much doubt Gaikai will be able to maintain all its data centers based solely on revenue from demo clicks.

  11. malkav11 says:

    Gaikai’s “cloud gaming as advertising for actual gaming” model strikes me as far more promising (and less scary-dystopian) than OnLive’s “here, pay full price for games that you don’t own and have no control over, also lag” model.

  12. Donjonson says:

    I always thought it was the Dave Perry who failed miserably at Super Mario Bros 64 in that amazing episode of Gamesmaster. AND ON THAT BOMSHELL

    • Hoaxfish says:

      That’s pretty much the only “Dave Perry” that registers with my brain… thus, they are all that Dave Perry.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      LOL I remember that. Sulky McSulkpants. I don’t remember him looking like a heroin addict though.

  13. Sigvatr says:

    That photo makes me think he’s saying, “I had seven men last night, and you weren’t one of them.”

  14. Nic Clapper says:

    Services like this…onlive, google chromebooks (and their intentions)….they are all such a huge step backwards in technology. And steaming services only get worse as they get more popular. The content you get becomes more and more compressed and you get more and more interruptions during playback. People seem happy with it when they slap “HD” on it….but who cares how many pixels it is when it looks like compressed garbage. Do we really want to apply this crappy method of things to everything we do on computers?

    If I have to design in photoshop over the ‘cloud’, play the latest game w/o control over graphical settings & w/o mod options…not to mention the impossible to overcome lag and compressed output…ugh…the thought makes me sick heh.

    Let us all hope that this does not catch as it is most definitely a terrible direction.

  15. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    WoW doesn’t do a bad job. I can just copy paste my old WoW branch which will still contain my navigation keys.

    But updating patch after patch & having it restart after each iis annoying. Or maybe they’ve improved it since I last played.