Nvidia Joins Cloud With GeForce Grid, Partners With Gaikai

By Nathan Grayson on May 16th, 2012 at 9:00 am.

Hawken, of course, looks great, but was primarily selected to be this service's posterchild because it's got green in it.
OnLive and Gaikai are pretty silly names. I mean, OnLive is a made-up word that rolls off the tongue far better than it does the brain, and Gaikai actually refers to the ocean, which is sort of the opposite of the clouds. So when I saw “Nvidia” and “cloud gaming” in the same sentence, I was thrilled. What would a graphics hardware manufacturer with a history of impressively impenetrable names do when matched against this caliber of peer? “Grid,” as it turns out. Well, er, OK. Man, that’s not ridiculous at all. In consolation, it’s promising latency that’s “comparable, if not better, than gaming on a console at home.” I guess that’s something.

Alternative headline: Hawken Is Going To Be Playable First Over Gaikai.

Nvidia spends countless jargon-laden words explaining why its cloud is poofier, whiter, and more shaped like a wizened paternal lion spirit than its competitors, but here are the important bits:

“First-generation cloud gaming services gave us a glimpse of the future, but for the most part gamers today still play on PCs or consoles; the latency, image quality, and network speed have not been at the point where cloud gaming could be enjoyed by the masses. GeForce GRID represents the next generation, putting the best of NVIDIA’s GeForce technology into the cloud. And thanks to the latest rendering and encoding technologies, GeForce GRID dramatically lowers the latency of cloud gaming. With reduced lag, greater penetration of gaming servers, and Kepler-quality graphics, it’s not hard to imagine that, in the near future, cloud gaming will be as ubiquitous as online video.”

“Will traditional PC gaming still be around? Most certainly; for those who demand the best quality and performance, it’s still the best choice. But regardless of whether you are a PC or console gamer, GeForce GRID now offers a new to enjoy your games, on any device, anywhere.”

“Any device,” of course, includes tablets, smartphones, monitors, and TVs; only an ethernet cable or wireless connection’s required. The GPU powering this whole operation on Nvidia’s end, meanwhile, is a Kepler offshoot specifically designed with the cloud in mind.

As far as actual services go, Nvidia’s forgoing its own for now in favor of partnering with Gaikai, Ubitus, and Playcast. The Verge reports a virtually lag-free demo of Hawken from a recent showcase, with Gaikai head David Perry claiming that Grid’s dropped latency down to a mere ten milliseconds.  The F2P take on rock ‘em sock ‘em shoot ‘em boil ‘em mash ‘em stick ‘em in a stew robots will also be available on Gaikai “ahead” of its 12/12/12 launch – though a specific pre-release date hasn’t been provided.

Going forward, Nvidia may introduce its own Grid subscription service, which would put it more within OnLive’s full-game-focused range. For now, though, that’s mostly talk – more head-in-the-clouds dreaming than concrete.

Still though, I’m interested in seeing how far Nvidia can push this technology. Fearful cries that it’ll be the death of PC gaming are silly, but right now, everything else is so amorphous. Is instant-access-at-the-cost-of-fidelity tech wasted on folks like us, who want the best of the best – even at the cost of convenience? Can Nvidia change that? Has all of today’s Diablo nonsense made a constant connection requirement for an entire service an utterly unappetizing prospect – at least, until the technology is leaps and bounds better? You! Yes, you! You have feelings, right? Express them. Unless you’re a robot. Then we’ll probably deactivate you out of fear. Nothing personal, mind.

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88 Comments »

  1. DanPryce says:

    I’m developing a cloud gaming service, but the name is currently up in the air.

  2. HexagonalBolts says:

    Allow me to let out a loud and slightly bewildered derisive snort.

  3. markcocjin says:

    It all comes down to the internet service and Nvidia has no control over that.

    • PopeJamal says:

      Exactly.

      Performance issues aside, considering the fact that Comcast, Verizon, *your internet provider here*, and the gang are trying to move us back to a world where we pay for our internet per kilobyte, I don’t see anyone but the “rich kids” finding this useful at all.

      Can you imagine how much your “typical gamer” would spend a month on internet with OnLive, Netflix, Hulu and HBO GO, and Xbox Live, BitTorrent sites, Steam downloads, and Amazon Video all on the same internet pipe? I could see $200+ a month for bandwidth alone.

      I think I’ll pass thankyouverymuch.

  4. Derppy says:

    How exactly are they going to lower the latency and make cloud gaming not suck?

    If I move my mouse and the information has to travel 100 miles back and forth before I see that reflected on my screen, it’s going to feel bad no matter how good the service claims to be.

    Sure, the input lag doesn’t matter all that much if you play chess, but playing competitive FPS like that just doesn’t work.

    • f1x says:

      I dont know exactly how it works but it has to be two layers :
      1 streaming video in real time
      2 sending and recieving information about your position, other players position etc which is not that much actually, buttons pushed etc

      the only thing that will consume bandwidth is the video part, the “gameplay” part its nothing, just orders, if its correctly optimized it shouldnt be any problem

      • MD says:

        It’s not a matter of bandwidth though is it? Just latency — the input signal has to cover the distance, and that will always take time.

        • f1x says:

          Yeah you are right, I missunderstood

          so basically if you are lucky with the routing to the servers you might get something acceptable in terms of latency? not only distance but routing

        • Brun says:

          I don’t see how latency would affect this any differently than multiplayer games run locally. The input signals still have to travel the distance, even if you’re running a local client.

          If they’re streaming the video, then I suppose that could get out of sync. But that’s basically the same result as in current multiplayer implementations – at the very least position data for other players would be incorrect.

          The real trick (if they’re streaming the video) is making it feel right from the user’s perspective. That is, keeping the video synchronized such that player inputs feel responsive.

    • pkt-zer0 says:

      Partner with ISPs so the information doesn’t have to travel 100ms. You get pretty decent latency to them, at the very least.

    • slight says:

      Plenty of twitch console games have over 100ms of controller latency, due to pre-rendering of frames and things like the latency that wifi based controllers add. A 100 mile ping will be well below that. So no, it’s not impossible, just hard.

      Doubt you’ll see something like Quake being played over it, but modern manshooters should be quite possible.

    • dontnormally says:

      I still can’t play SimCity 4 without soul-crushing system lag.
      I would gladly play SimCity IV and V via this kind of setup.

  5. Stevostin says:

    Well, in theory this could mean ultra top notch graphics on basically every platform. If it really gets to that, and if it’s nicely priced, you’ll have the alternative between paying huge prices for a noisy, unshaped home rig or something way cheaper that will actually look better – in the screen and on your desk. So in that case, well yes it will be the end of PC Gaming as we know it – and of console gaming as well.

    That being said, I doubt it will come anytime soon, because as soon as it will be a mass thing, they’ll face the same problem as youtube : huge BW consumption leading to FAI war. I can download on steam at 1Mo/s but @6PM every 720P video on youtube has a good chance freeze every minutes because most FAI in France are at war with youtube on this. BW requirement will be hugely more important and hugely more sensible for those apps. So FAI will certainly temper them, which will lead to a complicated fight that cloud gaming services will probably loose (they just need it to badly). That will impact prices. How much ? That is the question.

  6. Nallen says:

    I’m sure these services will carve out a niche and OnLive was miles better than I expected (I was part of the ‘that’s clearly fake’ crowd when it launched so I guess just by functioning it met that criteria) but I’d never use it to game in my home because it’s just worse at everything and I can’t imagine it’s up to much on 3G.

    Perhaps it will have its day when 4G and HD phone screens are the norm?

  7. AlwaysRight says:

    Like it or not Cloud gaming is going to play a major role in the future evolution of gaming, and hilariously its always-online.

    Feel free to insult me, my sexual preferences and my mother, in keeping with yesterdays Diablo III comments thread (That I now refer to as ‘buffoonfest’).

    • jrodman says:

      Is cloud gaming different from like.. browser-based gaming? Because I don’t think so, and that already happened.

      • davidek says:

        Onlive and Gaykai (how do you pronounce it?:-) are giving you access to a online video stream of a game running on their computer. That computer is controlled by your computer’s mouse and keyboard with inevitable lag. (Some gamers can’t even deal with the lag from wireless mice!)

        Browser based games download the whole or part of the game for your computer to run in your browser. There are no video streams involved and therefore it only lags like a regular multiplayer online game (when data is send between players)

        • wccrawford says:

          It appears to be Japanese, so ‘gai’ would be ‘guy’, not ‘gay’. And kai rhymes with guy, too.

        • jrodman says:

          My point was “cloud computing” means “running on managed servers on the internet”. It doesn’t mean “streaming video”. Games will always have a client of some form, so you can’t achieve a pure server based approach, and that’s not what most cloud-based services do anyway.

          So while flash gaming isn’t necessarily server based, there are many games that are. And those are in fact cloud gaming to the extent that the term has any meaning.

          If you mean “streaming video gaming is different from browser gaming” well of course, but the claim here was that cloud gaming would be important in the future. But clearly it’s already become important in the past.

          Meanwhile, don’t use “gay” as a derogatory. Bad form.

      • Snakejuice says:

        Yes it’s very different, playing a game in the browser still means you are downloading the game, either to hdd or ram.

  8. Llewyn says:

    I have two ADSL circuits here with different providers. Having just done some quick ping tests, average latency from my router to the ISP’s LNS is 25ms one one line, 39ms on the other. I look forward to learning how Gaikai and Grid will deliver a 10ms response to me.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      You’re confusing the 10ms render and compression time that they are talking about with the internet network latency which they conveniently ignore. You’d need to be connecting from practically inside their data centre to get an effective end to end latency of 10ms.

  9. TheBigBookOfTerror says:

    Wow! Keplers!

    What the heck is a kepler?

  10. John Connor says:

    I guess it’s too much to hope that this shit would just die?

    This is a DRM-obsessed industry’s wet dream. If this doesn’t die now it’s more than likely that eventually this will be the only way to play games, so that they can control them absolutely.

    If you can’t afford a decent graphics card, buy a fucking console. This shit just needs to die before some douche like Bobby Kotick gets the wrong idea.

    • somini says:

      Just imagine, Activision announces that the next Call of Duty is Onlive-exclusive. What is the downside?

    • LionsPhil says:

      “Cloud” is a hammerblow on the whole personal computer revolution, trying to drive us to what are no more but glorified and inefficient thin terminals dependent on Somebody Else’s Mainframe. It’s the wet dream of vendor lock-in, of DRM, and of switching out that troublesome having to come up with a new shiny on a regular basis and convince everyone to buy it over their existing, working version for just charging them a subscription to keep using whatever’s latest. They can’t stick around running old things because they were never running them in the first place, so you can chop and change featuresets as business demands, and never have to be burdened with supporting varying or older platforms.

      It’s about taking control from you and keeping it close to them. Yes, it has its perks, and for gaming there are areas where it’s what you want: were it not for input latency, OnLive etc. would be no real drawback for MMOs. But “everything will be cloud” is a horrible future.

      • Brun says:

        This. The problem is that it has tremendous appeal to people who don’t understand computers or technology. Cloud architecture eliminates a lot of things that are very counter-intuitive to the average user, at the cost of features that are typically only utilized by power users. Which is why it’s so unpopular here – as PC gamers I feel like most of RPS’ readerbase would be considered “power users.”

      • jrodman says:

        For people looking at IT budgeting, it’s mostly a promise of money saved — if not the reality. And that’s primarily the audience of the sales pitch of ‘cloud’.

        Of course I see no reason for it to appeal to gamers, where everything you’re saying is dead on.

    • Shooop says:

      This doesn’t have to be a bad thing though. Cloud computing could be great if there was the tech to back it up for things as demanding as games.

      But right now the only two countries I can see it working smoothly in are South Korea and Japan. Everyone else lacks the high-powered and affordable internet infrastructure.

      And if people would wise up, they’d refuse to pay $60 for streamed games. But that might be far too optimistic.

  11. Hoaxfish says:

    I quite like Gaikai, just for playing demos. The time-limit gives me a sense of urgency I don’t normally have, and I don’t have to pay or install or sign up for anything.

  12. adonf says:

    According to this guy named Carmack the real bottleneck these days is the TV
    http://superuser.com/questions/419070/transatlantic-ping-faster-than-sending-a-pixel-to-the-screen/419167#419167

    • Rhin says:

      To be fair Carmack was talking about a head-mounted display, which probably hasn’t gone through nearly as much QA as most TVs

  13. vodka and cookies says:

    Sounds like typical smoke and mirrors from Nvidia to me.

    A while back Eurogamer/Digital Foundry did a piece on Gaikai who use the x264 codec to compress their video stream in real time, OnLive use a dedicated hardware encoder but it doesn’t give the same quality that x264 does and x264 only runs on CPU’s.

    GPU video encoders are inferior in every possible way compared to x264 and the GPU’s Gaikai use are just for gaming.

    So whatever Nvidia is claiming for the cloud GPU solution doesn’t seem to add a whole lot into the mix other than the promise of lower latency which is really only mitigated by having as many data centres as possible near to your customers.

  14. pakoito says:

    Gaikai/OnLive a.k.a. “Sorry you can’t play games in Germany, you dumdums”

    • pakoito says:

      Gaikai: “Oh we are sorry your 20/1 bandwidth is not enough to play in our servers. Welcome to the future, a pity you don’t live here.”

    • pakoito says:

      Onlive: “Don’t you even think of starting the service, we do no provide to second world internet citizens”

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Ah so it’s not just classification/censorship that Germany and Australia have in common.

  15. Snakejuice says:

    “Is instant-access-at-the-cost-of-fidelity tech wasted on folks like us, who want the best of the best – even at the cost of convenience?”

    Wasted at me anyhow, I never got why you would use somthing of a lesser quality when there are better options availible. Maybe if I had a tablet but they are getting good gpu’s on their own now so I’d rather play locally on them aswell. And play games on a phone? LOL are you kidding me? I play so much good games on my pc in my spare time I don’t really feel the need to also play shit phone games on my break at work.

    • oceanview says:

      Apparently they don’t want my money. Gaikai and onlive -like services are like a mutant version of GFWL. Games that use it simply cease to exist for me.

  16. wsmieszek says:

    Imagine the future where you not only do not own the game (digital distribution) but also do not own the machine you play on. Ah, the golden solution to the “problem” of second hand games. Yay! :(

  17. Shortwave says:

    It honestly made me really sad that Hawkin’s first sight will be one through Gaikai’s eyes.
    : / What a silly a thing to do.

    Because all us really hardcore pc gamers who are dying for hardcore Mech fighting want..
    To first experience it on a experimental system that can’t seem to scientifically avoid lag.
    OH YEA!

    • Mr. Mister says:

      Well giving premiere access to an OnLive-like service to a closed beta doesn’t make much sense. I’m of the opinion that 12^3 is what they’re aiming for a non-beta (or non-closed at leas) release.

      • Shortwave says:

        That would surely be much more logical.

        I had actually totally forgotten I’d signed up for BETA access months back now.
        Doesn’t seem possible to have a working version for cloud before beta is even out.
        Makes sense!

  18. neofit says:

    Really looking forward to playing games like Arma, Skyrim, X3, etc. on this Gaikai thingy, the future of gaming and stuff. Modding support you say? Wha?

  19. nyarlathotep-88 says:

    The only thing I do not like about this, is that I prefer to mod my games and open up .ini and cfg files and have some fun with them. After all, modding only prolongs the life of the game. For example, the STALKER games are so much more fun modded than the vanilla.

  20. Roshin says:

    I don’t care how good the tech is. I don’t want this. Regardless of all the crap they say, this is DRM of the worst sort.

    Get the fuck off my cloud.

  21. malkav11 says:

    Latency isn’t my core issue with services of this sort. My core issues are that I don’t want anything at all to be exclusive to these services, because of the complete loss of consumer rights that such an arrangement entails; and that Onlive at least persists in thinking that it is a way to buy games. It is not, and can never be. It is a rental service that makes you pay full price on a per game basis, which is insane. (Absent a small array of games that can be subscribed to.) It’s so clearly an ideal way to deliver an all-in subscription-based rental service that addresses most of the traditional issues with such a service coming to PC, one that might conceivably be able to convince publishers to allow rental of games outside of the rather limited purview of services like Gametap (is that even still around?) and Gamefly’s PC end. And yet they’re not really going after that market, they’re going after the one where they are evil and will ruin PC gaming. -sigh-

    • datom says:

      It is a rental service that makes you pay full price on a per game basis, which is insane. Like Steam then.

      (puts on helmet)

    • datom says:

      Oh., and it’s worth pointing out that the ‘rental’ subscription on OnLive – the PlayPack – has over 200 games on, ranging from the Fallouts, Red Faction Armageddon, Saints Row 2, Arkham Asylum… So pretty much exactly what you are looking for, for £6.99 a month. It’s not really meant for PC gamers though – much better through the microconsole (which I got for free) on the TV.

  22. wodin says:

    Hurrah own a PC to get similar gaming as a console…excellent!

  23. Unaco says:

    They should get in touch with Valve… they had this great idea, see. Called PowerPlay! Maybe they could resurrect that.

    Also… that news about Hawken is bad news about Hawken. Boo! Hiss! And all the rest.

  24. InternetBatman says:

    It’s worth pointing out that the server running this game was 10 miles away, not however many hundreds the actual servers will be.

  25. MythArcana says:

    I can only imagine how “streamlined” these games will be. We can’t get hardcore PC games to save our lives these days, now they want to push us Flash-type games to replace the already dismal product lines we have been seeing.

    Complexity, options, longevity and the ability to play offline locally are my interests. If Blizzard and Firaxis can’t scrape this up, how is cloud gaming going to provide this? Simple; it won’t. These companies are way too concerned about trying to best sTEAM instead of pushing the envelope forward.

  26. LionsPhil says:

    Hawken Is Going To Be Playable First Over Gaikai.

    OH.

    FOR.

    FUCK’S.

    SAKE.

  27. Vinraith says:

    If something like Gaikai became the only way to play PC games, I’d stop playing PC games.

  28. bill says:

    See, I think Gaikai sounds like a great way to try out games and demos.

    Except their name means something like Open Oceans in Japanese….. and it’s not accessible from Japan.

    So I can’t even try out free demos.

  29. cassus says:

    I like that the cloud gaming devs still think they can outsmart physics, somehow. Faster than home consoles? So.. Faster than instantly, then? You can’t overcome latency unless the user has a shitty internet connection and you’re willing to front the cost of fiber all the way to his house to get his 20 bucks a month.. Sure, there are tricks to be done with the routing, some routing is just ridiculous, WTFast kinda proved that with WoW, but man.. unless you live in a big city where there’s a “Grid” hub within a reasonable distance.. You’re gonna get latency.. And not the kind of latency that you see in multiplayer games, where you actually shoot when you click and then the server registers hits/misses.. But the latency where video comes to you and you shoot.. hoping the scene hasn’t changed in 60ms.. or 80ms.. That is super noticable.