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Nvidia Joins Cloud With GeForce Grid, Partners With Gaikai

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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Nathan Grayson

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