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Storm Clouds: Gaikai Boasts Tech Prowess

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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Andrew Smee