When we interviewed Sony senior VP Scott Rohde about the future of gaming and he said Sony’s digital distribution future is “inevitable,” he wasn’t kidding; Sony Computer Entertainment has purchased digital gaming service Gaikai, a competitor to OnLive that streams triple-A, console-quality games in your web browser just like YouTube streams videos.
Gaikai’s tech is not limited to web browsers on desktop computers, though. It has already been installed in televisions and mobile devices, and there’s no reason at all it couldn’t be used in a home console — either the PlayStation 3, the Vita, or some as-yet-unannounced, next-generation platform. Either way, Sony made it clear that it plans to launch a streaming service of its own using Gaikai’s technology and team.
Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House is quoted in Sony’s press release saying, “By combining Gaikai’s resources including its technological strength and engineering talent with SCE’s extensive game platform knowledge and experience, SCE will provide users with unparalleled cloud entertainment experiences.” Along with that comes a promise that Sony will “deliver a world-class cloud-streaming service that allows users to instantly enjoy a broad array of content ranging from immersive core games with rich graphics to casual content anytime, anywhere on a variety of internet-connected devices.”
It’s unclear exactly what Sony is planning; in one scenario, the company could use streaming to allow current generation gamers to play classic games that won’t operate on today’s very different hardware — or it could just be used for Sony’s PlayStation Mobile platform for phones and tablets. Alternatively, this could be the first step towards an entirely cloud gaming-based future in which having a powerful piece of hardware in your house to play the latest games is irrelevant.
The futuristic vision of a gaming world built out of streaming services instead of $300 – 400, high-powered boxes of hardware is an attractive one, as long as the technology works.
Gamers could access all their games — and their saved progress and in-game social connections — on virtually any device, from anywhere with a stable internet connection. 3D rendering technology would not be bottlenecked at what gamers can or cannot afford in the hardware purchase; instead, vast server farms of powerful computers could serve up extraordinary graphics that simply aren’t possible on home consoles.
Game publishers may also find a cloud gaming model attractive because it precludes the possibility of piracy as we currently know it. Frank Gibeau, president of EA Games, says that it’s inevitable that EA — which is one of the world’s largest game publishers — will go 100% digital in some form or another. Neither Sony nor Gaikai have announced when this new streaming service will come to fruition, but stay tuned.