Sony buys Gaikai cloud gaming service

Sony is getting into cloud-based gaming in a big way. The PlayStation maker just announced that it’s buying Gaikai for $380 million. According to the official press release (PDF), Sony will establish its own cloud service as part of the deal. It’s unclear whether that service will exist alongside Gaikai’s own, however.

Gaikai has an impressive list of games on its website, including reasonably recent titles like Mass Effect 3, The Witcher 2, and Agricultural Simulator 2012. Ok, so the individual titles aren’t all impressive. They do run within a web browser, though. All that’s required is Flash, Java, and Gaikai’s own plug-in. You don’t even need a powerful GPU.

 

I just fired up TrackMania 2 Canyon in a browser window, and the experience was better than expected. The graphics looked passable, and more importantly, the controls were responsive. Latency can be an issue with streaming services, but that simply wasn’t a problem in TrackMania. Sampling the game didn’t cost me a dime, either.

With no cost of entry, cloud-based services like Gaikai have the potential to lure in folks who might not have taken the plunge otherwise. There certainly seem to be a lot of casual gamers hooked on smartphone titles like Angry Birds. Some of them are surely primed for hard-core gaming, especially if they can get that first taste for free. Seasoned gamers will probably prefer to play titles locally. However, they’ll surely appreciate the ability to play decent games on notebooks with anemic graphics.

Comments closed
    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    To add to Geoffs comment on latency. You can have the worlds worst connection for Trackmania and it still wont matter as you race against opponents in time trials in which you race ‘ghost’ cars and can’t actually interact with them. Unless they changed that.

    I still can’t see cloud gaming taking off though. Even if they somehow magically get rid of the latency for input, they still have to deal with the bandwidth. Streaming the equivalent of 1080p to your computer for like 4 hours a day, seven days a week, is a lot of bandwidth over the month.

    I can only imagine what would happen if you share a internet connection… You wouldn’t be able to casually play games at any sort of hot spot either.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 7 years ago

    The fact that it requires Java is disappointing. Java leads to lots of malware infections and I am sure they could avoid using it if they really wanted to.

    It does look like if you use Chrome you don’t need Java… though I couldn’t find details on this.

    • puppetworx
    • 7 years ago

    The strategy here is huge.

    1. Un-piratable gaming
    2. Next generation TV features
    3. Getting rid of the console (a loss-maker with high capital cost)

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      3: You still need hardware to run the games, and staff for maintenance. It might be more cost effective to sell the console. At least the customer is paying for the hardware.
      1: Current DRM is getting pretty close to un-piratable gaming, with trusted computing.

        • Bensam123
        • 7 years ago

        Nah, consoles will die with the next generation. MS and Sony haven’t adapted their styles for changing environments even if it means making them more like computers (such as a prebuilt HTPC).

        Computer games are plenty pirateable, as are consoles.

          • superjawes
          • 7 years ago

          Consoles die? I find it much more likely that the line between “console” and PC will just go away, especially considering what consoles are trying to do.

          In particular, I suspect one or more of the big three are considering or even planning full digital-distribution consoles. Those, I think, would fare well (aside from destroying retail stores like Gamestop).

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            You suspect? I pretty sure Microsoft has already announced the next Xbox will not have an optical drive.

            • superjawes
            • 7 years ago

            1. Never announced, only rumors.
            2. I don’t believe that…not just yet.

            There have been rumors of an Xbox without a drive, but I think the retail market is still too large to ignore, and alienating those users would be a net loss. However, an option for a 360-ish system that could only play XBL and digital games…that would be an easy way to get a cheap console on the market to stand next to a “full” release.

            • Farting Bob
            • 7 years ago

            Until the minimum download speed is an uncapped 50Mb/s fiber connection across every home in the country, they would risk losing too many sales if they took out the (pretty cheap) optical drive. There just isnt any incentive for them to remove it, and as you said, they would lose out on a still massive amount of physical copies sold. Digital downloads can be very good for those who have the bandwidth, but we are still years off from it being universal enough to drop support for physcial media of some kind for every console.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            The incentive is a 99% piracy free system.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            It’s not impossible to pirate digital games.

            • l33t-g4m3r
            • 7 years ago

            People like to “own” their purchases. Cloud gaming doesn’t give you a sense of ownership, and prices would need to reflect that. Add that in with all the hidden costs and it’s really not worth doing. The only real reason to do cloud gaming is total control. Some companies enjoy the power trip, and that’s apparently more important than making a profit. Anybody who attempts this will eventually self-destruct, as it’s not a sustainable business model. If cloud gaming really was a good idea, we’d see it all over the place, but it’s not. The only guys putting money into cloud gaming are companies with more money than brains. 360 Million dollars is a stupid waste of money, money that could have been better spent developing the same technology in house. The biggest reason you see these companies being bought is because cloud gaming really isn’t feasible, so big companies throw gobs of money at anything that appears to work, but it’s really a scam. Solyndra. Madoff. Enron. Gaikai.
            I bet the owners skip town after cashing the check.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            Yet computers will remain as computers and the Wii will stand alone. That’s pretty much a testament to consoles dying. You can reword it however you want.

            What are consoles trying to do? All consoles are now is a content distribution system on a extremely antiquated HTPC. The only exception to this being a Wii, which actually tries to set itself apart from this and stay true to its roots.

            • superjawes
            • 7 years ago

            “All consoles are”? Their doing a fair amount of playing games, streaming content, and building their own social networks. I think saying that consoles are dying sounds far too familiar. (PC gaming is dead, anyone?)

            Even if your PC can do all that (and more), consoles do it cheaper, and they have built communities around themselves as defenses. Just within this generation, the 360 and PS3 developed new services, and, I think, started doing things that you do with a proper PC. If that line continues, you’re going to see consoles do more of what traditional PCs do, and instead of one or the other dying, it will become more difficult to distinguish the two.

            • entropy13
            • 7 years ago

            Of course the PS3 and 360 do it cheaper, they’re made out of obsolete components!

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            Yeah, because they’re completely outdated. And you know what? The Wii can do it cheaper then either the PS3 or the Xbox, it’s been that way since launch. The Wii has even dipped under $100 as well.

            Nintendo thought things out quite well. They don’t want to compete with computers, they don’t even want to be in the same category. Sony and MS are on the fast track to collide with desktops and they’ll lose that battle. It may not be economical to build the shittiest computer possible to compete with the absolute bottom line. But anything you build for $500 or more will completely blow either the X360 or the PS3 out of the water. There is no comparison in the $/performance.

            Not only that, it’s starting to get to the point where people are swinging back to PCs because consoles are so crappy. BF3 for instance is a game I’m sure you’re well acquainted with. Do you think it can run on the X360 with all the eye candy up or even on medium settings? No, not even close.

            I will add that consoles weren’t always that cheap. They intro’d with outdated hardware in the $300 – $400 range for the X360 and $500-$600 for the PS3. To get a idea of the value proposition. X360s have only dropped $100 since their launch. PS3s have come down quite a bit more in price and hardware wise they’re quite a bit superior then X360s, but they don’t have nearly the same community or adoption as the X360s. They’re still far inferior $/performance compared to a modern computer though.

            The lines that separate the PS3/X360 from a computer have been artificially created. MS botching of GFWL is definitely proof of that.

            • superjawes
            • 7 years ago

            [url=http://bf3blog.com/2011/11/battlefield-3-xbox-360-sales-top-playstation-3-and-pc-combined/<]I love how you mention BF3...[/url<] Look, I like PC's performance, but the proof is in the pudding right there. A good chunk of people don't need the stunning performance that PC enthusiasts crave, and there's a lot of convenience of not having to worry about whether or not your system will play a game. If it comes in the right box, it plays. And on the note of the Wii (I also should add that I'm a Nintendo fanboy), Nintendo has done well since they created their own market rather than compete for the ground 360 and PS3 were/are fighting for, but at the expense of power. You aren't going to get those AAA titles on Wii that you can get on 360 or PS3. And on the note of "value," don't just look at the core components. Both the 360 and PS3 were considerably smaller than your normal ATX tower at launch, and have gotten smaller since then. On top of that, you kind of missed the fact that the PS3 (even near $500) was the cheapest Blu-Ray player out for a good chunk of time. Even with all that, performance / dollar is irrelevant when you can't match the price. If you were to build a $300 gaming PC, you immediately have to bring that down to $200 for hardware, or else you'll overshoot the console mark when you add the operating system (which you need to play the games we're talking about). The new Econobox is priced around $600 before OS. Sure, it will play games better than a 360 or PS3 and even do more, but for half the price of the hardware, you can get a system that you can go home, plug in, and play Skyrim, BF3, and Arkham City. You can argue that PC is better until the cows come home, and I will likely agree with you on these points, but again, the argument that consoles are just crappy ignores their successes. As I said before, it sounds far too similar to the argument that PC gaming is dead.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Those BF3 numbers don’t count Origin sales.

            • superjawes
            • 7 years ago

            You got me there, [url=http://bf3blog.com/2012/02/battlefield-3-sells-10-million-copies-new-dlc-to-be-announced-next-week/<]but in February, they had sold 10 million across all platforms.[/url<] And neither of those figures account for used sales, and consoles do well in holidays... So unless Origin is outpacing consoles by a large margin, EA has sold more on consoles. EDIT: That first round of numbers also shorts the 5 million total by 800,000. You can't claim 5,000,000 off 4,200,000, so I think that gives a rough estimate of where Origin stands.

            • Bensam123
            • 7 years ago

            It’s not even about the best performance, it’s about the best overall system. Steam is a content distribution system and it works quite well on computers. It’s fairly easy and becoming quite common knowledge to hook your computer up to your living room TV. Heck the system guide here on the website even has a ‘future console’ build.

            That was one the last things consoles had going for them. The ability to put it in your living room and not look out of place. Simply working and being easy to use. Windows can do all of that now and I imagine more so when Steam pulls out their HTPC variant. Quite a bit has changed since the NES intro’d and even the original Xbox and X360.

            It’s not about input methods either, because you CAN buy a Windows x360 controller and play consolized ports on a PC in your living room. It doesn’t even have that going for it.

            That was the point. I’m almost 100% certain Nintendo made the Wii underpowered on purpose. Especially with the WiiU which can output 1080p, but is till antiquated in certain parts of the system. Nintendo is aiming for almost a niche, retro stylization to all their games, simply because ones that aim to be realistic CAN’T play on their system.

            Saving money on the hardware was just a happy coincidence. Like I said, I’m pretty sure Nintendo planned all of this out and they knew where the market was going. Even if PCs gobble up Sony and MS, they can’t gobble up Nintendo. You can play emulated games on your PC, but that’s not the same thing as using a Nintendo. It doesn’t have the same experience or feel and that’s what they were really going for.

            Yup, PS3 had the cheapest blu-ray player on the market for the longest time and I even knew people who bought it because they wanted a blu-ray player. That in itself should be a testament to how little the system actually means. Sony was and I believe still is taking losses on PS3s they sell.

            Performance/$ isn’t irrelevant. You can build a atom that plays shitty games. You have mobile devices that play games. What they are capable of running definitely matters. Either consoles will take a headfirst dive into the mobile market and disappear or they will be woefully inadequate of playing new titles that want to take advantage of computers (which is starting to become a trend).

            I never said consoles are crappy nor am I denying the success of consoles in the past, I said that they will disappear after the next generation. Consumers are becoming more knowledgeable and the average geek is becoming more mainstream. It’s not going to be that far fetched to imagine a prebuilt computer manufacturer jumping on this bandwagon and starting to produce systems that cater to this niche. Complete in a mini-itx form factor with a Windows x360 controller and steam preinstalled.

            Arcades disappeared for relatively the same reason as what is happening to consoles right now. And arcades are regarded as quite retro now, which is the route Nintendo took.

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            Do both consoles add up to more than PC? Yes I’m sure that’s true. Does the 360 have more sales than PC? Again, I’m sure that would be true too.

            I’m not sure however, that the PS3 would out sell PC, it doesn’t with CoD games.

            Edit: I meant to reply to the nested reply to me, c’est la vie

      • Antimatter
      • 7 years ago

      4. No used game sales.

      • Krogoth
      • 7 years ago

      Un-Priatable? I don’t think so.

      You just have to rip the streaming data and decrypt the contents. You might have create a front-end “emulator” to fool the program.

      Hardcore pirates are up to the challenge.

        • sschaem
        • 7 years ago

        The issue is not decoding the stream, you need to authenticate on the server and have a valid instance on the server. (You interact with a virtual machine, the input & display are remote)

        The only way this can be broken is hacking an existing account as only valid account can instantiate/access a new ‘VM’.

        And in the past 10 years, how many cracks have you seen for WOW?

      • sschaem
      • 7 years ago

      3. is incorrect

      Also the strategy cost is 10x fold the capital cost as console are actually very efficiency HW instances.
      Also the electric bill is huge. ~200watt/h per instance (for next gen console games)

      To replace 200 milion console you probably need to have 10million VM instance.

      So your facilities could average 200watt*10million : 2 million Kilo watt, 2 Giga watt/ hour.
      So you will have to include that in your cost figure.

      And I dont think people would like to ever see “Server full, try again latter”

      This is great for hotel but not as a console replacement. Also the next gen console are going to be extremely costly to replicate.

      This is not a console or PC gaming replacement, but I can see this taking off as a VM for mobile devices. Where bandwidth trump local compute power. (Windows7 + office on the ipad3)

    • Chrispy_
    • 7 years ago

    Actually I retract my statement.

    This seems really handy for game demos. Get a feel for something without spending hours downloading a multi-GB file. The latency is certainly better than OnLive and whilst the low detail graphics with choppy 15-20fps framerate isn’t nice, it’s plenty playable.

      • Washer
      • 7 years ago

      That’s short sighted. The real tech here is all in the backend. I’m sure porting the frontend to something that’s not Flash would be relatively easy. As well, that game list will certainly expand. Sony will have significantly more power on that front.

    • jjj
    • 7 years ago

    I hoped that Google would buy it , chances are that sooner or later the big boys (Google, Amazon, Apple , M$ ) will have to get into this,they all seem to care about content delivery nowdays.

      • sschaem
      • 7 years ago

      Google can recreate this tech in just a few month as most of it is in their field of expertise.

      So I dont see google ready to pay more then ~80 million for this tech. Now what I find puzzling is how they got over a quarter billion $ from Sony !

    • StashTheVampede
    • 7 years ago

    This is the “future” for backwards compatibility for a myriad of titles.

      • l33t-g4m3r
      • 7 years ago

      What’s GOG? Chopped liver?

      • Bensam123
      • 7 years ago

      Backward compatibility? Oo

      Steam offers plenty of old titles. They’re still required to run a OS behind the scenes too… I doubt they have a OS for each game.

    • Dposcorp
    • 7 years ago

    “All that’s required is Flash, Java, and Gaikai’s own plug-in. You don’t even need a powerful GPU”

    Does that man you can play on a Android Tablet as well as a PC?
    (Control issues aside of course)

    Also, with flash going bye-bye, will HTML5 the way the new games are ported?

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      “Also, with flash going bye-bye, will HTML5 the way the new games are ported?”

      Unlikely, performance with HTML5 sucks, and it can’t do a lot of the things a plugin can do.

      I think the future is either individual plugins for each service or each service having their own streaming program.

    • lilbuddhaman
    • 7 years ago

    Wow all those amazing games, at what looks like MEDIUM settings !?! Where do I sign up?!

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