You wanna talk about Gaikai acquisition now? Seriously? That’s like ages ago!
Yeah, I know, I know. I did write my quick take on that subject though, and back then I planned to expand about it once I got the time. And looks like I finally got that time =D
So here we go…
I’m Sorry, What Is Gaikai?
Let’s back up a bit and talk about what exactly is Gaikai and how it fits in the gaming industry. Around 2010, with the widespread of high-bandwidth internet, a new kind of gaming has emerged to take the world by storm, the cloud gaming.
So what is cloud gaming again? Basically cloud gaming is a way to play game where the game is processed in the server and streamed live to your computer or whatever device you’re using. Using cloud gaming, the server will handle the heavy task of processing the game and let you view and play it from anywhere. You can say that the cloud/server is the console and your internet connection is the cable that connects it to your monitor and keyboard (or just touch screen).
Since cloud gaming calculates everything on the server and just serves you the result, hardware and operating system is no longer a constraint for gaming. You can play the game on any operating system whether it’s Windows, Mac, or even Android. And you can play it on any kind of form factor as well, whether its a laptop, a tablet, or even a smartphone (yeah, Crysis on a phone will not be a dream anymore) Not just that, cloud gaming could also provides new payment model, like the pay-as-you-go model where you can just rent a game for 3 days or purchase it fully or even subscription and episodic games.
In short, cloud gaming is the future of gaming. Just imagine being able to play any kind of game no matter where you are or what kind of operating system you’re on or what kind of device you have (as long as you have a decent internet connection, that is).
Both OnLive and Gaikai is at the forefront of this new kind of gaming with both companies providing a different set of games and features. Both of them seemed to have different directions as well, where OnLive starts to focus on mobile devices and Gaikai is still focusing on gaming on TV. The future looks really bright, but alas, on July 2012…
Sony Computer Entertainment Acquired Gaikai
Yeah, out of the blue, Sony bought Gaikai for $380 millions.
“SCE 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.”
Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m not a cloud gamer (huh, that term sounds weird), not for at least another 5 years. My connection just isn’t fast enough for this kind of internet usage, but I definitely can see how this is going to be the future of gaming. It solves a lot of gaming problems! No longer there will be console-exclusive games, no longer games on mobile devices will only feature subpar graphics, and no longer there will be piracy (though I’m not so sure about this last point). All in all, I definitely support this.
That said, I should be happy that Gaikai is acquired by Sony right? After all, with the amount of resources Sony has in its pocket, Gaikai wouldn’t have any trouble expanding anywhere in world, right? And with Sony’s capability as a game publisher, Gaikai could easily persuade more game developers to provide their game through Gaikai services, right?
But no I’m not.
This is an acquisition by Sony, who has another gaming platform. It’s totally unthinkable of Sony to have another gaming platform, the cloud platform, alongside their current gaming platform. Not to mention that their current platform already runs on most of their devices from consoles, handhelds, smartphones, to tablets. Introducing yet another gaming platform would just make the consumer confused.
This is an acquisition by Sony, who already has a console and brand (PlayStation) out in the market. Do you really think that Sony will be willing to kill their PlayStation brand and console to pursue cloud gaming? I just can’t see how Sony is going to integrate Gaikai services with the PlayStation. Sure, Sony can turn PlayStation console to be capable of streaming games from the cloud, but that doesn’t align at all with the concept of cloud where hardware doesn’t matter and Internet is all you need. I mean, why would Sony make a service that can be used by their competitor?
This is an acquisition by Sony, a big company with a business model that Gaikai is attacking. As I have explained before, cloud gaming makes the hardware no longer important, which means that gaming console will no longer be important as the game can be played on any kind of device. So yeah, the success of Gaikai or cloud gaming in general would spell doom for Sony’s business model (and profit).
Of course Sony can always kill their lines of console and dive head-first into cloud gaming. And that would be totally awesome, having a big company like Sony pursuing this kind future. But let’s be real here, has anybody ever successfully killed their own old product? Even for a company like Apple who’s known to disrupt the industry, they haven’t managed to kill any of their products. Mac, iPod, iPhone, and iPad all serves a different purpose and augment each other instead of killing each other.
I hope I’m wrong, I really do. But to be honest, this felt like HP-WebOS situation all over again. Only worse.
On the topic of the future of gaming, there’s another development in the scene, the OUYA. The OUYA is basically a game console that harnesses power of mobile gaming such as developers accessibility and cheapness. It is depicted as the revolution that will revive the game industry. While it may be true, I believe the OUYA is merely a stop-gap for the gaming revolution before cloud gaming becomes more accessible to the mainstream market and becomes the dominant force in the gaming world.