You may not be aware of them, but there are some companies that recently sprang into existence that offer video game streaming. OnLive might be the one you heard of, having launched a couple of years ago, but there’s another similar cloud gaming service out: Gaikai. Aside from storing games on the cloud and streaming them to players, Gaikai allows for their streaming to be embedded with an applet, so other sites and services can bundle the Gaikai service into their own service. Today, Sony bought Gaikai for $380 million, possibly signaling the direction Sony aims to take the next iteration of their PlayStation brand.
At this time, it is unclear how Sony’s purchase will affect Gaikai’s previous partnerships, which include such companies as Samsung and LG. However, what immediately stands out about this purchase is what’s in store for the the next PlayStation, or at least what’s in store for some PlayStation down the road. With the current console generation heavily focusing on digital game downloads and streaming content like Netflix and Amazon Prime, it seems to only be a matter of time before we’re streaming full games through our consoles. Unless some kind of major leap in Internet speed, availability, and pricing is made between this current generation and the next, however, we can’t expect this purchase to signal that the PlayStation 4 will have any sort of capability to stream games, as the average person’s Internet connection can’t even download one full (disc-based) PS3 game in any reasonable amount of time.
VentureBeat points out an interesting possibility for the Gaikai purchase that could be applied to this, or next, generation of Sony products: In-store kiosks that employ the newly acquired Gaikai streaming technology so Sony can stream whatever they want, and essentially update and control the kiosk however they wish. However, if we’re moving toward a console that solely distributes games digitally — and it certainly seems like we are — in-store kiosks might become a thing of the past, considering there’d be little point to a retail games store. On the flip side, if there’s little point to retail games stores, a streaming kiosk that can be plopped down anywhere and updated and changed from Sony’s end seems pretty convenient.
Interestingly, if Sony can work the streaming service into their already free online gaming service, the PlayStation Network, and keep it free, that’d be a huge play, possibly convincing the masses that a free online service with free cloud gaming is better than a better organized, but not free service in Xbox Live. It’s also worth noting that back in 2010 at GDC San Francisco, Gaikai was demoed with multiple MMOs, including World of Warcraft and EVE Online, as well as Adobe Photoshop. Sony’s purchase could prove even more interesting if they figure out a way to offer non-gaming software through their home and portable consoles, especially if it’s something as staggeringly popular as Photoshop. If anything, there’s no reason why a much more integrated PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita connection couldn’t be created and utilized in some sort of compelling fashion.
Obviously, we’ll have to wait and see where Sony goes with Gaikai’s capabilities, but the purchase of the company certainly seems to show Sony has cloud gaming on the brain.
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