Angus sits down with David Perry from Gaikai to learn about the revolutionary concept of 'cloud gaming'.
One of my first appointments here at E3 was a rather sombre one. No 'behind closed doors' for a triple-A title or an exclusive interview. Instead I attended a mini-press conference by a company called Gaikai (pronounced 'guy-kai'). Or 'Man Food' if you're a New Zealander. But in fact Gaikai translates to "open ocean" in Japanese.
I had never heard of these guys before today, but I get the feeling that in a matter of 12 months, we'll be hearing a lot more from Gaikai. From what I saw this morning, they might revolutionise the world of gaming as we know it.
Gaikai is a cloud-based gaming service that allows users to play demos and buy entire games online. It sounds a bit like Steam, except for the fact that Gaikai allows gamers to play their favourite games almost instantly, from nearly any digital device. Even your web browser thanks to their unique streaming technology.
To demonstrate, the presenters showed off World of Warcraft playing at a decent 60 frames per second on an ordinary iPad 2. They showed Bulletstorm playing on an Android tablet and amazingly, even on an ordinary plasma television with a standard USB controller plugged into it. All these devices could handle it because all of the processing power is performed remotely and the output displayed via your Internet connection.
While it's early days yet, Gaikai are well established in America and have made numerous partnerships over the years to slowly strengthen their presence. They have a remarkably profound business mantra as well. Gaikai realise that downloading a demo for a PC game can be a laborious task, almost to the point where the model is broken. Many PC gamers have had to endure lengthy sign-ups, multiple legal agreements, long download times and then have their trial end after just 10 days. For many it's a major deterrent to trying a game out and therefore an obstacle for buying the full game. With so many first-person shooters on the market having quick and easy access to demos should be a priority to game publishers.
Gaikai realise this and allow users to download and try out their catalogue of games in a couple of clicks. Their cloud technology essentially lets you play megabit games in a matter of seconds, with no on-drive installations as it is streamed direct to device on the fly. The fact that the games are streamed also means there are no limitations with aging 3d graphics cards or powerful processors. Their goal is to let you play triple A titles on any device with an Internet connection. They have already showcased games like Spore, Dead Space 2, The Sims 3, Modern Warfare and Mass Effect 2 using their streaming technology.
Gaikai finished off their presentation by announcing their partnership with Samsung. Now users can buy a Samsung television, download a free Gaikai app, purchase a Logitech USB controller and plug that straight into your TV. As long as your TV is connected to the net, you can now by-pass a gaming console altogether. Gaikai demonstrated this by streaming and playing EA's Bulletstorm. The presenter even promised multiplayer wouldn't be an issue once everything is fully operational (in the near future).
Founded back in 2008, Gaikai isn't a new company, but they have been slowly building up an infrastructure over the past few years and already have millions of active users. They have formed strong partnerships with Samsung, EA Games, Facebook and YouTube. Gaikai users can already play full-blown console games within their own standard web browser on a low-end PC, whether full-screen or in a Facebook shell or frame. It's an impressive service that could change the way the big players approach gaming hardware and consoles.
However there is one major obstacle, one that affects New Zealand's hopes of seeing Gaikai in action anytime soon. Naturally, their service revolves entirely around broadband internet. Ideally you'll require between 3 - 5mb per second download speeds. And while these might be possible, you'll also need to take into consideration any data-caps that streaming a game like Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare for 5 hours straight will rack up.
There is also a geographical limitation, as Gaikai servers (or nodes) need to be setup for each region. It's currently established in 11 countries and when queried about New Zealand, David Perry told there is one node setup in Sydney (because Australia and New Zealand are obviously the same country to Americans). However when pushed, he went on to say that an additional 4 nodes will be setup in Australia and Gaikai will only expand from there. Hopefully we won't be far behind the curve as I expect big things from Gaikai over the next 24 months. They are already working on streaming stereoscopic 3d media which could change the way 3d games are handled as well. Only time will tell, but stay tuned to NZGamer.com as we hope to learn more soon.
NZGamer.com appears at E3 2012 thanks to Orcon Broadband.