Thursday, July 2, 2009

Don't cross the streams

This isn't another Ghostbusters post. The next big thing to come down the pipe in gaming looks to be these streaming services, OnLive and Gaikai. I know, cutting edge topic. This video brought on my interest.

Let's assume for a moment that both services work as described. I don't think they will work as well as their marketing would have you believe but let's say they do. You can play nearly any game without a download just using a web browser or their client. Lag is not an issue.

Would you be interested in the service?

I'm not sure I would be. It sounds great at first, but there are a lot of unanswered questions.

Pricing. Would this be a subscription service? Will all these game publishers be on-board with that sort of pricing? Seems to me they like the 1 copy == 1 license model. There would have to be some kind of volume license agreement going on. You'll still have to pay MMO subscription fee's on top of any service subscription fee too.

Bandwidth. Gaikai, on average, uses up about 1mBit a second. If you play 60 hours a month, that comes out to 27 gigabytes of traffic just from gaming. In this age of bandwidth caps, who knows what will happen. Also, network issues can happen anywhere down the line which can degrade your performance. This would be quite frustrating for a single player game.

Publisher Support. You know not every publisher will sign up for this service (or allow it). You will still need a computer that can play their games. If not, you will be at the mercy of OnLive or Gaikai for what games you can play.

Support. Will that game launching today be available on the service today? Will WoW 3.2 be patched and ready to go when I want to play? Again you are at the mercy of the service.

Add-Ons. Mod's and add-ons are popular these days. I think this is actually a pretty simple issue for these companies to solve, so I expect them to support it.

Overall, these types of services just sound too restrictive to me. I don't want to be waiting on them to do something.


I can't see such a program gaining the critical mass to stay in business long term.

Gamers, publishers and developers don't benefit greatly from such a system, so its almost certainly going to die.

Publishers and developers will fear losing sales, although piracy is now completely solved. They might be the only group who actually desires such a system, providing it works as advertised.

Gamers lose control over their games and can have access revoked at any time, due to maliciousness, incompetence or other accidents. Hardcore gamers will also likely have dramatically increased bandwidth costs. Gamers are now implicitly paying by the minute/hour to play, due to bandwidth costs. Reduced game experience due to network outages and random lag, especially during peak times. Only possible benefit is cheaper hardware and possible cheap access to a wide variety of games.

Games retailers have less products to sell and lose their profitable trade-ins market.

Publishers and developers are the only real winners here and if their customers don't follow, then the system will die.

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