Mobile Mavens

The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Gaming Mavens on whether Sony is streaming towards success with Gaikai

The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Gaming Mavens on whether Sony is streaming towards success with Gaikai

The PocketGamer.biz Mobile Mavens is our panel of experts drawn from all sectors of the mobile gaming industry.

A matter of days after game streaming specialist Gaikai went public with its plans to deliver titles to Samsung's Smart TVs – something the company has already delivered on – Dave Perry's firm was snapped up by Sony, for purposes unknown.

So, we asked the Mavens:

Does Sony's acquisition of Gaikai point to game streaming technology being employed in its Android-based smartphones and tablets, or is this a purchase purely designed to prop up PlayStation 4?

 

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

If Sony do their thinking right I believe this could be the PlayStation 4.

Forget ultra-powerful 'do everything' hardware that will be superseded in a few months. Instead, let's have good hardware capable of delivering localised rendering when needed and server delivered experiences when not.

Let's use the internet to deliver every piece of PlayStation content to any imagined device.

Don't get me wrong - my old colleagues (yes I'm biased, I used to work at Sony) could get this wrong. But, in my less than humble opinion, this could be the most important decision about taking Sony's future into the service space.

Kaz Harai has been at the heart of the moves for Sony Network Entertainment and, although there have been false starts, this looks like a great decision to buy-in rather than try to make it itself.

But I don't think this is the end of the console or of under the TV hardware. I think this may, just may, change all the rules.

Dave Castelnuovo Owner Bolt Creative

It would be suicide for Sony to release a PlayStation 4 that is solely based on Gaikai – but Sony may just be desperate enough to "pull a Nintendo" and try something crazy like this.
If that's the case, I'll say my goodbyes now. We will miss you.

The idea that they can build a $50 box that never needs to be updated and have complete control over the software in the cloud, however, is simply too much for any console maker to pass up. It's a way to stop losing money in the graphics arms race. Sony needs to at least try and see if they can make this happen.

The firm will most likely test out Gaikai on the PlayStation Network first and then figure out of its really ready for the international mass market before fully committing to it.

However, there are a couple of things that make Gaikai a non-likely scenario as a complete package for PS4, if ever.
For starters, bad internet connections.

Everyone on the Mavens has no doubt invested in a great internet connection, so I really don't buy the argument from anyone there that they tried OnLive and it seemed to do a good enough job. In reality, not everyone in the US and Europe has a great connection.

My nieces and nephew live in an area that has a terrible network connection. They live in a suburb of Detroit that used to be a lot of farmland. Cable and DSL is not available to them and there is no indication that it will be available in the foreseeable future. Their only option is a really bad wireless service.

FaceTime doesn't work at all, Skype doesn't work and it takes forever to download apps to their iPod touches. There is zero chance that Gaikai will work.

Then you start looking at expanding markets like China, India, and South America. They just don't have the infrastructure to support this service. For once in history, India will be able to afford the next gen PlayStation console, but the joke is on them because an internet service that can run Gaikai isn't available in their village.

Then we start looking at bandwidth caps. It really doesn't seem like bandwidth caps are going to go away. So, lets say I buy the new Call of Duty and play constantly for a week straight. Then my bandwidth cap is reached, my internet goes out for the entire family, and Dad can't make a living any more because he works at home.

My family home gets foreclosed on and we enter a shelter in a bad part of town. One day my Dad gets robbed by one of the other residents and gets shot. In a mad fit of depression I turn to a life of drugs and crime, and find myself in prison within two years shacked up with a big fella named 'Sweety'.

Of course there are other reasons. People like buying the latest and greatest toy.

From an engineer's perspective, it seems like it's a great idea for Sony to come out with a new device for $50 that will, in essence, be the last console that their customers will ever need to buy.

If you really think about it, Sony doesn't even need to come out with a new PS4 console. I'm sure they can use the existing PS3 as a Gaikai client with nothing more than a software update.

Also Gaikai is already getting embedded into Samsung TVs so they may be able to get rid of the console altogether and transform the PlayStation brand into a cloud service.

It just feels like having a console with a 10-20 year product cycle - or not having a console at all - and just doing updates in the cloud will not keep it fresh in the consumer's eyes, all while other companies are coming out with new hardware.

If they are really just a cloud service, their only advantage will be the couple of Sony exclusives like God of War. I kind of like unboxing shiny new hardware.

I guess if the internet problems were completely solved I could see a point where all major console manufactures are completely in the cloud. Eventually every TV would support each cloud gaming service and it would almost seem like Xbox, Nintendo, and PlayStation were interactive cable stations.

Would there be a monthly fee for the service itself? Probably not.

So in essence, everyone will have all three consoles with immediate access to buy any game instantly. Right now, a console maker "owns" a customer because they invested a considerable amount of money in hardware. Since I purchased a PS3, I only buy PS3 games even though I can get most of them on any console.

Of course, each console maker has exclusives that persuade a customer to buy their hardware, but it's really the hardware itself that forces a user to buy Call of Duty on a PS3 if they don't own an Xbox 360.

In this new gaming cable channel era, there are no upfront costs that lock you into a service and since customers are not locked in, exclusives don't carry an additional benefit other than the revenue driven by the purchase itself.

Platform loyalty is completely out the window. I can buy God of War on the PlayStation Network, buy all my Mario games on Nintendo's store, and get everything else on whatever the cheapest service ends up being.

I guess you could make an argument that "hardware" in this system would be more about peripherals and controllers instead of actual console boxes, but companies like Madcatz will probably be able to make peripherals that are cross platform compatible.

Also, the barrier to entry to become a service like this is a lot lower than making a console and a lot less risk. I'm not saying it's cheap, but it would be a no-brainer for Steam to develop a platform like this which could be integrated into your TV with a software update. Activision and EA will most likely develop their own network along with Ubisoft and others.

I could imagine seeing indie channels pop up as well that cater to small teams.

I guess where I'm going with this is that PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo will start to become software publishers and not really a meaningful platform any longer. They will carry their own exclusives, they will carry some games that are available on other platforms and use social features and price to entice users to stay on their platform.

But really popular games like Call of Duty will probably end up as an exclusive on the Activision service. Nintendo is probably in the best position for this kind of future - it doesn't rely on third party titles. But PlayStation and Xbox will eventually lose a lot of their existing businesses.

Will Luton Luton & Son Founder

I think this is a patent acquisition rather than a tech one, personally.

Cloud is very likely to be the future, although it isn't there for the mass market yet. But when it is, whoever has the best patents could make life very difficult for their competitors. Plus, Sony just killed a future competitor.

So my belief is streaming will be slow coming to Sony's platforms in drips and drabs. I would expect to see it in the PS3, streaming PS4 titles, to extend the life of the legacy hardware, plus the obvious additions to TV.

I can't see it being viable in their phones and tablets just yet due to control and bandwidth limitations.

Joony Koo Head of Business Development Block Crafters

Not sure what Sony will do with it, but I'll share a few things I've discussed with friends in the industry. 

Firstly, Kakao talk, which is a free version (more like a copy) of WhatsApp made by a Korean app developer received $100 million investment a few months ago. It has over 50 million users linked with mobile phone numbers and email contacts.

The company has recently invested $25 million on their so-called 'Game Center', where users can download games from - or link through, which will be a great reach-out opportunity for game companies.

Secondly, Com2uS has acquired 30 million users on its 'hub' - an Apple Game Center equivalent. It is a great cross-promotion tool and if it finds the right algorithm to promote the right games to the right user, it will leverage their new games and published games through its hub.

Finally, I was talking to a few game companies - big names - who said, unless you have enough money to promote your title to kick start it into top 5 or top 10 rank in globally important countries like US, Japan, UK, Germany, Australia, France, Korea, you will need the kind of luck it takes to win a lottery in order to enjoy success in the game biz.

Game companies who have been stacking up their user base over the last few years have a big head start. They can utlilise this to make solid money or generate downloads on their next game. 

If you have money and are planning to invest gazillions on your future games, it's logical that you have a platform that stacks up your users or at least their devices that will become a user pool for cross promotion.

If Sony wants to be more aggressive on the Android or smartphone gaming business, it'll need a social platform that accumulates users as they spends on user acquisition.

Whether that's related to their console, honestly, I don't know and I don't really care.

Oscar Clark Consultant, Co-Founder Fundamentally Games

Oscar Clark has been a pioneer in online, mobile, and console social games services since 1998. He is also author of the book, Games As A Service – How Free To Play Design Can Make Better Games.

Sony has a social graph. The PSN Network has all the commerce elements and it has a method to play nice with Facebook - and trust me its very smartly designed.

I should clear up one thing I think may have poorly explained in my previous response - I'm not advocating the idea that Gaikai has removed the need for any hardware. I still think hardware is important for lots of reasons, including distributed computing power, local on-demand rendering, ultralow latency twitch, peer-2-peer hosting, etc.

Without a smart box the service could become slow, costly and unscalable - for may good reasons described in this thread.

However, this move could just mean that Sony could take the existing architecture, add memory and GPU performance then integrate the PSN platform with the Gaikai infrastructure to allow a whole range of new development choices.

Chuck that in with bundled TV, movie and music services and there's potential for the home entertainment centre become amazing and cheap.

But, from the perspective of game development, this will be amazing:

You want backwards compatible games on mobile? Great, do it. You want a consistent state between different devices for a cross-platform game? Great, do it You want to stream a game from any other platform? Great, do it. You want to deliver retail content digitally? Great, do it.

You still want to use physical distribution, but update it constantly through the server? Great, do it.
You want to have an account that manages any game you own allowing you to play it on any device? Great, do it. You want to offer freemium ot paymium services with virtual goods which work on all platforms? Great, do it.

I could quite literally keep at this all day. I stand by what I said earlier, this - if done right- changes all the rules. The only question is, is Sony up to the job?


With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font.

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