Sony's gone and bought up cloud-gaming service Gaikai for an alarming $380 million. The acquisition would allow Sony to bring instantly streaming game and video content to the Playstation 3, Vita, PSP and, well, anything with a Sony badge on it really. Naturally, the hardware giant is quite pleased about the news, with SCE boss Andrew House promising "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.
Gaikai is Earthworm Jim designer David Perry's browser-based, cloud-gaming platform. What's a cloud-gaming platform? It's like a giant computer in the sky who'll do all the hard graphics calculations that your piddling laptop cannot before streaming the resulting frames directly to you. It's like playing somebody else's PC games via a webcam. So like its closest competitor OnLive, it allows players to play full-resolution PC games in a browser window with a minimal - in certain cases negligable - amount of lag. I probably don't have to explain that to you, but there you go.
Where it shines is in its ability to near-instantly transition players from browsing a game's website to playing a full-screen, in-browser demo - it's a superb promotional tool. And because game content is always 100% server-side (all your PC is doing is decoding a video stream), piracy and other DRM issues are moot. This is likely the toe that Sony will dip into the game-streaming pond: delivering instant access to demos and short casual titles on their GameStation portables.
Where it concerns PC gamers is in whether or not Gaikai's new purse-string handlers will begin to limit the service to Sony products, withdrawing it from its current position as an open platform, a publisher agnostic supporter of everything from Ubisoft's Rayman Origins and EA's Mass Effect 3 to Microsoft's Alan Wake. That would be a monstrously dumb move for Sony to make, one that would decimate Gaikai's value and leave PC gamers with OnLive, which is itself heavily rumoured to be flirting with Microsoft in a bid to strike a similar deal to Sony's and Gaikai's.
Streaming games to our PCs is still a far-flung, problem-addled future-tech, but time will tell whether the two biggest game-streaming services shacking up with platform holders will bring cloud-based PC gaming closer to reality, or push it yet further away.
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