Sony set to acquire Gaikai for 'new cloud service'
For around $380
Sony Computer Entertainment have purchased the cloud gaming platform Gaikai for just $380 million, which could turn out to be a bargain for Sony when its competitor “On Live” which Microsoft was rumoured to be interested in was valued at $1.8 billion just a few months ago and it gives them a foot in the emerging market of cloud based gaming.
Gaikai allows users to play high end video games streamed from their vast cloud on a large range of devices such as computers, phones and tablets . Gaikai have been working hard to provide the fastest, lag free experience available by improving their PC technology and working with NVIDIA on a technology called GeForce GRID to reduce latency to that of a local console setup.
This isn’t particularly great news for Sony however as it means they can’t just install PS3s inside Gaikais data centres as they would not be able to then leverage Gaikais industry leading technology that provides the smoothest experience possible.
Making it work for Sony
One option for Sony would be to run PlayStation one, two and portable games via emulation on the existing servers using their emulation software.
Running PlayStation 3 games on Gaikais servers however is a different story. Third party publishers may already have PC ports available but the first party games which make the Playstation 3 attractive obviously will not. Emulating the PlayStation 3’s graphic card may not be too hard as it is similar to existing NVIDIA chips but the cell processor at the heart of the console is a unique and specialised piece of hardware. Emulating it may be too great a task for Sonys team of programmers who after six years still have not managed to implement cross game chat on the console or release the ability to use the PSP as a rear wing mirror for F1 via a small download.
The future doesn’t look too bright either if the rumours around PlayStation 4 are to be believed. The latest rumours say that Sonys next console will use an AMD processor and graphics card not one of the NVIDIA cards being used by Gaikai.
Sony could create their own Gaikai optimised PlayStation 4 hardware to sit in the datacentres or write two versions of every game, neither of which are particularly cheap or elegant solutions.
It’s not all bad
Whilst there may be significant hurdles for Sony to overcome if they want provide blockbuster titles via the cloud, doing so would solve complaints that current Playstation users have. Lengthy software updates for example have always been a complaint but if it could be done on the server side the users would never have to see an update screen again.
Sony also currently offer full length titles for free via Playstation Plus but a major problem is the size of the downloads and the installation times, if plus users could simply stream these tiles it would significantly improve the experience and make plus even more attractive than it already is.
The ability to stream demos of Sony exclusive titles on non Sony devices would also be a massive boost for the company, the Playstation 3 and Vita clearly have more impressive titles than their competitors and giving non owners a chance to experience could sell a few consoles for the company.
It would give them the ability to games to the PS Vita a small powerhouse currently being held back by the lack of quality games available for it.
It will probably be some time before we see any new products as the result of this purchase, Sony will need to get regulatory approval and also work out how they can end Gaikais agreements with competitors such as Samsung and LG. In the mean time we can watch how Microsoft and Nintendo respond to this announcement.
By Aaron Kalair