Let’s face it: Upgrading a perfectly fine PC every year sucks. I’m still playing on my 4-year old gaming rig (not on high details and not the AAA titles, of course) but I do the rest of my daily routine on a small eeeBox running GNU/Linux. However, sometimes I’d like to play without booting up my gaming rig, searching for DVDs or waiting for Steam to finish a download. And I want to play on high detail, of course.
With OnLive and Gaikai this could become very much a choice. These services allow players to “stream” live games without installing them, without having to have the necessary graphic cards – all you need is a broadband internet connection.
While OnLive has had a very bad start with me (me being European and therefore undeserving of their service), Gaikai Inc.’s Gaikai service does allow European players to stream games live from the web.
Yesterday I got my beta pass to play the demos of Dead Space 2 and Mass Effect 2. The demos are limited to 30 minutes each – more than enough time to get a good view on the games and the cool technology Gaikai uses.
Remember that I’m on GNU/Linux here? Good. All you really need is a browser, the Flash plugin and Java.
The graphic quality is very good. I couldn’t get full-screen mode to work but expect this to be fixed before Gaikai goes gold. Sound is great, the response times for the controls are somewhat mushy – however that could also be due to the nature of the games. I remember Dead Space being fucking annoying in terms of controls and Mass Effect certainly wasn’t much better. So I guess I’d have to see Team Fortress II or some other adrenaline-loaded shooter to really make a call here.
So is this a service I’d use? Currently it’s hard to say. If Gaikai Inc. manages to get an all-genre catalogue of the cool & hip stuff from the publishers and translates their subscription model to a Crunchyroll-like “season pass” model, I certainly see myself tempted to use it. I’m already buying digital content from Steam, so why not skip the “upgrade, download, patch” cycle and go with Gaikai? At least for single-player games this is probably a good choice.
As for multi-player games… I think Steam is and will always be the platform of choice. People don’t want to be at disadvantage with even a few more milliseconds of input latency, so I don’t see cloud-gaming services in this sector.
I hope publishers will see the advantage of Gaikai’s services. Deploying demo versions of current generation games is nearly impossible (due to the size and complexity of the games) – so Gaikai is an attractive option. It also reduces the problem of piracy and ensures that people will always have the latest patches available.
The next year will be interesting. OnLive will finally start it’s European service (apparently), Gaikai may go live – it will be interesting to see which one of these services will make it easier to play on every platform and operating system. The games catalogue will be an interesting criteria as well. Let’s wait and see.