Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai is the first real step into showing the public what next-generation is going to be all about; streaming is the future, like it or not, and Sony are now well positioned to be part of gaming in the next five to ten years. Your internet might already be groaning at the thought of it, but cloud gaming will be the next big thing for you, even if it’s not already.
We’ve speculated in the past about how such a deal would mean all kinds of things to the future of the industry, but as of this morning all those pipe dreams and whimsical dreams have suddenly become much closer to reality. As of last Friday, Sony now have a hugely powerful tool at their disposal that the competition don’t – yet – and whilst many assume Microsoft will be aiming at OnLive, the first move went to PlayStation.
PlayStation, not Sony. The announcement was very much a SCE thing, and gaming – as outlined by Andrew House – is absolutely at the forefront of what the deal is all about. It’s what Gaikai is good at, and it’s what Sony are good at. The catalyst is there, the software is there, the hardware is there. All we need is a spark. A direction.
The truth is that there are now a huge number of options open to Sony, and some are more exciting than others. Gaikai have already shown that their portals can work across a number of platforms, but over the weekend they got it running in Chrome, without Java, using NaCL. This means that – in theory – it can run in a browser.
The implications for that are huge – you can play games without fuss or download just in a web browser – although transporting that to Mobile Chrome may take a little longer.
We’d assume that Sony will now have a say in which platforms Gaikai ends up on (you’ll remember a recent deal with Samsung for their TVs, for example) and will obviously be pushing them towards PS3, PS Vita and beyond, but with practical hurdles out of the way, let’s just throw this out there: you’ll be able to play your PlayStation 3 games during your lunch time at work – in a browser, without having your PS3 with you.
Or even switched on.
Extrapolating, what’s to say that there won’t be a Gaikai client for Vita. Will we be playing The Last Of Us on the move, without actually needing to download gigabytes of Naughty Dog’s code, audio and textures? I’m a mobile gamer first and foremost, my time in front of the TV set somewhat limited, so if this is purely just a reinvention of Remote Play I’ll be a happy camper, and there’s technically no reason why this won’t be a reality that I can think of.
Sticking with PlayStation 3 – how about time-limited demos? How about looking at a game on the PSN Store that’s ten gigabytes to download and £40 – but rather than relying on reviews and a hefty chunk of your monthly allowance out of the window you simply just click ‘try now’ and Gaikai will let you play the game, immediately, and for an hour. For free. To me that’s invaluable, and hopefully high up the list of what Sony are thinking of.
The Vita, too, could get instant playable demos of its own games.
And then there’s software emulation – having a rack of top spec PCs kicking out the entire PlayStation library of PS1 and PS2 games direct to your Vita and PS3, or taking this further: acting as a virtual console for other manufacturers’ games. Daydreaming, perhaps, but I’d love to come home from work and fire up Shenmue on the Dreamcast, via my Vita, whilst relaxing on the sofa. Technically, this is now absolutely possible.
The biggest idea is one we’ve discussed before, though: PlayStation 4. Whether or not PS4 is a dumb terminal that simply streams games or whether it’s a fully featured disc-based console doesn’t really matter – streaming will be a major part of that experience and anyone doubting this shift in the industry is going to find themselves left behind quickly. It’ll instantly solve any backwards compatibility issues, for example, and might even push forwards compatibility.
Forwards? Yep, how about being able to see what PS4 can do from the PS3? Time limited demos, real time snapshots of Uncharted 4 or Gran Turismo 6, as obvious examples. Assuming there’s not a big difference in the controller setup between PS3 and PS4 (it’s likely to almost identical) the end user won’t know any difference aside from the obvious limitations in terms of screen fidelity that streaming often presents.
Regardless of what happens right now, the future of gaming has changed forever, and Sony will know this. Let’s not forget that Sony aren’t exactly doing well for cash at the moment – if this Gaikai deal means that PlayStation 4 can stay as top of the line (and – crucially – updateable) PC devkits housed somewhere underground and not as hugely expensive to manufacture home consoles, they’re almost certainly onto a winner.
Sony no longer need a PS4. We’ll be able to play next-gen games in a browser, on a Vita, on a tablet. It’s a brave move, although not unexpected – the question is what, or who, is next?