Sony Buys Gaikai: The Impact On Mobile Gaming
What does the future hold for cloud-gaming on mobiles?
Yesterday Sony acquired Gaikai, one of the leading providers of cloud-gaming. In doing so, it took a huge step forward in changing the way we play console games, but what does it mean for mobile and tablet gaming with this key provider removed from the equation?
Cloud-gaming has always been a question for the future given the incredible variation in broadband quality, not just across the world but within individual countries. No single console maker or publisher is about to throw all of its eggs in one basket as long as such a huge gulf exists between users.
While a lag-free, reliable, next-gen cloud-gaming experience may be a question for the future, it's also only a question of time: broadband speeds and performance continue to improve both in the home and on the road.
For mobile gaming in the here and now, this acquisition puts the ball firmly in Sony's court. We shouldn't expect to see next-gen visuals on the Vita anytime soon, but buying Gaikai will make it harder for games to be played on devices that aren't aligned with Sony's vision for bringing its good fortune in gaming to the rest of its struggling empire.
Instead, the technology will likely be used to provide backwards-compatibility for Sony's huge and impressive back-catalog, available to be played on any of their devices (or those of their preferred partners) that can support it.
Bad news, then, for anyone hoping to play a wider variety of high-fidelity games on their mobiles. But there is another cloud-gaming monster on the horizon and it's still up for grabs: OnLive, who are no doubt feeling rather excitable today. The company has experimented with touchscreen apps in the past, although the experience has always left something to be desired.
Apple itself has its own cloud-computing capabilities but they're a very different beast to the systems needed to deliver high-definition, highly-responsive gaming onto mobiles. With the financial clout the tech giant has, grabbing a slice of OnLive before Microsoft does may be a sound decision that could radically transform their gaming business. Let's not forget that Apple has big ambitions of its own when it comes to providing the ultimate entertainment experience in the living room as well as on the move.
Sony's decision to purchase Gaikai might in the short-term mean a delay in streaming the latest-gen games to mobile devices, or it might just kick-start the process and bring that future a little bit closer. It may also spur Microsoft into snapping up OnLive before Apple or EA do. If that happens, the future of cloud-gaming on an open mobile market appears even less rosy, ignoring the practical limitations of connection quality.
It's hard to believe that Gaikai and OnLive have ever been intended to represent a true cloud-gaming solution for gamers like you and I, even by the creators. The input and feedback responsiveness is lacking, and the visual quality suffers far too much in the transmission, even on a solid home connection.
Instead they're proofs of concept, designed for a point that lies off in the future, and to be purchased as an off-the-shelf solution for whenever a mainstream gaming tech company gets an itch that now might be the time to invest in a little infrastructure, and test the waters for cloud-gaming.
Either way, the cloud-gaming future got a little bit closer as of yesterday. It's easy to feel pessimistic about what this might mean for mobile gaming, but there's an equal chance that this progressive move will spur others into action, and ultimately change the way games are played by everyone.
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