For now, the beta service is currently only available to Facebook users located in North America and Europe, offering five playable demos: Orcs Must Die (USA & Europe), Farming Simulator 2011 (USA & Europe), Magicka (USA & Europe), Saints Row The Third (USA) and Dead Rising 2 Off The Record (USA). Full game streams and popular MMOGs will be available soon as well as demos of Sniper - Ghost Warrior (USA & Europe) and The Witcher 2 - Assassins of Kings (USA & Europe).
"People don’t want to leave Facebook to play games – Zynga’s phenomenal success is proof of that," Perry said. "Cloud Gaming means that the game doesn’t need to be downloaded and run on your computer, it literally means the game runs out on the internet, in the cloud, with the experience being streamed to the players. Most video game publishers are now seeking to grow their digital customer base and unlike movie and music services like Netflix and Spotify, Gaikai gives the game publishers relationships with the customers."
Unlike OnLive which offers a closed network, Gaikai merely provides the streaming technology so that publishers can offer their products anywhere. Up until now, Gaikai has only coughed up demos on certain websites including Walmart, Best Buy and EA's Origin store. But providing full-fledged PC games via Facebook means users will likely be able to purchase streaming titles within the social network using a credit card or Facebook credits. These games will probably be tied into the Facebook account itself much like they would be if purchased through another digital distribution platform like Steam and GamersGate.
That said, this could be bad news for said distribution platforms. Not only do these titles not require high-end hardware to produce high-end results, but there's already a built-in social network connecting gamers across the world. Even more, these games will likely be playable on tablets given publishers and developers implement touchscreen controls. Limitations are seemingly lifted on the consumer end, and only bottlenecked by Gaikai's own servers rendering the actual games.
"Gaikai’s technology allows us to deliver our games to a wider audience," stated Kevin Kraff, Vice President of Global Brand Management at THQ. "As content creators it’s not only paramount that we give our players great entertainment but also that we give them a choice in how they access it. Streaming inside Facebook is not only revolutionary, but is something that both new and existing players will benefit from."
Gaikai's deal with Facebook could pose a serious problem for OnLive too. By comparison, OnLive customers can purchase streaming PC and console games within OnLive's network, simply choose to rent titles for three or five days, or pay a monthly subscription for the PlayPack Bundle. Accessing OnLive is free, but users are required to download and install a "player" to receive the gaming stream. The service also offers a standalone hardware receiver "console," a wireless controller for connecting straight to an HDTV, and apps for iOS and Android.
Does all this streaming technology spell certain doom for the PC hardware market? Not at all. As Nvidia pointed out to us last year, there will always be a place for the high-end gaming rig. What this means is that publishers can now develop high end games while still generating revenue from the mid-range and low-end consumer base that previously wasn't available. It's also a good way to combat piracy.
To play a handful of PC game demos within Facebook, head here.