If you were thinking that cloud gaming was becoming just a fad (like 3D again) and will eventually die off, giving way to physical media and digital downloads, then think again. The industry is placing its bets on the cloud, enough so that various industry leaders will be gathering at the first-ever cloud gaming conference next month in San Jose, California.
For those of us who registered for the conference, we received an interesting report in the form of a Q&A with Gaikai CEO David Perry, GameStop President Tony Bartel, Electronic Arts Chief Creative Director Richard Hilleman and THQ President Brian Farrell. They provide their thoughts on four key issues that will "pave the way to cloud gaming." GameStop's Tony Bartel even talks about the company's plans for creating a small subset of gaming-optimized tablets with game controller support.
Are data centers the answer, or could games be optimized for the cloud at the development stage?
Brian Farrell (THQ): "The quality of gamers' experience "on the cloud" depends so much on how quickly and consistently they can access the network – better connections obviously translate to a better experience. It’s all about latency, and latency in an online game is dictated largely by the distance between the player and the server and the amount of data being sent over the network. So it’s our responsibility as publishers to look at the latency issue from all sides, considering data centers and developing games optimized for the cloud."
David Perry (Gaikai): "It’s got to be data centers, because you’re dealing with the speed of light. I guess that’s one of the most interesting things. There’s only two companies that have stood up GPU-based cloud networks to do this, and that’s OnLive and Gaikai." (He goes on to bash OnLive, which is like comparing apples to oranges, so we'll leave that portion out)
Demand for online games can be very unpredictable. Core games are much more resource intensive than casual games. Is scalability a concern when thinking about your move towards cloud gaming?
Richard Hilleman (EA): "I guess the question is whether it’s a thin client or a thick client project. We think that the efficiencies that underlie those systems are a continuous source of innovation that we have to work on and probably the most boring thing, because it’s pretty invisible to the customer. If you take the size of these systems, modest amounts of money become large amounts of money with small changes in those infrastructures. We’re going to pursue efficiencies because they’re very easy to realize."
Tony Bartel (GameStop): "One of the reasons that we bought Spawn Labs is it allows us to really start from the ground up and totally develop technology around our PowerUp Rewards system. We know exactly what games people have and which games they are going to be playing. We know exactly where they live, what the demand is, and who is going to be playing those games."
The full report can be downloaded here. The Cloud Gaming USA Conference and Expo in San Jose runs September 7 and 8, 2011.
Anyone excited about cloud gaming yet?