Amid all the excitement of the PS4 announcement, Sony also made a strong case for cloud gaming. Nate Hales reports on its plans
On February 20, Sony officially began the next generation of consoles by announcing the PlayStation 4. With that announcement, it revealed its plans for recently acquired cloud gaming service Gaikai and the vision seems like it could have a long-term impact on gaming. While many questions remain, it seems like Sony has a clear plan for the future and it looks bright and instantaneous.
Of course, the main reason to obtain a service like Gaikai is obvious, to make games available to people wherever they are without needing a huge hard drive to store them all. Cloud gaming has been somewhat of a myth to gamers, with a lot of little companies trying to breakthrough. However, the PS4 seems to be the first real test for this new idea. Combine this technology with something the size of Sony’s PS1, PS2 and PS3 catalog and you’ve got something really powerful. You could theoretically play Twisted Metal: Black on a variety of Sony devices from anywhere, no waiting. While no timelines were given, it was stated that eventually Sony’s sizeable backlog of games would be available through the service.
Another advantage that Sony brought to light was the concept of “instant availability”. With Gaikai’s technology, players would be able to demo games immediately, no downloads needed. Simply find what you are looking for, press a button and get to playing. The same can be said for any downloadable titles you purchase. Sony and Gaikai have figured out a way to allow you to play a game while it downloads in the background, no waiting. Gaikai founder Dave Perry said, ”With Gaikai, you’ll be able to instantly experience anything you want.”
This always on and instantly available service puts Sony in a unique position for a couple of reasons. Research has suggested that the tendency to impulse buy online is lesser because the would be consumer cannot get any hands on time with the product. Console manufactures attempted to remedy this with demos, but the barrier of time was still a factor because you needed to wait for the demo to download. In that time, the urge to purchase has passed. Sony has now eliminated that barrier by allowing you to test drive instantly. Combine that with the new personalization factor and Sony has created an optimal selling environment where it suggests things you like and you try them instantly, increasing the likelihood you will purchase.
Also, it would seem that Sony has a leg up on its competitor, Microsoft, in this arena. Microsoft has been relatively silent on its cloud-gaming future, announcing a partnership with Agawi to deliver social and mid-tier games, but this was for Windows 8 and it remains to be seen what this means for Xbox. If Sony has managed to catch Microsoft off-guard with this technology it may go a long way to re-establishing Sony at the top of the console heap.
Gaikai is also the technology on top of which Sony will be building its new social features. Players will be able to capture and upload gameplay video with the press of a button and Gaikai makes that possible. Sony is also looking to make the entire gaming experience more social with the ability to livestream with your friends. With the ever-increasing connection between players separated by hundreds or thousands of miles, the social aspect of gaming has become extremely important. Sites like Twitch.tv and Ustream are growing quite rapidly and Sony is building this type of service right into its next generation console.
These promises seem farfetched, but Sony appeared quite confident in its ability to deliver them to gamers everywhere when they revealed the PS4. It’s a future that sounds like the best for gamers. Quality content, that is relevant to you, instantly available and accessible almost anywhere. If Sony can keep its promises then everyone wins.
Follow Nate on Twitter: @nhales80