Gaikai founder David Perry says Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo will never support the cloud-based gaming service OnLive because it’s competing directly with their services and threatening to take away their market share.
Unveiled at GDC, OnLive uses “cloud computing,” which involves transmitting user input and video back and forth over a high-speed network to remote servers that handle the actual gameplay chores, to offer on-demand gaming without requiring any kind of high-end gaming hardware. The service is intended to work on conventional desktop and laptop PCs or, for people who don’t even have that, a “micro-console” provided by OnLive.
But according to Perry, who took the wraps off his competing system Gaikai the next day, OnLive will be hobbled by a lack of support from Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, who are bound to see it as a direct competitor. “A pretty obvious difference between Gaikai and OnLive is the fact that they’ll never have a Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft game on their system,” Perry said in an interview with Develop. “OnLive is trying to directly compete with the platform holders. It’s trying to rule the living room.”
“The OnLive team are positioning it as something where you won’t need a PS3, Xbox 360 or Wii any more; you can just have their box,” he continued. “OnLive’s model is to try and make a micro-console. If they succeed in doing so, they will take away some market share from the other platform holders.”
Furthermore, Perry claimed publishers “aren’t excited by the OnLive model” because even if it does succeed in cutting into the market share of the Big Three console makers, it will only serve to shuffle the audience around rather than grow it meaningfully. “It’s not like the industry will see 100 million new consumers, but just the same ones who have moved to a fourth console,” he said.
Gaikai, on the other hand, is different because it’s “a service for publishers to find new audiences,” Perry explained. “My goal is to get people playing these games for free, until people either buy the console, buy the game, or decide to start paying for the game. That’s the biggest differentiator between OnLive and us; we’re not a portal at all, we’re a service.”
“We’re not in any way trying to get between publishers and platform holders. We’re not trying to interfere with their policies,” he continued. “We don’t have to go to publishers and say [mocking tone] ‘Would you please, please license your games to us?’ I don’t want their games, they put their games on our service. I showed all the main publishers at E3 and let them all play, and three of them offered to fund us during the demo.”
I have to admit to being a bit confused about his point. If Gaikai customers can play these games free, without the need for a console, what’s the incentive to ever buy either? And how is Gaikai’s promise of “no-console” gaming fundamentally different than that of OnLive? From the perspective that both OnLive and Gaikai promise high-end gaming without the need for high-end hardware, I don’t see the console manufacturers being terribly thrilled about the prospect of either.