Game changers: Gaikai

Game changers: Gaikai
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

September 15th 2010 at 8:00AM

Dave Perry on how accessible cloud gaming could reshape every facet of the industry

Gaikai’s vision of accessible high-end cloud gaming is a simple, bold concept born from founder David Perry’s belief that distribution has a lot to learn from other industries. Consumers test drive cars, argues Perry, and flick through magazines in the newsagent before they take them to the counter, so why not games?

“A big problem with gaming is the latest games always come with friction, meaning for consumers it’s going to the store, waiting for mail, having to register or to download some monster file,” Perry suggests.

“Time is precious, and people are becoming more impatient than ever; just see how many people abort when their YouTube video starts to stutter. Gaming loses countless players the same way, so the first sign of friction and people bail.”

Sighting FarmVille’s barnstorming momentum as a case in point for the potential of convenience as a keystone of a game’s success, Perry is clearly an ambitious man. If Gaikai can make accessing major new titles normally confined to a disk or swollen download file as successful as Zynga’s best, it could be that cloud gaming will join the likes of the Wii and 360 as a ‘proper’ format in the public and wider industry’s conscious.

It’s certainly an endearing proposition, and one that could give the entire ecosystem of game development, publication and distribution an invigorating shake up.

GAME PLAN
“Gaikai is designed for the web,” says Perry. “It uses the idea that you shouldn’t bring the gamer to the game, you should bring the game to the gamer. It sounds simple but it is a paradigm change in the cost of acquiring players and it’s a million times more convenient for gamers.”

Attracting more players for less money sounds like a very good deal for developers. With Gaikai subscriptions being free for the player, and players able to Tweet a friend without any game download a URL that will have them playing in seconds, it certainly sounds like the platform could be a great boon for the industry.

What Gaiaki must do is forge relationships with developers. It’s going to be a tough gig, but Perry has something on his side.

“When you are old like me, you hold on to the one benefit, that’s having lots of industry friends,” states Perry. “After all these years, I’ve met thousands of people, and that helps a lot when I need to get meetings with decision makers. So far every publisher I’ve spoken to really likes what we are doing.

“The first major publisher deal was with Electronic Arts; they signed up lots of their key franchises and paid for the service in advance. They really understand the value of getting all of the friction out of the system and want to let their gamers play instantly and share.”

A DECENT PROPOSAL
Winning round giants like EA is a huge step for Gaikai, and testament to its ability, but what about the proletariat developers working the front line of games making? According to Perry, they will warm to the idea there’s a technical solution about to become available that can massively increase the reach of their games.

That sounds a reasonable selling point. Add the fact that Gaikai don’t charge anything for clicks or for finding, and it could be that many more teams are won round to Perry’s intrepid new vision for gaming.

But, really, is Gaikai evoking all that much excitement in people?

“The cloud is a hot space right now,” insists Perry, adding: “It’s like crazy nuclear hot. I have investors calling constantly as they understand the value proposition. I’ve been so damn lucky in my career to be at the right place at the right time. I got the rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and it totally changed the course of my career, then Aladdin, then the Matrix when it was the hottest movie franchise.”

Perry’s conviction that cloud gaming represents the future is what makes Gaikai stand out as a company. He and his colleagues’ unflinching dedication to the concept has brought them a long way, and with the momentum and support they are already courting, it looks like they will go a great deal further.

“Convenience and price are huge to consumers,” concludes Perry. “I bet if we can get the price of gaming down, and make it 100 times more convenient. Then cloud gaming will become how most of us check out digital games and even tools and software applications.”

www.gaikai.com