The promise of OnLive, which has been shown to work in hands-on demo sessions experienced by Kotaku editors, is that it would enable high-def gaming on any TV or laptop capable of receiving a broadband signal, thanks to patented technology and cloud computing.
OnLive could someday make the need to own a home console obsolete.
Dave Perry said that Gaikai, the streaming Dutch technology group that he is a co-founder of, is not simply a me-too.
In a video on his site today, he showed how it worked, streaming games such as Spore and an emulated Mario Kart 64 to his home PC. Video games — or applications like PhotoShop — are accessed in a browser window as if the user was accessing programs running off their own computer. All the processing happens elsewhere, on remote services, but it feels live and local.
But isn't that, essentially OnLive?
"OnLive is going after the living room audience," Perry said. "They plan to fight with Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo all at the same time. They also have to buy every player through marketing, and if they do well, they just steal some market share from Nintendo/Sony or Microsoft. There's no big paradigm change."
What Perry wants to do with Gaikai is provide it to publishers to make their games available to any of those publishers' customers through a web browser. That, he said, would change things by freeing games from the narrow pipelines of consoles and high-end PCs they are currently available through.
"When the iPhone made access to applications and games really easy, it changed everything, they generated a billion downloads on a phone. We plan to do the same for professional games, but online. The iPhone takes two taps (download, wait to install and play.) We are just one click and Spore or Photoshop pops up. Publishers like this idea. So our positioning allows us to help Nintendo / Sony / Microsoft reach out and draw in new audiences, where OnLive will never get 1st Party titles."
So an EA or a Nintendo would use it to let people play Spore or Mario Kart from any computer with a strong enough Internet connection (Perry's claiming that 1mbps works for "most games.") The resolution that the game would play at would be at the publisher's discretion, though Perry says HD is an option. Perry also said that multiplayer is possible and has been tested successfully already.
The motivation for the service, in Perry's words, is "to make games available everywhere, with just one click." He said that casinos, doctors and the military have all inquired but that he primarily wants this service accessible for gamers.
Here's the vision he foresees:
"The convenience we offer really matters. How many YouTube videos would you watch if you had to keep going to YouTube.com and search for them? Or how many would you watch if you had to register before playing each one. How many would you play if you had to download the entire video before you play? This is stuff our industry expects you to do, but that has to end if we want to grow our games virally like Youtube has done. It's changed how we interact with video on the web. Gaikai can help publishers & developers change the way people discover their games."
Perry says the video posted today is just the first glimpse of the service. He's planning speeches this month and next to reveal more of the plans for Gaikai.
With OnLive and Gaikai in development, gaming's future just might be in the clouds.
I've checked with Perry about when he hopes Gaikai will be available for gamers and will update this story with any added info.
[UPDATE: Perry wants beta testers. In California fir a closed beta, then in all of the US for an open beta and launch. Then it's coming to Europe. Interested parties can register via Gaikai.com. Perry says those interested should mention Kotaku. We hope he won't hold that against you.]