“What would you rather do: harvest corn, or chainsaw a zombie in the face? Yeah, us too”, Gaikai boldly claims. While the intensity of this question is pretty much nullified by the fact that Dead Rising 2 is advertised directly alongside Farming Simulator 2011, Gaikai’s new Facebook streaming app will allow even the most casual gamer to delve into hardcore PC and console titles.
While services like OnLive have been offering cloud gaming services since 2010, Gaikai aims to make cloud gaming even easier by allowing streaming straight from Facebook itself. The app, now in beta, allows any Facebook user to play demos for cutting-edge console-quality games. All a user needs to start streaming is a Facebook account, decent internet, and an updated version of Java.
What’s truly striking about this technology is that a high-end graphics card isn’t needed to play a high-end game. “Cloud Gaming means that the game doesn’t need to be downloaded and run on your computer, it literally means the game runs out on the internet, in the cloud, with the experience being streamed to the players”, said David Perry, CEO of Gakai. Through the cloud, we were able to preview games like The Witcher 2, Saints Row: The Third, and yes, even Farming Simulator 2011. While there is a small amount of “grain” when streaming each game (sort of how Netflix streaming isn’t quite HD), most games on Gaikai looked surprisingly good.
While Gaikai currently only offers demos via streaming, we’re eager to see if Gaikai can release a complete OnLive-like experience through Facebook alone.
This system isn’t perfect. For example, we played the demo for Saints Row: The Third on a Mac, but were offered options to buy the physical game for PC, Xbox 360, and PS3 only. Until Gaikai can offer the ability to purchase and stream complete games through its Facebook app, its primarily casual gamer audience will be unlikely to own a PC powerful enough to play games outside of the cloud.
If Gaikai can figure out a system for selling games within its Facebook app alone, however, things will get much more interesting. How will casual gamers react when they learn that they can stream top-of-the-line console titles without owning a powerful PC or a console? If Zynga has proved anything, it’s that casual gamers love being able to play their games while staying connected to their social networks. Gaikai is just a few steps away from delivering this same concept on a very large scale.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in seeing how Gaikai works, check out their Facebook app and see the game streaming technology for yourself. It’s surprising how clear games transfer, and it just might be the first steps to something very, very big.