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Gaming as a Service – The Future of Cloud Gaming

Gaming as a Service

“Gaming is no child’s play; it’s big business!”

Quick, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you visualize gaming? If you are thinking “unsocial teenager whose only exercise is moving his fingers on the computer keyboard”, you are wrong. While unsocial teenagers do comprise a big chunk of the gaming market, the appeal of video/computer games transcends demographics.

Gaming’s universal appeal is why it racks up the big numbers. Since the last two years, gaming has been bringing in more revenue than Hollywood. Individual titles have outperformed the biggest blockbusters, and the trend is expected to continue. Consider this: in April 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV had grossed $310 million within 24 hours of its release – comfortably more than the most successful book (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, at $220 million in 24 hours) and the most successful film (Spider-Man 3 at $117 million). As of today, gaming is a $10 billion-plus industry.

So, where does cloud computing enter the picture?

Cloud computing is already a part of this industry, via the phenomenon of social gaming. If MMORPG doesn’t mean anything to you, it stands for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, one of the most successful human collaborations of all time. Players across the globe, from the comforts of their homes, play each other in cyberspace, cooperating and competing in titles like Age of Empires, Halo, Unreal Tournament, etc. And all this is possible due to cloud computing.

Even as the players play on their individual machines, there are distant servers which host these games and enable the shared experience. Now, there are companies which want to expand the influence of cloud computing in gaming for an enhanced user experience.

The computers used for gaming are one of the most sophisticated out there, and not without reason. A lot of processing power is required to drive those 3-D graphics, complex algorithms and artificial intelligence that modern games are equipped with. However, this has a downside. It keeps owners of less powerful machines out of the loop, and hence, out of the gaming market. Now, OnLive, a gaming company out of Palo Alto, California, is seeking to change that.

If you are familiar with SaaS, IaaS and PaaS , OnLive seeks to provide something new – GaaS or Gaming as a Service. The company seeks to reshape “the way we think about and use digital media – The shift to cloud computing, displacing the limitations, cost and complexity of local computing.”

In a nutshell, what OnLive is offering is the ability to play games through a subscription service without having to download software or worry about hardware requirements. The company first announced this unique service at the Game Developer’s Conference in June last year. At that time, OnLive’s CEO Steve Perlman said, “With OnLive we’ve cleared the last remaining hurdle for the video games industry: effective online distribution. By putting the value back into the games themselves and removing the reliance on expensive, short-lived hardware, we are dramatically shifting the economics of the industry.”

Since then, OnLive has made several popular titles available – Assassin’s Creed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mass Effect 2 – with several more in the pipeline. With existing partnerships with the big names of gaming like Electronic Arts, Atari, UbiSoft, Warner Bros. Interactive and Sega, OnLive’s portfolio is set to grow substantially. I will not be surprised if the existing leaders in gaming consoles – Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo – also decide to enter the market.

Gaming on the cloud is set to become the hottest trend of the year!

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