Gaikai aiming for first-party console games

Q&A: Veteran developer David Perry talks to GameSpot about his streaming game service Gaikai, what makes it different from OnLive, and juggling his many responsibilities.

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Earlier today, David Perry posted a demonstration video of his new game-streaming service Gaikai on his personal blog. The video showed him streaming a variety of games, from Mario Kart 64 to World of Warcraft, in a simple browser window.

David Perry.
David Perry.

But for all the demo showed, it also raised questions as to how Gaikai differs from previously announced streaming service OnLive, when Perry's new project will find its way to market, and how much publisher cooperation the technology has already. GameSpot posed all these questions to Perry, with the veteran designer offering his own answers in prompt fashion.

GameSpot: What's the difference between this and OnLive?

David Perry: OnLive is going after the living room audience. They plan to fight with Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all at the same time, which won't be easy. 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. 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, and Microsoft reach out and draw in new audiences, where OnLive will never get first-party titles. We are not in competition with anyone; we are a service that just changes what's possible.

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 and developers change the way people discover their games.

GS: What's the business model for Gaikai? Are you expecting to collect money from the end users through a subscription or one-time deal? Or are you looking instead to just sell the technology to other companies and let them worry about how to sell it to an end user?

DP: The publishers can save a fortune [emphasis his] on advertising if they use our tech. Our goal is to use some of that money to let gamers play for free, then it's up to the publisher and the game on how they charge. There's nothing more valuable than getting consumers to actually experience your product, and we will deliver that in spades. You are correct: We are the service, and we just make it all possible.

GS: How many publishing partners do you have on board?

DP: To be clear, unlike OnLive, we are not licensing anything. The publishers host the games on our service, so we don't need to sign any licensing deals. All publishers and developers can use this day one. During my demos at E3, three of them offered to fund this company during the live demo, so that gives you an idea of how interested they are.

GS: When are you expecting to launch to the public?

DP: Closed beta will be in California, and depending on how smoothly that goes, the open beta will go nationwide. [We are] not setting timing yet as we are still negotiating final bandwidth and power costs. The more buzz this gets, the lower those rates will go.

GS: Are you having to put your GameInvestors, Acclaim, or other responsibilities on the backburner to focus on Gaikai?

DP: No, everything I'm involved in is backed up with great, very talented people doing the hard work. GameInvestors is looking stunning, and I look forward to doing that reveal soon. Acclaim has over 10 million players, and now we are investing very heavily into developing games with no friction (a theme in my life now). Multiple companies around the world have started licensing our latest Rockfree game before we've even finished developing it. So with all the partnerships, we are going to have an incredible amount of player traffic during the next 6 to 12 months. The game is still in development, but you can see the progress at the Rockfree Web site. We were one of the first companies pushing free to play, and I think it's starting to become a serious reality here in the USA. The next step is reducing friction, and that's where our focus is now, both Gaikai and Acclaim.

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