What GaiKai means for PlayStation – how the cloud-save service will transform gaming
Earlier today, Sony announced that – subject to dotting some Kratos-sized ‘I’s and crossing a few wider-than-Fat-Princess ‘T’s – it had acquired cloud-based service Gaikai for $380 million. It’s a transaction that’s been rumoured for weeks, so now that the ink is closed to drying on one of Sony’s ever deals, what does it mean for PlayStation’s future?
Firstly, it’s a blockbuster move. I know: well, duh. But it’s worth emphasising. This isn’t just a purchase intended to supplement your PlayStation experience, like Mobile on HTC phones. Instead, it will shape the future of Sony’s line-up – and not just in terms of hardware.
Currently you play games on PS3 either by buying them on Blu-ray, or downloading them from PlayStation Network and then installing them on your machine. Despite whispers that discs are soon do be deader than the cassingle, that’s unlikely to change, at least not for another generation. But Gaikai means you’ll also be playing PlayStation games in an entirely new way for the format: streaming.
In theory, Sony can upload its entire back catalogue onto the wide world web and give you access to it through Gaikai. Finished God Of War: Origins Of Ascension 3? Sony owning its own cloud system means you’ll be able to go back and play all the old games without owning them on disc or waiting an age for them to download.
Of course, it’ll take a long time for Sony and Gaikai to build up that back catalogue – but the possibility is very much there. And you don’t pay nearly four hundred million big ones for a product unless you’re planning colossal things for it.
But here’s the really exciting bit: you almost certainly won’t even need a PS4 to play those classic games, or indeed new ones. The Gaikai move further cements Sony’s switch to a ‘four screen strategy’ – first mooted by then-CEO Howard Stronger in late 2011 – where you can enjoy the company’s games not only on its traditional home console, but also tablet, phone and PC. (And have each sync with the other.)
So you might start a season of FIFA 16 on PS4, get kicked upstairs because the wife wants to watch Latvia’s Next Top Model and continue on PC, then continue on your mobile en route to work the next morning. This isn’t a pipe dream, either: EA is already in partnership with Gaikai, so football 24/7 is a very realistic prospect. And Need For Speed. And Battlefield. And so on.
Before you say it: it does sound a lot like iOs. And it has to, because the Apple model has proven an incredible success and isn’t going to be beaten anytime soon. What Sony can do is adopt a similar approach towards its own products and games, and reap similar benefits. Indeed it needs to if it’s to avoid repeating PS3’s early teething problems.
And just as Apple model has turned many to buying 69p games over £39.99, Sony’s Gaikai purchase means we’ll likely see a new pricing structure in place by the time PS4 rolls around – if not sooner. As Daniel Dawkins explains on our sister site CVG:
“Sony, effectively, could become Sky TV, with a radical shake up in its pricing. You might pay, say, £12 a month for the standard PlayStation streaming service, then £3 for the ‘shooters’ or ‘sports’ or ‘retro’ channel.”
It’s another means of upsizing the PlayStation universe, while retaining everything already in it: you’ll still be able to buy and rent games in whatever format you please. But now you’ll have even more choice, not only in terms of what you play, but how you access it.
This isn’t a change that’ll happen tomorrow – infrastructure in the UK just isn’t at the level it needs to be for cloud gaming to eliminate all other types. (Hence why those shiny round silver things aren’t disappearing anytime soon.) But it’s the first big step towards Sony expanding its empire in a new direction, and one with incredible untapped potential.
The internet is endless. Soon PlayStation will be too.