With the service, led by famed game developer Dave Perry, now out in the open, Big Download cought up with him to get more info about Gaikai's future, how Perry feels about that other streaming game service OnLive and more.
Editors note: The interview was conducted just prior to GDC 2011 this week
First, how does it feel to have the general public finally get access to what Gaikai can offer?
It's great, we've been paying companies like CombatTesting.com, Centercode.com and Testronic.com to test Gaikai for several months, we've been saving our signed-up testers to play the games, not just to QA them. It's great to be able to finally invite them all to play. (There will be a flurry of emails going out over the next 48 hours, 20,000 at a time.)
The line-up includes some EA game demos including demos of titles like Spore, The Sims 3 and Dead Space 2 that didn't have regular downloadable PC demos released. Was that the intention to show what Gaikai can do?
Yes, with GDC hitting this week, we need people to see that we are very serious and are investing a huge amount of effort into this. I remember making games when it just took 1 person, and right now there are over 50 full time people (plus lots of contractors) working on just this tech. Done right it will fundamentally change how easily high performance software can be accessed in your browser.
We have plenty more games coming, we will also quickly demonstrate we can stream just about anything including applications. EA is incredibly focused on building their digital future and they've done a great job as they take on each platform/device. By supporting us the way they have, they are making sure they will play a lead role in cloud based gaming as well. In response we are happy to drive as many sales their way as we possibly can, and our goal is to make sure that everyone tries all of their games.
Right now about how many countries can access Gaikai's demos and how many server locations does Gaikai have?
USA, Canada, England, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, The Netherlands, Sweden, Australia, Japan, Korea are live and China is next. We currently have 24 data centers live and we run 4 networks. (Live Development / Staging (Testing) / Demoing / Production.)
What other game demos can we expect to see using the Gaikai service in the next few months?
Well that's the big question. Some of the publishers gave me a challenge last September, and I accepted it. The challenge was to run the highest end games, on "ultra" settings, at 60 frames per second with no work needing to be done by them. We decided to delay our launch and have been hammering away on this challenge. The result was we needed to design a 2nd kind of server, what we call the "Zero Day" server that lets publishers get their titles streaming immediately, it also allows stereoscopic 3D streaming amongst other things. (We have brought some to GDC and they will be deployed from our production line in the next 90 days.)
You are going to be at GDC this week. What will be shown at the show in terms of Gaikai features?
Our focus will be showing a whole slew of new games we've not shown before, we want to show the capability of our new server design. We will also do Facebook demos to show just how well that works. We were recently at CES and showed lots of other devices/platforms running, but at GDC our focus is games and getting as many people as we possibly can to try them.
You have been highly critical of OnLive's streaming game service but in a recent interview its CEO Steve Perlman said that the company is already profitable. At the moment how do you see Gaikai competing against the service in the future?
Onlive and Gaikai have been positioned as direct competitors, which really isn't the case. We just decided to go very different directions, they have built their own service, we are trying to enable everyone else to have their own cloud services. Onlive has done a great job so far. It's a small industry, I have some close friends that work there and have great respect for what they have accomplished. In reality, and I know this sounds really crazy, but if Onlive is looking to buy players, that's what Gaikai supplies, we just try to bring down the costs of buyers and friction for gamers. So instead of seeing us as competitors, I see us as both working very hard to make sure that cloud gaming gets the support and attention it needs to grow. I'm often reminded of that saying that a rising tide lifts all boats.
Ultimately many people believe that streaming games to set-top boxes or TVs could be the future of the gaming industry. Do you see that happening and if so when will we see that transition take place?
Cloud gaming generates a video stream, so any device that can accept & display that video stream (in realtime) can play games. We support Windows/Mac/Linux in all the major browsers, that's not been a trivial amount of work. So I think it's really in the interest of the gamer that they can always reach the content they love, I often joke that the most hardcore World of Warcraft players love the game so much, they would take the game to the bathroom or to bed if they could (on their iPad), with cloud gaming that's immediately possible.
Finally is there anything else you wish to say at Gaikai's launch?
Make sure to sign up at Gaikai.com and we will email you when new games to help test when they are added. Our service costs nothing, we just want to make sure you try everything good that comes out.