We’re all gamers — though some of us are better at it than others. Regardless, when it comes time to play a game, you better expect imagination to give way to a gaming console placed in front of a TV, with a controller protruding forward and a game disc inserted before anything is going to happen.
Okay, that sounds pretty “old school,” right? It’s a “next-gen” console, not a gaming console. And it’s connected to a high-definition HDTV, not a TV. And there’s a wireless controller being used so as to avoid the need for any wires whatsoever.
But maybe this is “old school 2.0.” Why not eliminate the game console altogether? Those who agree raise your hands….
So let’s consider what losing the game console SHOULD mean. First, you shouldn’t lose out on playing any of the games that you would be playing if the console was there — i.e, the “no-console” shouldn’t push back on the games that you now want to play because they’re too “techy” to handle. And you shouldn’t have to install all kinds of new technologies just to make it work — or have to maintain them either.
Gaikai has a plan to do just that. And it’s real. Or as real as a demonstration can be at the recent 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo. I’m herded into their meeting room high above the show’s hall — don’t mind the quiet lull — where two things are happening simultaneously. The first is that they’ve just put down food and lots of chocolate on a table within reach, and a sorrowful tech guy says that the E3-purchased WiFi Internet connection isn’t working. So while everybody runs around like they’ve got fleas biting their behinds, I sit on a couch with some edible goodies and reflect on what was supposed to happen. Here’s the skinny.
Gaikai is a “Cloud-based” video game service provider. By that I mean that they move content from point a (a server, in SoCal right now apparently for the show) to point B. What’s being moved is game content — which is to say the “guts” of video games, like what you’d find on a cartridge or disc. Since I saw the most recent version of Street Fighter on a Samsung HDTV as I entered the room — before the WiFi blowout — I imagine it’s not 8 bit. But I’m being jostled downstairs to where NVIDIA is demo’ing the system and the Gaikai folks want me to see it. So I dispose of the food (i.e., large swallows) and follow them down to a corner of a passageway where a HDTV is displaying a video game, complete with game controller and a lot of signs explaining what is going on.
What is going on is that the server is delivering the game in real-time through the display. I see that Samsung has a deal with Gaikai for doing this — although no real specifics have been noted. But specification wise, I do get details. You’ll need one of the Samsung “smart” HDTVs that has the hooks to handle all this, but there’s no special graphic systems running inside. After watching a few games being played that run as fast as if they were being delivered locally by a game console, I head back to the meeting room. It turns out that the WIFI is back on and the Samsung HDTV can now be used — and hey, some cookies are still there!
So I select the Gaikai service –it’ll be called “Samsung Cloud Gaming” on the Samsung — from the Internet (SmartTV) menu on the Samsung (this is still be finalized as to where you actually will go to do this — probably through their “Smart Hub” setting), grab the game controller plugged into one of the HDTV’s USB ports in my free hand and select that Street Fighter. One of the tech guys still in the room graciously consents to going head-to-head against me, after I keep losing to the ***%^$ A.I. Player. Now it’s the tech guy’s turn to go ***%^$, as I clean his clock. I even managed a really good special move that would have turned a real opponent’s head to mush (those days of playing “Mortal Kombat” are finally paying off). Graphics and sound were fine and if I hadn’t known, I would have thought a game console was hidden off to the side. But the main issue — that of latency — was where things went well. Because there wasn’t any latency problems I could blame my getting whooped on.
Now what I have learned from all this, other than you’ll need a reasonable speed to your home network (courtesy of your Internet Service provider) is that “renting” a game right there at your HDTV is defo the way to go. No storage, no muss and no buyer’s remorse, for sure. And one less electronic device to have to baby and keep from overheating. Sure you’ll need one of Samsung’s 2012 HDTVs (it won’t work with earlier models and can’t be patched to do so), but LG Electronics is also getting on board. It’s all about the game-play — not the console really – so the only reason for “brand loyalty” is whether a particular game will play on the console you’ve been forced to buy. Gaikai can throw that reason away and I say “Good riddance.”
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.