More and more, I’ve been seeing services pop up offering high-speed games, rendered on remote servers, streamed to your computer. What does that mean, you ask? Essentially, all the work that is needed to play the game is done somewhere else. Your computer only displays the games and gives the controls. OnLive, GameString, and Gaiki have all gained a suitable reputation in the past month. Here’s a quick overview of each of them.
This is the first one I got a chance to see. It markets itself as an instant game system, allowing users to play any game they want instantly (or, at least, after a purchase). And it’s true to its word. The PC client is completely free. Download it and play through a variety of free demos pretty much immediately. Their catalog is pretty extensive. You’d think streaming games would be confined to obscure, indie games, but names like Homefront, Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, and Just Cause 2. They charge for 3 and 5 day passes, as well as full game licenses. They are also trying out a new $10 a month unlimited plan. Plus, they offer a $100 console, complete with a controller, to let you play OnLive games on your TV. I tried out the PC, and although the video quality is a little grainy, it works really well overall. I was thoroughly impressed.
But I was more impressed with Gaikai. It functions a lot like OnLive, but instead of charging for games and subscriptions, the site hosts advertisements. That’s right, companies actively test your bandwidth when you visit the site, and if you meet requirements, it will offer you free game tests that stream similarly to OnLive’s games in the hopes that it will get you to buy their games. The site is offering a 90 minute demo of Mass Effect 2 (a very good game, might I add), among other great demos. Their servers are a little swamped due to the publicity they’ve received as of late, so if it takes a bit to load, give it some time.
GameString streams games to your phone. Whoa. If you have an Android phone, you can literally play server-hosted games on your device. Interface worries? The service allows for customization of your interface so that literally any game works as you want it too. There’s a nice demo of the service playing WoW on an Android smartphone below.
By the way, the awesome music in that video is by the Glitch Mob, I think. I’ve been listening to a lot of them recently, but that’s another story for another time.
Is the future in the cloud?
Perhaps. Things done for us remotely seem to be how things are moving. I’m not a huge fan, as I actually take pride in the fact that I can manage all of the software and data that I use, but for non-power users, perhaps the cloud isn’t such a bad thing. You don’t need to worry about drivers, compatibility, or system performance. It seems like a good deal in the end.