A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about 3 companies that will provide Games on Demand namely OnLive, OTOY, and Gaikai. There is another service that is related but not directly, its called Spawn Labs. Spawn Labs calls its product a sling box for games. They sell their box for $199.95. Here is a video and description of their service:
At the simplest level, the Spawn HD-720 captures audio and video from the console and streams these signals with extremely low latency to the Spawn Player across the network, and the Spawn Player receives and plays these video and audio streams on your computer. The gamepad connected to the USB port on your computer passes gamepad control signals through the Spawn Player across the network through the Spawn HD-720 and into the game console. So audio/video is going one way, and gamepad control actions are going the other way across the network. The Spawn Labs website helps to manage secure access to the game consoles, but connections, once made between the Spawn HD-720 and the Spawn Player, are point-to-point connections.
You have to make sure that the game you want to play is in the console but now since a lot of games are digitally distributed, you can just access them directly on the console hard drive.
I can see this service being a lot more valuable for game studios than actual game players. I think a successful offering from OnLive, OTOY, or Gaikai will be much more competitive against Spawn Labs. With Spawn Labs, you pay a flat $200 fee to remotely play games you already own on your own game console (which already cost you $250 on average for the console plus the price for games). Part of the console experience is that you get to play games while sitting on your couch. With OnLive, they give you a micro-console that you can hook up to your TV and its exactly the same as having one of the regular consoles there. You can still play online on your PC/MAC with OnLive (and on Gaikai/Otoy but Gaikai/Otoy don’t offer a micro-console). The pricing of these products will be key especially that their target audience is mainly hardcore gamers (who probably own consoles already).
Up until now, I thought OnLive, OTOY, and Gaikai were the main players but turned out there are more.
There is another player in the field that has been operating behind the scenes. A start-up called Playcast from Israel. Their model is to enable to play games on demand using traditional set-top boxes. So their model is to partner with video distribution networks (Cable and IPTV) companies to deliver the service.
Last but not least, MVI, an affiliate of Intel Capital recently invested a small amount of money in Toronto’s TransGaming, which is working on a GameTree.tv on-demand games service. Here is a dry video presentation of this service:
And a description:
“The GameTree.tv Gaming Platform allows consumers to browse, download, and play a rich catalogue of video games right from their HD TV, all from a single consumer electronics platform such as a next generation cable set-top box. GameTree.tv’s gaming content will appeal to a broad consumer demographic and will be made available through cable operators and other distribution partners globally who are adopting the Intel CE Media Processor as the basis for their next generation of consumer electronics platforms. “
This field is getting crowded and yet no one has proven that they can scale when all the players are logged in at the same time. Some people are still skeptical about the latency and bandwidth issues but from an engineering perspective, I think scalability is the big monster not latency. Who do you think will win and why?