Sony’s $380 million acquisition of Gaikai has "validated" the cloud gaming industry but limiting the technology to certain devices is missing the point, according to Bruce Grove, UK general manager of Gaikai rival OnLive.
At around 6:30am on July 2, Grove awoke to a barrage of phone calls from friends, colleagues and journalists looking for his response to the sale of Gaikai to PlayStation platform holder Sony. "My first reaction was to try and stop my phone making so much noise - it was early on a Monday morning," Grove tells us. "I think it does huge amounts for the industry.
"It has validated it. It’s good for us, good for the market and it will help drive the idea further. And Sony’s a consumer devices company so for them it’s an opportunity across all of that hardware."
However, Grove is careful to emphasise that OnLive’s approach to building a business is different. "For us it was very important to show that this was viable technology and create a new platform, not to just take the first step along the road," he says. "We can argue the pros and cons over which is the right model but this is what we set out to do – create a platform.
"There’s no reason that as Smart TVs become more ubiquitous that we can't be in all of them. As long as we can put the client on there and as long as it can stream video and take input there’s no reason for OnLive not to be on that device – and that basically turns everything into a console."
But would a lucrative bid from Microsoft change this vision of OnLive’s future? Pre-E3 rumours suggested that it too was subject of interest from Sony, and since, many have speculated that it is Microsoft’s turn to make its move into the cloud through a bid for OnLive.
"If that was to happen – and that’s pure speculation – that’s really up to the company involved, but I think it kind of defeats the purpose of cloud gaming to limit it to a subset of devices," says Grove. "The whole point of putting anything into the cloud is to make it available on everything.
"The whole reason I have a Dropbox account is that I want to access my files from any device – it doesn’t matter whether it’s my Samsung phone or my iPad, PC or Mac. That’s the key to the idea of cloud technology."
Since OnLive launched in the UK in September last year, it has expanded onto tablets and mobile as well as adding over 200 titles to the service, to bring the number of games available to around 350. Grove describes user growth as "steady", with the Playpack scheme, which gives users access to a library of over 200 games for £6.99 a month, proving particularly popular.
It also confirmed last week that it plans to partner with Ouya, the Android-based $99 console which has raised almost $6 million on crowdfunding website Kickstarter. "If you give people an easy way to connect, essentially bring connected TVs together, then that’s another content outlet," Grove said of Ouya, before the deal was announced. "If Ouya comes along and connects to your TV and suddenly puts games in front of people in an easy way and makes it low friction, that’s going to attract a new market.
"The industry has exploded and now there are far more people out there who are playing games than we might consider to be gamers. Give someone a $99 box, tell them to plug it into their TV, give them a whole load of games; at $99 [Ouya] are going to do pretty well."