Friday, 28 December 2012

G‐cluster Will Showcase the Ultimate Cloud Gaming Machine at CES 2013

Looks like cloud gaming provider G-cluster will finally challenge OnLive in the US cloud gaming arena in the coming year. G-cluster, a fully-featured white label cloud gaming service offering large deployments at scale and a large deployed catalog of casual and AAA games, will debut its Game Machine cloud gaming platform at CES 2013 allowing operators to bring premium and casual games to the TV without the need for a gaming console. The 2013 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) will be taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 8-11 with IPTV and wireless operators and game publishers invited to check out G-cluster's cloud gaming offerings from TV to mobile to the ultimate cloud gaming machine.

The G-cluster Game Machine plugs into the HDMI port on HDMI-equipped televisions and connects to the home Wi-Fi network to access the service. Gamers can use a gamepad with a wireless receiver, or smartphones or tablets, to control gameplay on their TVs, playing alone or with friends using other devices such as personal computers, tablets, or smartphones. The G-cluster Game Machine is most likely very similar to the G-cluster Wi-Fi cloud gaming console which will be deployed by G-cluster for Japanese Broadmedia Corporation in Spring 2013.

“With G-cluster’s cloud gaming platform, operators can achieve high margin service revenue growth with marginal setup, maintenance, and operational effort commitments,” said Taro Hashimoto, Chairman and CEO of G-cluster Global. “The tiny game machine turns your TV into a massive cloud gaming experience. Smartphones and tablets are default controllers of the game machine. It will be a natural and exciting extension of your smartphone and tablet experience,” he added.

Already a North American Tier One operator is trialing the G-cluster cloud gaming service, but with this announcement G-cluster is already late to the party. Back in September a report surfaced that the big US telecom carriers including AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable are working on their own cloud gaming services. That report has already been confirmed by the launch of the Ubitus GameNow cloud gaming service for Verizon Wireless 4G LTE customers and Playcast's announced entry into the US cloud gaming market for Q1 2013.

To date more than eight million gamers worldwide have access to G-cluster's multi-platform cloud gaming experience through IPTV set-top boxes and personal computers, and in the near future will have on smart connected TV’s, mobile devices, and now the G-cluster Game Machine.

Founded in 2000, the Tokyo, Japan based G-cluster was the first cloud gaming platform to be operational on a large scale worldwide and is currently one of the largest cloud gaming platforms worldwide. G-cluster is already well-established in France as they have launched cloud gaming services for customers of the French telecom carriers Orange and SFR, they have also partnered with France-based games publisher Ubisoft and more recently with Disney.

G-cluster invites CES attendees to come play at CES 2013 in the G-cluster MGM Signature Suite. Media are invited to attend an event in the suite on Wednesday, January 9 at 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

OnLive Founder and Former CEO Steve Perlman on Fundamental Patents vs. Incremental Patents

OnLive founder and former CEO Steve Perlman made a cameo appearance in an article by The New York Times (NYT) titled The Patent, Used as a Sword. Steve is an outspoken opponent of the America Invents Act and its first-inventor-to-file system. In this piece by the NYT Steve decried how little of influence he and his fellow inventor colleagues have on the decision making of the congress in regard to the patent law as opposed to the large corporations with their huge lobbyist machinery. This piece produced many heated responses, one of them being Steve Perlman himself. The NYT thought it worthwhile to publish an article about Steve's response and opinion on the patent system titled In the High-Tech Patent Wars, an Inventor’s Lament.

Steve laments that it's very important to differentiate between fundamental patents and incremental patents. He doesn't belittle incrementalism as this is 99 percent of what corporate research and development does and it's very important.

In his companies Steve deals with fundamental patents. He knows what each of his patents does, and has never sold one. In stark contrast are the truckloads of patents for minor sub-features in use by the smartphone titans in their clashes. Again Steve thinks that incrementalism is very important for smartphones and says it’s incredible what the smartphone giants achieved.

But, Steve thinks that the big problem is that fundamental patents are lumped together with incremental patents. Since the world is trying to mitigate the over-litigation of incremental patents and patent offices are buried under them, little guys are being steamrolled over. And this is happening with intent as incumbents with a deep vested interest in maintaining the status quo see the screwed-up patent system as a means to disrupt the ability of small start-ups to bring breakthroughs to market.

Steve said that the flawed patent system also played a role in OnLive's recent ABC bankruptcy and the subsequent reorganization. Especially the long granting process for their patents was a huge problem for a small start-up company like OnLive because they had problems attracting investments with no patents to enforce. Though the reportedly flawed management skills of Steve Perlman might also have played a key role in the cloud gaming company's problems.

With the help of the first-inventor-to-file system of the America Invents Act, large corporations are preying on small start-ups, that way getting cheap access to technology invented by small start-ups in years of hard labor, with the people who invented the technology getting next to nothing. By spamming the USPTO with incremental and broad patents, and making use of their courtroom power, large corporations are now stifling innovation even outside their walls, which can't be good for the health of the economy and even more important for the progress of humanity.

Monday, 24 December 2012

OnLive Cloud Gaming Will Expand to More LG Smart TVs with Google TV in 2013 - Will Get Showcased at CES 2013

After being integrated into the G2 series LG Smart TVs with Google TV in November, the OnLive cloud gaming service will expand to the new GA6400 and GA7900 LG Smart TV models with Google TV in 2013. Both are set to be revealed at the 2013 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show), that will be taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 8-11.

In detail, the GA6400 series will be available in 42-, 47-, 50-, 55- and 60-inch class screen sizes. The premium GA7900 series with the virtually frameless Cinema Screen design that has an undeniably sleek and modern finish will come in 47- and 55-inch class screen sizes.

The OnLive app will come pre-installed on future LG Google TVs including the new GA6400 and GA7900 series, and makes console-quality games instantly playable as part of the TV experience. The OnLive app is the first commercial deployment of instant-response cloud gaming in a TV with no console or set-top box necessary. OnLive already offers something that consoles currently can’t: the ability to continue playing your save games on the go, on nearly any PC or Mac, and many Android tablets.

With the Universal OnLive Wireless Controller, LG G2 TV owners in the United States already can go to the Premium Apps menu on their TVs and play hundreds of video games on demand via OnLive. And soon many more will be able to enjoy streamed video gaming with the new GA6400 and GA7900 LG Smart TVs with Google TV.

Uniquely, OnLive makes console-quality gaming truly portable and accessible across multiple platforms. With a single purchase, OnLive games can be played on any OnLive-compatible device—on PCs, Macs, many Android tablets, TVs with the OnLive Game System, LG G2 TVs, and soon on the new GA6400 and GA7900 LG Smart TVs with Google TV—anywhere there is broadband. Users can start a game on one device and continue playing on any other device, with full saved game data intact in the cloud, whenever and wherever they want. OnLive even enables cross-platform multiplayer gaming, so that an LG Google TV owner is able to play with (or against) friends on PCs, Macs and tablets.

The OnLive games catalog includes games from more than 80 publishers, with everything from blockbuster new releases to classic franchises to family-friendly sports, racing and action-adventure games. OnLive games can be demoed free and purchased or rented a la carte, or players can subscribe to the OnLive PlayPack for unlimited play of more than 200 games, with more titles added monthly. OnLive also offers free access to unique social features, such as game spectating in the OnLive Arena, recording ten-second Brag Clip videos of players’ best gaming moments, and sharing videos and achievements with friends on OnLive and Facebook.

Google’s latest Google TV 3.0 platform and LG’s redesigned Magic Remote Qwerty work together to enhance the effectiveness of Voice Search and the PrimeTime quick guide. The updated Smart Home also adds to the user experience by offering convenient, streamlined access to VoD, YouTube and more apps. Discovering exciting new content from the rich pool of choices available on LG Google TV has never been easier.

“LG is committed to providing diverse home entertainment options that offer the most satisfying user experience and the latest LG Smart TVs with Google TV do just that,” said Havis Kwon, President and CEO of the LG Electronics Home Entertainment Company. “They deliver a stellar user experience by merging the latest Google TV platform with LG’s proven Smart TV technology. The result is a comprehensive system that is groundbreaking in its simplicity.”

LG Google TV aims to redefine the user experience. The platform offers the ease of use that recalls the simplicity of earlier television sets. The new Smart Home offers varied types of “cards” that act as folders for apps and other content. The new My Interest Card can even display useful information including real-time weather and customizable news.

The entire user interface can be navigated using the redesigned Magic Remote Qwerty, which combines a complete keyboard with the convenient benefits of the Magic Remote’s point-and-click control. The enhanced natural language recognition incorporated in the revamped remote is a perfect match with Google’s outstanding search functionality. The overall voice-based capabilities multiply the effectiveness of the PrimeTime quick guide to provide an unparalleled user experience and make browsing through the more than 100,000 available movies and TV episodes on LG Google TV a breeze.

LG Smart TV’s L9 chipset with a dual core CPU enables easy menu navigation, fast internet browsing and video streaming. The additional processor power allows the TruPicture XD Engine to process images quickly and precisely, resulting in richer colors, deeper contrast and greater overall picture clarity.

And LG has applied its advanced Cinema Screen design to the premium GA7900 model to offer a sleek, modern look. This design further minimizes width of the bezel, giving the TV a streamlined appearance while creating the impression of a borderless display. Along with the LG Google TV's unique stand design, it integrates perfectly with interior design of a living room.

Also offering Cinema 3D TV functionality, the LG Google TV employs FPR technology to give movie buffs and gamers a great 3D effect without the distracting flicker.

The LG Smart TV with Google TV offers superb connectivity options and can connect to a variety of devices wirelessly. With the latest YouTube app update for Android, smartphones and tablets can be automatically paired with Google TV over the same home network via Wi-Fi, making it easy to send videos from your device to your TV.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

OnLive Holiday Sale in the US and the UK with Games Up To 75% Off

OnLive has a Holiday Sale in the US and the UK with games up to 75% off until Thursday, January 3, 2013. OnLive PlayPack subscribers can also take an additional 30% off these already reduced prices to bring prices of some games down 82%.

Here is a list of all the OnLive games that are on sale in the US, the UK and Belgium:

  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent – On Sale For $9.99 US / £6.99 UK
  • The Ball – On Sale For $5.00 US / £3.75 UK
  • Defense Grid Gold – On Sale For $4.76 US / £3.40 UK
  • DiRT 2 – On Sale For $7.49 US / £4.99 UK
  • DiRT 3 – On Sale For $17.00 US / £13.60 UK
  • Fishdom 2 – On Sale For $3.50 US / £3.50 UK
  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game – On Sale For $4.99 US ONLY
  • Icebreakers – On Sale For $1.99 US / £1.75 UK / €1.50 Belgium
  • A Kingdom for Keflings – On Sale For $2.50 US / £1.62 UK
  • Madballs in Babo: Invasion – On Sale For $2.50 US / £1.75 UK
  • Operation Flashpoint: Red River – On Sale For $22.49 US / £12.49 UK
  • Orcs Must Die! – On Sale For $7.49 US / £5.99 UK
  • Osmos – On Sale For $2.50 US / £1.62 UK
  • Royal Envoy – On Sale For $1.75 US / £1.25 UK
  • Royal Envoy 2 – On Sale For $2.50 US / £1.75 UK
  • Trine – On Sale For $4.99 US / £3.49 UK
  • The Results for the WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship OnLive Brag Clip Contest are in

    And the winners of the WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship OnLive Brag Clip contest that got a champagne shower are:
    Below are the top 15 drivers and their times:
    1. TTAR 03:09.19
    2. kbezon 03:10.79
    3. janez 03:11.28
    4. TheDesert1x 03:13.61
    5. Babyxcakez 03:15.46
    6. Germaximus S 03:16.79
    7. selirian 03:17.34
    8. darkboyutz1 03:23.82
    9. RomPeDoUT415 03:24.92
    10. Sokuri1997 03:24.92
    11. MariuSzz 03:27.11
    12. Bed Intruder 03:33.19
    13. Halo2redvsblue 03:34.29
    14. mrdarky 03:41.89
    15. FahQuad 03:52.80

    Such contests are a great way to promote games that are part of the OnLive PlayPack and to raise the play time of the promoted games. Let's hope there is more to come, but not only Brag Clip contests for OnLive PlayPack games. There are also some great PlayPass games, like for instance the great DiRT 3 racer, which demand some much needed love by gamers. And let us not forget OnLive's other huge asset, the live spectating OnLive Arena, which has potential to host great live contests and competitions.

    Video of DiRT 3 Gameplay via OnLive Cloud Gaming on the ARCHOS GamePad

    Below you can see a gameplay video of DiRT 3 being played via the OnLive cloud gaming service on the ARCHOS GamePad. DiRT 3 is one of the touch capable games on OnLive, and since the Android based ARCHOS GamePad has a great game mapping tool that maps any virtual touch controls via an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface to the ARCHOS GamePad's physical gamepad that resembles the design of the PlayStation Vita (PS Vita), you can play touch supported games on OnLive in no time and it works great.

    Apart from DiRT 3, the more prominent touch capable games on OnLive are L.A. Noire: The Complete Edition, Darksiders, Split/Second, Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War II Chaos Rising, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, Mini Ninjas, Defense Grid Gold, The Maw, The Ball and World of Goo.

    It would be great if OnLive would add physical controls support for the ARCHOS GamePad and similar tablets for all the controller supported games on the service, like they did for the Sony Xperia PLAY.

    You can download the OnLive App for Android.

    Big Fish Games Published an Interactive Infographic About the History of Cloud Gaming Titled The Rise of Cloud Gaming

    The interactive infographic from Big Fish Games titled The Rise of Cloud Gaming shows in a fun way the history of cloud gaming from the 1950s when Herb Grosch, scientist behind the modestly-monikered Grosch's law, theorized that the entire world would someday operate on dumb terminals powered by just 15 large data centers, to the modern times with the world's first deployment of streamed cloud gaming in Japan by G-cluster in 2004, the OnLive cloud gaming service launch in 2010, the world's first commercial 4G LTE cloud gaming service in Japan with G CLOUD on NTT DOCOMO powered by Ubitus GameCloud in 2011, to this year's launch of NVIDIA's Geforce GRID cloud gaming technology, Sony's acquisition of Gaikai for $380 million, OnLive going through ABC bankruptcy and starting their reorganization, the launch of the casual Big Fish Unlimited cloud gaming service, and finishing off with the forecast for the future of cloud gaming with experts estimating that the streaming games market will grow nine-fold by 2017, reaching 8 billion dollars.

    To see the interactive infographic from Big Fish Games about cloud gaming follow this link:

    CiiNOW's Chris Donahue Writes About the Viability of Cloud Gaming

    Chris Donahue, former director of games and media at OnLive and current vice president of marketing and publisher relations at CiiNOW published a guest post at VentureBeat. In it he listed many benefits of cloud gaming and some of the current problems.

    When he watched a demo of the OnLive cloud gaming service at their unveiling at the 2009 Game Developers Conference he didn't like it and thought it couldn't work. But then he studied the technology and saw the potential in it. Nine months later he joined OnLive. After the problems that OnLive had this year he left the company for cloud gaming startup CiiNOW. Before going into cloud gaming, Chris worked at other software and hardware companies like Sierra On-Line, The ImagiNation Network, ATI, NVIDIA, Microsoft, Live Gamer and inXile Entertainment.

    Chris made it pretty clear that the downfall of OnLive had nothing to do with its technology or the viability of the cloud gaming business model, as has been well documented.

    He extensively talked about latency and its importance. He said that cloud gaming can deliver lower latency than local consoles, but the problem is that the quality and speed of broadband connections varies greatly, from Google Fiber to 2 megabit-per-second rural "broadband" with the pace of progress in this area not keeping step with the burgeoning streaming businesses on the internet.

    Chris claimed that CiiNOW's cloud gaming technology named Cumulus is faster than other cloud gaming platforms and enables an immersive gaming experience that is faster than playing on a console. CiiNOW intends to prove that claim in an article by their CTO in Q1 2013.

    He emphasized the most important strong point of cloud gaming, convenience. With cloud gaming people are able to start up games immediately with no game updating necessary, just like they would change TV channels. Chris quite dramatically compared this to the updating process of console games where you have to wait that the games download and patch themselves before they are ready to play. Cloud games are also device independent requiring only devices capable of decoding a video stream, a screen and a means of input, and therefore democratizing gaming.

    It isn't surprising for Chris that cable companies are eager on adding cloud gaming to their packages and offer a low-cost and frictionless way for non-gamers to enjoy high-end large-screen gaming.

    Chris thinks that it's important that game developers start developing games from the ground up for the cloud, which will reap a new generation of innovative and engaging products and features they just can’t do on a local console. But because of the expected rise in costs of next-gen games, he thinks that we need to start making more games that inspire a greater number of people to play more often, rather than shooting for graphical realism regardless of expenditure.

    Chris finished off with the fact that only a minority of the Earth's population owns a gaming console. Many can't afford or get a console, but with the spread of broadband infrastructure and the low cost of entry into cloud gaming, this demographic is a vast yet untapped opportunity and he wants to make gamers out of them all and is able to do it much easier, and certainly much faster, in the cloud.

    Thursday, 13 December 2012

    WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship OnLive Brag Clip Contest

    OnLive has launched a WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship Brag Clip contest. To win the contest gamers have to come up with the best time in the Gallura Stage of the Rally Italia Sardegna in WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship. Of course to be entered into the contest OnLive gamers must share a Brag Clip with the OnLive account WRC3 Contest in the service, showing their car crossing the finish line, and displaying a winning time. The contest ends on Wednesday, December 19, 2012 2:00pm PST.

    The top 3 times meeting the race requirements will be announced on Thursday, December 20, 2012. The prizes are:
    Below are the instructions for accessing the race:
    1. Load an OnLive PlayPack (UK, Belgium) or free trial (UK, Belgium) version of WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship (UK, Belgium) in the OnLive Game Service.
    2. After the load screens, Select 'WRC Experience'.
    3. Select 'Single Stage'.
    4. Select 'WRC - The Cars competing at the top of the sport'.
    5. Choose any car you want from the WRC group.
    6. Push left arrow twice to 'Rally Italia Sardegna'.
    7. Choose the Stage named 'Gallura'.
    8. Go like a bat out of Hell.
    9. Take a Brag Clip of the finish WITH THE STANDINGS SCREEN VISIBLE IN THE CLIP. If no time is visible in the Brag Clip it will be disqualified.
    10. Add WRC3 Contest as a friend in the OnLive service, and share your Brag Clip.

    Such contests are a great way to promote games that are part of the OnLive PlayPack and to raise the play time of the promoted games. OnLive is wishing every entrant of the WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship Brag Clip contest good luck and reminding them that there are no prizes for safe driving.

    Monday, 10 December 2012

    Playcast is Targeting a Q1 2013 Launch Window for a Cloud Gaming Service in the US

    Joystiq is reporting that cloud gaming service provider Playcast is aiming to launch a cloud gaming service for the US in Q1 2013. It was previously revealed that Playcast is already in talks for providing their cloud gaming service to US telecom carriers like AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable. With this new piece of news it looks like those talks might be coming to fruition, though Playcast reiterated that they are still in talks with US television providers.

    Playcast already has a lot of experience providing cloud gaming services for telecom companies. Apart from French Bouygues Telecom, they also provide their cloud gaming solutions to South Korean Cable TV Operator CJ HelloVision, Singapore's SingTel with their ESC cloud gaming service, and Portugal Telecom's MEO Jogos cloud gaming service. They've recently also partnered with NVIDIA and will use the NVIDIA GeForce GRID cloud gaming platform in their data centers.

    Playcast offers unlimited streaming of games from the cloud through subscription packages tailored to particular users, for instance right now in France for the Bouygues Telecom Bbox games cloud gaming service there is a package for more casual gamers and a plus package aimed at the more hardcore.

    In the meeting that Joystiq had with Playcast Media VP of research and development Yuval Noimark, they were shown how Playcast cloud gaming can work on a variety of different configurations like as a TV channel, on a tablet, on a TV via a tablet and Bluetooth controller, on a TV hooked up to a PC, or directly on a PC.

    In the meeting Playcast pointed out that touch interfaces are an important control method for them. They showed LEGO Batman: The Videogame on a tablet working with a touch interface that was emulating Playcast’s own heads-up display over the game to provide touch controls. The controls compared favorably with other control schemes.

    With Playcast gamers also have the option to control the games that are streamed to their TVs via touch devices like tablets and smartphones with Playcast instantly recognizing gamers' activity when they sign in with the auxiliary device. Gamers can even create their own skins, customizing the look and layout of the touch interface on their touch device.

    Playcast didn't disclose the exact subscription options and pricing structure for their US-bound cloud gaming service. Playcast video game partners include renowned publishers such as Activision, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Disney Interactive Studios, Atari, Capcom, Codemasters, SEGA, THQ and more. They are also talking to many game developers which includes indies.

    Yuval Noimark couldn't pin down the exact launch date of the Playcast cloud gaming service in the US. Since most of the exciting new TV technologies and services for the coming year are announced and shown at the CES, it's pretty certain that we will soon know more about Playcast’s cloud gaming plans for the US. The 2013 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) will be taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada on January 8-11.

    The US cloud gaming market is sure to get even more crowded with Playcast entering the fray and joining the restructuring OnLive, Gaikai that is getting folded into the Sony PlayStation network, Ubitus with their GameNow cloud gaming service on the Verizon Wireless 4G LTE network, Agawi GameZen for Windows 8, Big Fish Games' Big Fish Unlimited cloud gaming service and more. Other cloud gaming services and providers like G-cluster are sure to follow into the burgeoning cloud gaming market in the US.

    Monday, 3 December 2012

    Cloud Gaming Provider Ubitus Released New Games for the GameNow and C-games Services

    The new games that were released on the Ubitus GameNow cloud gaming service in the US are Dead Rising 2, WRC: FIA World Rally Championship, WRC 2: FIA World Rally Championship, SBK X: Superbike World Championship, Dark Void and Tribal Trouble 2. With the addition of these new games the Ubitus GameNow games library is now at 22 games and growing. The Ubitus GameNow cloud gaming service is still only available for Verizon Wireless 4G LTE customers in the US who have the following Android 4G LTE devices: Droid RAZR, Droid 4, Droid RAZR M, Droid RAZR HD, Droid RAZR MAXX HD. You can read more about the Ubitus GameNow cloud gaming service.

    The Ubitus powered C-games cloud gaming service by LG U+ in South Korea also got new game additions in the form of Dead Rising 2, WRC 2: FIA World Rally Championship, WRC 3: FIA World Rally Championship and SBK Generations. With the addition of these new games the C-games game library is now at 24 games and growing. You can read more about the C-games cloud gaming service powered by Ubitus here and here.

    Apart from Capcom and Atari, it now looks like Ubitus also has strong support from Italian racing games publisher and developer Milestone.

    Friday, 23 November 2012

    OnLive Thanksgiving and Autumn Sale with Over 20 Games Up To 75% Off

    OnLive has a Thanksgiving Sale in the US and an Autumn Sale in the UK and Belgium with over 20 games up to 75% off until Tuesday, November 27. OnLive PlayPack subscribers can also take an additional 30% off these already reduced prices to bring prices of some games down 82%.

    Here is a list of all the OnLive games that are on sale in the US, the UK and Belgium:

  • Aliens vs. Predator – On Sale For $7.49 US / £7.49 UK / €9.99 Belgium
  • Alpha Protocol – On Sale For $9.99 US / £7.49 UK / €9.99 Belgium
  • Amnesia: The Dark Descent – On Sale For $5.00 US / £3.50 UK / €3.75 Belgium
  • The Ball – On Sale For $5.00 US / £3.75 UK / €4.50 Belgium
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution – On Sale For $14.99 US / £9.99 UK / €14.99 Belgium
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution Augmented Edition – On Sale For $19.99 US / £12.49 UK / €19.99 Belgium
  • Divinity II: The Dragon Knight Saga – On Sale For $10.00 US / £5.00 UK / €10.00 Belgium
  • Doc Clock: The Toasted Sandwich of Time – On Sale For $2.49 US / £1.74 UK / €1.99 Belgium
  • Fishdom 2 – On Sale For $4.20 US / £4.20 UK / €6.80 Belgium
  • Ghostbusters: The Video Game – On Sale For $4.99 US ONLY
  • Icebreakers – On Sale For $3.00 US / £2.49 UK / €2.04 Belgium
  • Just Cause 2 – On Sale For $7.49 US / £4.99 UK / €7.49 Belgium
  • Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days – On Sale For $7.49 US / £4.99 UK / €7.49 Belgium
  • Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light – On Sale For $7.49 US / £4.99 UK / €7.49 Belgium
  • London 2012 - The Official Video Game of the Olympic Games – On Sale For $22.49 US / £14.99 UK / €24.99 Belgium
  • Madballs in Babo: Invasion – On Sale For $7.49 US / £5.24 UK / €7.19 Belgium
  • Orcs Must Die! – On Sale For $3.75 US / £3.00 UK / €3.50 Belgium
  • Osmos – On Sale For $4.99 US / £3.24 UK / €4.49 Belgium
  • Royal Envoy – On Sale For $6.99 US / £4.99 UK / €6.99 Belgium
  • Sleeping Dogs - Digital Edition – On Sale For $24.99 US ONLY
  • Sleeping Dogs - Limited Edition – On Sale For £14.99 UK / €24.99 Belgium
  • Space Pirates and Zombies (S.P.A.Z.) – On Sale For $4.99 US / £3.49 UK / €4.49 Belgium
  • Tropico 4 – On Sale For $19.99 US / £14.99 UK / €22.49 Belgium
  • World of Goo – On Sale For $2.50 US / £1.62 UK / €2.25 Belgium
  • Zeno Clash – On Sale For $2.50 US / £1.75 UK / €2.50 Belgium
  • Thursday, 22 November 2012

    Chinese Cloud Gaming Service Cloud Union

    Beijing, China based cloud gaming service Cloud Union was founded by Danny Deng (Deng Di) who serves as CEO of the company. The company team began R&D on cloud gaming technology in 2008 and officially formed a company in 2009 when angel investor Wang Hai helped out with money. Wang Hai currently serves as chairman of the company. Before that he was digital media investment officer at Netural GmbH., vice president at P2P video streaming outfit PPLive and chief operating officer at Viacom's MTV China. His story as a chairman of Cloud Union is somewhat similar to a chairman from another cloud gaming company, namely Gary Lauder who became chairman of OnLive after he saved them from bankruptcy and kept the company afloat.

    After their official formation, Cloud Union had to wait another whole year without any serious investment before they've got their first infusion of venture capital in 2010 with a $2 million investment from Softbank China Venture Capital (SBCVC). Later the company became more successful with investments as in January of this year even Intel Capital invested into Cloud Union.

    As mentioned before, Cloud Union has their headquarters in Beijing, where they also have an R&D center. They also have branches in Hunan and Hangzhou that are set up as regional operation centers. Besides, it also has an R&D center in Chengdu.

    PC gaming is remarkably popular in China. But because of the high barrier of entry, many Chinese gamers are limited to gaming in smoke-filled net cafes, and often even those computers aren’t capable of running the latest and greatest games. “Does it run Crysis?” has been a refrain in the Western PC gaming community for years, and systems that can run Crysis are indeed powerful — but they’re also expensive. So Chinese gamers have mostly stuck with older games like Counter-Strike and World of Warcraft, or played Chinese games with more modest hardware requirements.

    This is where Danny Deng and his company Cloud Union comes in. Cloud Union focuses on the design, development and operation of cloud gaming platforms and is a leading live cloud and streaming service provider for high quality (3D graphics and rich audio) gaming in China. Through centralizing all computing power and graphics rendering in the server end, and streaming video of the gameplay to the client end, Cloud Union allows people to play high quality games across a multitude of devices like low-powered and cheap PCs, Macs, TVs through IPTV providers and mobiles. Cloud Union is currently employing around 100 people, most of whom work in R&D.

    “Most of the electronic devices, as long as they can connect to a network and decode a video stream, will be able to enjoy cloud game services. In theory, any game can be streamed to any device using CU’s technology, such as a notebook, TV, normal set-top box, etc. We even connected the PS3 with our cloud, so if Sony agrees, you can play PS3 games on any smartphone and Smart TV in China,” said Danny Deng, the CEO of Cloud Union.

    When Cloud Union released their first PC client in March of 2011, they opted not to promote the product for fear of overloading its servers. To support the operation of their cloud game platform, the company has set up eight service centers in some major cities in China. At present, they have more than 2,000 servers that are able to serve more than 300,000 cloud gamers in China. Since China is a huge country and especially the western regions and the countryside are underdeveloped and lack the internet infrastructure, Cloud Union can currently only serve about 30% of Chinese internet users which limits their market potential. Like with other cloud gaming services, responsiveness and video quality are two key problems for Cloud Union, though the company has now managed to reduce average lag time to around 30 ms. They are working hard on attracting more users to join, improve their technology, buy more servers and bandwidth, and deploy a network that will cover the entire country.

    It's not yet known what computer hardware Cloud Union uses in their data centers, though NVIDIA's cloud gaming boss Phil Eisler mentioned them in an interview back in September. Since Cloud Union streams the latest high-end PC games from the cloud to gamers, and NVIDIA has a very strong presence among cloud gaming services in the far east with the only serious computer hardware currently catered especially towards cloud gaming services, it might very well be that Cloud Union uses NVIDIA's GeForce GRID cloud gaming technology in their data centers.

    Since China’s government is calling for a new round of broadband bandwidth upgrading and cost reduction, China’s network operators need to find new killer applications to attract users to upgrade bandwidth and pay more money on their service. And cloud gaming definitely is a killer application for network operators.

    Cloud Union has partnered with China Telecom and China Unicom, potentially pushing cloud gaming services to 400 million broadband users in China. Moreover, Chinese IPTV providers BesTV and Wasu chose Cloud Union as the only partner in the cloud gaming area with over 20 million IPTV users potentially able to enjoy Cloud Union's cloud gaming services in China. The Cloud Union cloud gaming service is offered as an IPTV subscription plan option with subscription revenues split between Cloud Union and the IPTV providers.

    “We have made great progress with WASU Digital, which is one of the biggest IPTV operators in China, to enable every user to play cloud games in WASU’s network,” said Danny Deng.

    Cloud Union picks the games they offer at present mostly based on the demands of gamers, especially focusing on games that have high hardware requirements and more realistic graphics. Mature gamers tend to prefer these kinds of games. But more and more women and adults are also using their cloud game platform because it’s so convenient, so they are also expanding the variety of games they offer. They have a very experienced copyright team with more than ten years of experience in game distribution in China. They have relationships with lots of games publishers and developers from China and abroad, like for example with renowned international games publisher Ubisoft. Their cloud gaming model has been very well received by developers and publishers because their cloud gaming platform resolves several huge problems for the games industry in China, like piracy, high hardware requirements, and how to best collect fees. Currently their business model is to buy the domestic rights for games outright, and they currently offer more than 200 games, all legally copyrighted. They are considering allowing publishers and developers to set their own prices for games in the future, of which they will take a small percentage.

    Coming back to the question “Does it run Crysis?”, well no, at least Crysis isn't in the Cloud Union games lineup. But there are other heavy hitters like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim including the latest DLCs like Hearthfire and even fairly recent blockbusters like Dishonored and Borderlands 2. Here's a more comprehensive list of the more prominent games in Cloud Union's games catalog, since Cloud Union buys the rights for the games for China some of the games are temporarily not available because they've run out of their alloted number of licenses and have to buy more:
    It's fairly easy to say that this is the most impressive games lineup of any cloud gaming service to date, yes even better than OnLive's games catalog. Upcoming games for Cloud Union are Assassin's Creed III, Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Medal of Honor: Warfighter.

    That Cloud Union has such a great support by games publishers in China that are even willing to tolerate the business model of outright selling the rights to their games isn't surprising when one considers that the console market in China is not very strong, there is virtually no games retail at least no legal retail because of the rampant piracy and that Cloud Union is partnered with China Telecom and China Unicom. Since to date large games publishers couldn't monetize their high-end PC and console games in China, they must feel pretty happy that China is embracing cloud gaming which makes game pirating virtually impossible. No wonder that game publishers like Activision, EA, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Bethesda SoftworksWarner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Disney Interactive Studios, LucasArtsSquare Enix, AtariCapcom, KonamiNamco Bandai, Tecmo KoeiSEGA, Codemasters, CD Projekt RedDeep Silver and THQ are willing to feature their high-end games on the Cloud Union cloud gaming service regardless of the possibility that they won't look and control that good through cloud streaming. Even more remarkable is that Microsoft, one of the big three console manufacturers, is on board, though only older titles in the form of Age Of Empires III and expansions and Ion Assault are in the Cloud Union games catalogOnLive for instance doesn't have such luck in the western markets where games retail and consoles are established players and it's harder to gain game publisher support.

    “Compared to the US, China is very different when it comes to the internet as well as TV industry. We are already standing at a competitive position in the Chinese market, which the potential competitors, such as OnLive and Gaikai, may not rival easily,” said Danny Deng, the CEO of Cloud Union.

    Cloud Union is not having the Chinese cloud gaming market for itself as Taipei, Taiwan based cloud gaming provider Ubitus is helping China Telecom building a cloud gaming service. Other cloud gaming competitors are sure to follow into the burgeoning Chinese cloud gaming market.