A year ago GameStop president Tony Bartel said that they will stream console games from the cloud to gamers, thanks to their acquisition of Spawn Labs. They would actually hook up physical game consoles like the Xbox 360 and PS3 to the internet and stream console games to gamers. At that time it sounded mightily optimistic, if not stupid. Back then they've actually commenced with a beta of their upcoming cloud gaming service with streaming of console games included.
Well, now it looks like GameStop came to their minds as GameStop president Tony Bartel during a conference call with investors said, "based on consumer feedback, our success in selling mobile devices, and the imminent launch of new consoles, we have decided to move our technology to a PC-based model."
But earlier this month Tony Bartel was more frank with The Verge. He said that GameStop isn't sure how to scale the service, because the basic idea hasn't really evolved since day one: Bartel told them that the Spawn Labs service still requires that the company hook up a real physical game console for each and every remote player. It’s a plan that has some major pros and cons. On the plus side, it's completely platform-agnostic, so GameStop could use the system with any console or game, right out of the box. The minuses are tremendous, though: Spawn would have to physically change out discs for each new wave of games, and lose a lot of the latency advantages OnLive and Gaikai have by virtualizing and overclocking PC games inside of dedicated servers.
Moreover, GameStop could face legal challenges. Late last year, a US district court issued a permanent injunction against a startup named Zediva, which had a bright idea at the time: it would offer a streaming movie service to its customers by buying physical DVDs and playing them from real optical drives. GameStop is no startup, but the parallel is hard to deny. Still, Bartel believed that the relationships between GameStop and the publishers are strong enough to pull it off, despite conflicts of interest like the one Sony’s upcoming Gaikai streaming service might pose. "We're the largest retailer they have in terms of video game space," he said, suggesting that Sony wouldn’t sue. "Everyone wants to have their games distributed and discovered." Bartel said a private beta with six data centers was incredibly successful, and that as soon as they figure out the strategy, they'll be ready for a nationwide rollout. "Like everything we do, it's going to be big," said Bartel.
Well, it now looks like even GameStop isn't big enough to pull such a stunt with cloud streaming of console games. I really wonder why GameStop claimed they would stream console games in the first place. They are a company with the number one priority being profit. Streaming console games sounded so uneconomical, detached from reality, simply stupid. But OK, they are GameStop... trying to put a stop to gaming where they can.
Console hardware simply wasn't built to be used in cloud gaming data centers. A strong point of modern PC hardware is that it can run games with higher frame rates, which is very important for cloud gaming to decrease latency. I'm sure it was fun to demo console games streamed from console hardware in the cloud and GameStop could get some great console games to stream, but this would be simply stupid on a large scale. I do wonder why it took them so long to find out and say that they won't be able to stream console games.
After a national private beta for their cloud gaming service, GameStop is now looking to target just PCs, tablets, and online-connected TVs when it launches the streaming game solution next year. It's currently in talks with developers and publishers to bring hundreds of games to the platform.
I'm sure NVIDIA will give them some great bulk pricing on their Geforce GRID cloud gaming technology, this cloud gaming craze could be a huge earner for NVIDIA.