Saturday, 22 December 2012

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.

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