Sunday, 30 September 2012

OnLive and Gaikai are Still Coming to the Wikipad


Since Wikipad partnered with Gaikai to have them on their Wikipad Android gaming tablet and OnLive functionality was also hinted at by Wikipad, a lot has happened. Gaikai was purchased by Sony for $380 million, and OnLive went through ABC bankruptcy and started their reorganization.

Now Wikipad President of Sales Fraser Townley in a talk with Joystiq confirmed that both OnLive and Gaikai applications will appear on the Wikipad by simply saying "yes." Speaking about OnLive he said that he didn't have much knowledge what was happening at the company, but promised that "if the service is still running when we launch Wikipad, it'll be there."



Of course, since the NVIDIA Tegra 3 powered Wikipad is an Android mobile gaming device and will surely have access to Google Play, OnLive will work on the device from the get-go as they are available on the Google Play marketplace and already work on nearly any Android tablet. In the past, OnLive has also shown a lot of flexibility and fast responses to adapt their controls support for various mobile devices like the built-in slide out gamepad on the Sony Xperia PLAY and the PS3 controller support on the Sony Tablet S.

It's not yet clear if the OnLive App for Android will work with the Wikipad gamepad controller dock with no modification, if Wikipad can make it work, or if involvement from OnLive is required to update the OnLive App for Android and make it work with the Wikipad gamepad controller dock.

The Wikipad is already up for pre-order at GameStop where it will be sold at retail and online. All other major retailers will be taking orders for the Wikipad online. The Wikipad is priced at a premium tablet price of $499.99, which includes the Wikipad gamepad controller dock and 16GB of memory.



Here are the technical specifications for the Wikipad:
  • NVIDIA Tegra 3 T30S, 1.4GHz Quad-core
  • 1GB DDR2 RAM
  • 16GB storage (upgradeable)
  • 3G (optional)
  • Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
  • 10.1" (diagonal) IPS LCD (1280x800) 16:10 ratio wide-view panel
  • Capacitive multi-touch screen (supports 10-point gesture)
  • Scratch-resistant Gorilla glass screen
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n)
  • Bluetooth 3.1+
  • 3-axis Accelerometer
  • Ambient Light Sensor
  • e-Compass
  • Gyroscope
  • Active Vibration
  • Docking connector port
  • 3.5mm stereo headphone minijack
  • Built-in stereo speakers
  • Microphone
  • Micro USB connector
  • Front: 2-megapixel Camera
  • Rear: 8-megapixel Camera (Autofocus, flash)
  • Built-in 23.46 watt-hour rechargable lithium-polymer battery
  • Up to 8 hrs watching video
  • Charging via power adapter (included)
  • Height: 10.34 inches (262.6 mm)
  • Width: 6.91 inches (175.4 mm)
  • Depth: 0.34 inch (8.6 mm)
  • Weight: 1.23 pounds (560 g)

Saturday, 29 September 2012

OnLive App for Android version 1.3 Hacked to Work with any Android ICS and Higher Natively Supported Controllers

The OnLive App for Android version 1.3 officially supports a very limited number of controllers including OnLive's own Universal OnLive Wireless Controller, XInput controllers like the Xbox 360 controller and the PS3 controller on the Sony Tablet S.



XDA Developers forum member Zathu has now hacked the current version 1.3 APK of the OnLive App for Android to theoretically allow the support of any Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and later natively supported controllers. He successfully tested it with a PS3 DualShock 3 controller over Bluetooth with the Sixaxis Controller App for Anroid.

You can get more info about the hacked version 1.3 APK of the OnLive App for Android at this link: forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1906021. You can download the hacked OnLive App for Android version 1.3 if you follow this link: www21.zippyshare.com/v/4403332/file.html. If you have the official OnLive App for Android version 1.3 installed, you'll need to uninstall it before installing the hacked one.

Now that hopefully your PS3 DualShock 3 controller is working with OnLive on your Android mobile, you can buy the great GameKlip accessory to attach it firmly below your mobile and have even more fun with OnLive gaming on the go.



You can read more about OnLive for mobiles here.

Friday, 28 September 2012

OnLive Removed 4 Games from the Marketplace and from the PlayPack in the US



The 4 games that OnLive removed from the Marketplace and PlayPack in the US are SAW, Battle: Los Angeles, Red Bull X-Fighters and Puzzle Chronicles. Red Bull X-Fighters never was a part of the OnLive Marketplace and PlayPack in the UK and Belgium. SAW (Belgium), Battle: Los Angeles (Belgium) and Puzzle Chronicles (Belgium) are still part of the OnLive Marketplace and OnLive PlayPack in the UK and Belgium. People who bought PlayPasses for SAW and/or Puzzle Chronicles in the US still own the games and are able to play them on the OnLive cloud gaming service.

All 4 games were originally published by Konami which is a content partner of OnLive.



OnLive senior manager of customer relations Nathan Barsetti wrote this at OnLive Fans:

From time to time, due to shifts in publisher rights to particular games, and in-turn our rights to sell them, we need to remove titles from the service. In the case of PlayPasses we can allow the customer to retain their copy of the game, but in the case of the PlayPack, we need to remove it completely. The following games are no longer available:

SAW
Battle LA
Red Bull X Fighters
Puzzle Chronicles


That's not to say they won't be back, as we've seen it happen many times where we start the process of pulling the games, and we get a last minute authorization to keep them up. Permission may happen, it may not, but based on the rate of play these games had, it shouldn't make much of a difference to the actual value of the PlayPack.



Nathan Barsetti latter added at OnLive Fans, "yep, you guys are right. These titles are still available in the UK and Belgium, as who holds the rights for those games is different. ALSO, if you bought Saw or Puzzle Chronicles as a PlayPass early on, you will still have access."

The OnLive PlayPack is now at 249 games in the US, 251 games in the UK and 251 games in Belgium, and counting. This means that for the first time the European OnLive PlayPack now has more games than the OnLive PlayPack in the US.


Thursday, 27 September 2012

OnLive Released Sleeping Dogs to the Marketplace - The Report of Their Death was an Exaggeration


Sleeping Dogs is the first blockbuster game released on OnLive after going through ABC bankruptcy and starting their reorganization. Therefore OnLive felt it necessary to make a post on their Facebook page (UK and Belgium post) to let their fans know of this fact:

The moment you've all been waiting for: Sleeping Dogs has arrived to OnLive! Blow the lid off Hong Kong’s deadliest criminal organization—without blowing your cover. Purchase the Sleeping Dogs Digital Edition and receive the base game plus the Triad Enforcer Pack! (Purchase the Sleeping Dogs Limited Edition and receive the base game plus the Police Protection Pack along with the Georges St. Pierre (GSP) Pack!)

We also wanted to take a moment to point out Mark Twain's famous quote:
"the report of my death was an exaggeration."

…and to acknowledge that since the recent transition to a new corporate owner, we have had our hands full rebooting the business, including work to re-engage with all our publishing partners. We appreciate your patience and are focused on ensuring the Game Service remains up and running, and on continuing to provide the best cloud gaming experience available! Thanks again for all your support.



OnLive is now actually selling two editions of the game. In the US you can get the Sleeping Dogs - Digital Edition for $49.99 ($34.99 PlayPack). The Sleeping Dogs - Digital Edition includes the base game as well as the Sleeping Dogs - Triad Enforcer Pack add-on.

In the UK and Belgium you can get the Sleeping Dogs - Limited Edition. It costs £29.99 in the UK (£20.99 PlayPack) and €49.99 in Belgium (€34.99 PlayPack). The Sleeping Dogs - Limited Edition includes the base game as well as the Sleeping Dogs - GSP Pack (Belgium) and the Sleeping Dogs - Police Protection Pack (Belgium) add-ons.



Sleeping Dogs is an open world crime drama action game published by Square Enix and developed by United Front Games. The game had quite an interesting development history as it was originally in development as Black Lotus, later it was announced as True Crime: Hong Kong, the third installment and a reboot of the True Crime series. As a result of the game's high development budget, delays and Activision's greed, it was canceled by Activision. Then Square Enix picked up the publishing rights to the game, but renamed it to Sleeping Dogs as they didn't purchase the True Crime name rights. As Square Enix is a strong supporter of OnLive, they can feel lucky that the game had such a troubled development history and Square Enix picked it up. Would the game still be with Activision, it wouldn't be on OnLive, as Activision doesn't yet publish any games on OnLive.



In Sleeping Dogs you are welcomed to Hong Kong, a vibrant neon city teaming with life, whose exotic locations and busy streets hide one of the most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations in the world: the Triads.



In this open world game, you play the role of Wei Shen, an undercover cop trying to take down the Triads from the inside out. You'll have to prove yourself worthy as you fight your way up the organization, taking part in brutal criminal activities without blowing your cover. Torn between your loyalty to the badge and a criminal code of honor, you will risk everything as the lines between truth, loyalty and justice become permanently blurred.



Key Features:
  • A mature and gritty undercover cop drama in which you risk blowing your cover at any time.
  • Explosive action fueled by a seamless mix of deadly martial arts, intense gunfights and brutal takedowns.
  • Epic high-speed thrills: Burn up the streets or tear up the sea in a vast array of exotic cars, superbikes and speedboats.
  • Hong Kong is your playground: Enter illegal races, gamble on cock fights, or kick back with some karaoke. There are countless ways to entertain yourself in Hong Kong's diverse districts.


Sleeping Dogs - Triad Enforcer Pack Add-On

It's a high-speed shoot out in 'Triad Highway.' Armed with a high capacity machine gun, fight a tide of Triads after your head. 'Death by 1,000 Cuts' puts you in a brutal fight club taking on the Triads with a razor sharp golden cleaver. Wear the Triad Enforcer outfit for added Face and more punishing damage.



Sleeping Dogs - GSP Pack Add-On

Dress like Mixed Martial Arts champion Georges St-Pierre (GSP) with this collection of shorts, t-shirts and bandana, and devastate your enemies with GSP's signature flying punch. The GSP outfit unlocks GSP's signature Flying Punch as well as unlocks increased grappling and throwing damage.



Sleeping Dogs - Police Protection Pack Add-On

The "High Speed" Mission lets you join the Hong Kong Police Department SWAT Unit in an all out street war with the Triads. Swerve through traffic, explosions and gun fire as you chase down your targets in an exclusive Swat Police Car. With The Police Protection Pack Assault Rifle you can take your enemies out with either a single shot or a spray of bullets.



Metascore: 82

You can buy the Sleeping Dogs - Digital Edition for the US powered by OnLive.

You can buy the Sleeping Dogs - Limited Edition for the UK powered by OnLive.

You can buy the Sleeping Dogs - Limited Edition for Belgium powered by OnLive.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

US Cable Giants Will Launch their Own Cloud Gaming Services Next Year - Will Put the Pressure on Consoles

Bloomberg is reporting that US cable giants AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner Cable are working on their own cloud gaming services. Comcast, Cox Communications and others are also in talks with various cloud gaming technology providers to build their cloud gaming services. Some of the big telecom carriers intend to trial their cloud gaming services later this year to test and tweak the technology before wider deployments that will begin in 2013. Other carriers are aiming for 2014 to launch.



Jan Rasmussen, a spokeswoman for AT&T, said in a statement the company is “exploring unique ways to offer cloud gaming services to our TV and broadband customers.” AT&T had 4.15 million subscribers for its U-verse TV services as of June.

Deidre Hart, a spokeswoman for Verizon, said that while the company has the capability, it doesn’t currently “offer anything regarding HD cloud gaming.” Verizon had 4.47 million TV subscribers as of June.

Shana Keith, a spokeswoman for Cox, said the company is exploring a number of cloud-based broadband services, declining to provide specifics. Cox had 4.66 million TV subscribers as of June.

Jennifer Khoury Newcomb, a spokeswoman for Comcast, which had 22.1 million subscribers, and Alex Dudley, a spokesman for Time Warner Cable, which had 12.4 million subscribers, declined to comment.

Just recently NVIDIA's cloud gaming boss Phil Eisler said that he thinks that a lot will happen in cloud gaming the next year with many products and services arriving, NVIDIA's products are sampling to cloud gaming partners now. Asia is currently leading the charge in cloud gaming, but he expects that a lot will happen in the US the next year. It looks like his predictions are already proving true, of course it's easier to predict the future if you have insider information as it looks like NVIDIA will be a hardware provider for many of the upcoming cloud gaming services with their Geforce GRID cloud gaming technology.

2013 and 2014 are also the years when the next generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles from Microsoft and Sony should arrive, the soon to be launched Wii U from Nintendo could from a very optimistic viewpoint also be counted as a half step to next-gen. To date the large telecom carriers have been nothing more than free networks that enabled the console manufacturers to establish large online gaming communities like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, with the console guys reaping all the benefits while giving the telecom carriers none of it.

With the advent of cloud gaming this is bound to change, at least when you ask the telcos. The console companies currently hold the majority of the huge games market and the cable giants are now after a large piece of that money pie. They want to sidestep the games consoles and deliver high-end gaming directly to TVs, PCs, Macs, tablets, smartphones and other devices.

“Everybody has a TV,” said Atul Bagga, a video-games analyst at Lazard Capital Markets in San Francisco. Cable and phone companies are “looking for new ways to monetize their users and gaming can be pretty compelling,” he said.

By adding popular games to their TV, Internet and phone packages, carriers can offer another service to their almost 50 million digital TV subscribers.

Though the cable giants have deep pockets and a lot of power, that doesn't mean that entry into the developed games market dominated by the console guys will be easy. The console guys have large followings by gamers, control the opinion of gamers, have their first-party game exclusives, already established online gaming services and online game distribution, and are of course working on their own cloud gaming services. Not long ago Sony purchased cloud gaming company Gaikai for $380 million and Microsoft is also working on their cloud gaming service that should be ready by 2015.

One interesting tidbit is that cloud gaming data centers are currently running PC games and therefore require the Microsoft Windows operating system. One could think that Microsoft would be willing to leverage that position, but I don't think that will be the case as Microsoft would think twice before risking another antitrust case. Regardless of that, the upcoming cloud gaming craze could get very lucrative for Microsoft, if nothing else, they will at least sell a lot of Windows licenses.

But, apart from the deep pockets and power, the cable giants have one immensely dangerous weapon in their arsenal. A weapon that delivered a lot of pain to Netflix and the likes. Of course I'm talking about bandwidth caps and the anti-competitive behaviour of the US cable giants to not include their own traffic into the bandwidth caps. Not only are they putting a damper on the development of streaming video services, now they will also put a bigger damper on other developing cloud gaming services that compete with them, as cloud gaming services consume way more bandwidth because of their real-time video nature.

Of course the cable guys have other benefits to them. They can prioritize traffic for their own cloud gaming services, they know their infrastructure and can optimize latency and picture quality, they have many data centers located near gamers, and gaming will be just another check box that their customers tick and pay for with their monthly cable bill. And the obvious benefit is of course that the cable giants have a huge number of customers and for them gaming will be just another convenient feature delivered by the cable guy. Seeing all these benefits, one could think that cloud gaming was made for the cable companies.

“It makes perfect sense why they would want to go after this market,” said Mitch Lasky, a partner at venture firm Benchmark Capital, who was previously an executive at Electronic Arts and also an early investor in cloud gaming startup Gaikai. “Streaming games use a ton of bandwidth and really benefit from good networks. But it’s a gnarly execution problem they’re trying to solve.”

For cloud gaming technology the telecom carriers are turning to cloud gaming middleware startups like Playcast, Agawi and CiiNOW which provide software to enable the proliferation of cloud gaming services. Executives at each of those companies acknowledged that they’re in talks with US carriers, declining to say which ones. Playcast has a lot of experience providing cloud gaming services for telecom companies like French Bouygues Telecom, South Korean Cable TV Operator CJ HelloVision and others.

“If there was ever a service that fit network providers, it’s this one,” said Ron Haberman, Co-Founder and CEO of CiiNOW. “2013 is going to be when we see big commercial offerings.” Mountain View, California based CiiNOW is about to begin its fourth European trial, though Ron Haberman declined to name the carriers. US cable and phone companies need to catch up, he said.



There are a surprising number of cloud gaming technology companies either in the pixel streaming, progressive download or nascent compression executions. Any of these companies could be bought by a number of predators such as telcos, console manufacturers, download platforms and games publishers. It's going to come, and interestingly, bandwidth could be the least of the problems.

Of course the hardware for all these cloud gaming services won't come cheap, as evidenced by OnLive's recent problems. But that's what deep pockets and an existing data center infrastructure are good for. NVIDIA is betting big on cloud gaming with their Geforce GRID cloud gaming technology and would love to sell high-end GPUs to the cable giants by the bulk for bulk prices. NVIDIA's archrival AMD has recently also invested into cloud gaming company CiiNOW, so it's highly likely that AMD hardware will find its way into the carrier data centers. And of course Intel also has no problems providing CPUs and other hardware by the bulk.

“It’s a substantial investment of both hardware and software,” said Tony Tamasi, senior vice president of content and technology at NVIDIA, though he declined to name the company’s partners. “We’ve put stuff into our chips specifically to enable this kind of functionality.”

One of the strong points of the console manufacturers are first-party exclusives like Halo, God of War and Mario, such games are currently out of the question for the upcoming cloud gaming services by the telcos. Now that the cable giants want to go beyond social and casual games, if they want to put up a serious fight with the console giants, they will have to secure third-party multi-platform blockbusters like Call of Duty from Activision and Battlefield from Electronic Arts.

I think that the cable giants will have no problems securing the aforementioned titles and more. For game publishers, cloud gaming makes sense because they can develop for a single platform rather than for each of the various consoles, which costs more money. Frank Gibeau, president of Electronic Arts Labels, said games via Web-based TV will eventually be a “big opportunity,” without giving a time frame.

AT&T was a large investor and partner of OnLive before their bankruptcy stunt, they are still listed as a partner on OnLive's web page. They presumably lost a lot of money on OnLive. Other telecom carriers were also entertaining close relationships with OnLive. With AT&T and other telecom carriers entering the cloud gaming arena in the next year, I don't think that OnLive will enjoy such a strong support from them going forward, add to that OnLive's recent problems and it could get very troublesome for OnLive. Though OnLive is still the only fully operating large scale cloud gaming service, this could spell trouble for them like losing support of many games publishers.



Next year could prove very interesting in the cloud gaming space, as it looks like many heavyweights will enter and join the many small startups. This combination promises that we'll be able to spectate some speactacular action in the cloud gaming arena next year.

OnLive Released the Death Rides Pack DLC for Darksiders II - Those Who Pre-Ordered the Game Get it for Free


OnLive released the Death Rides Pack DLC for Darksiders II. The Darksiders II - Death Rides Pack add-on costs $6.99 in the US ($4.89 PlayPack), £4.39 in the UK (£3.07 PlayPack) and €5.49 in Belgium (€3.84 PlayPack).

People who pre-ordered Darksiders II on OnLive were promised the Argul's Tomb content pack, which was now released by THQ. But OnLive now emailed the people who pre-ordered the game that they couldn't manage to bring the Argul's Tomb content pack to the service and as a replacement they get the just released Death Rides Pack for free. OnLive didn't disclose if they will release the Argul's Tomb content pack in the future and if the people who pre-ordered Darksiders II will still get it for free.

Featuring multiple exclusive side-quests, the Death Rides Pack add-on allows the most fearless adventurers to explore more of the Maker's Realm and Dead Plains and earn additional experience and loot. Aid an ancient Construct, battle The Bloodless and retrieve Karn's lost treasure in around two hours of unique game play content.


Sunday, 23 September 2012

NVIDIA's Cloud Gaming Boss Talks About the Current Problems that Companies like OnLive and Gaikai Face and Where Cloud Gaming is Heading


VentureBeat had an interview with Phil Eisler, the general manager of cloud gaming at NVIDIA. He said that NVIDIA began working on cloud gaming four or five years ago with some software architects. They were looking at encoding the output of the GPU and sending it over the internet, and experimenting with that. They built that into a series of capture routines and applications programming interfaces (APIs) that could capture the full frame buffer or part of the frame buffer. Now NVIDIA is committed to cloud gaming with over 100 of their employees and is betting heavily on the future of it.

Phil thinks that it's unfortunate what happened with OnLive, but a lot of their problems were of their own doing and NVIDIA wouldn’t do some things the way that OnLive did. He pointed out that the naysayers certainly had a field day with OnLive's problems. NVIDIA still sees a lot of potential for the vision of cloud gaming and they don’t see what happened with OnLive as a negative for the long-term potential of cloud gaming and they’re still bullish on it.

Phil said that the fact that Sony was willing to pay $380 million dollars for Gaikai gave a big boost to pro-cloud gaming people. The console guys are now very aware of the potential of cloud streaming games to TVs and other devices.

Phil put the number of current cloud gaming services like OnLive, Gaikai, Playcast, Ubitus, G-cluster, Agawi, CiiNOW, Cloud Union and OTOY approaching 10 and found it interesting comparing that number to the number of companies that were originally in the graphics business when it started. He laughed at the fact that the cloud gaming business still has 20 to go to reach the number of 30 companies that started in the graphics business, and then went back down to two. He found it funny that there does seem to be a new cloud gaming middleware company coming up every week or month or so.

Speaking of cloud gaming middleware, Phil said that these companies are a necessary function in the cloud gaming ecosystem. They perform a system integration function, and they provide some software that enables user accounts and signed games to users and onboarding of games. So they have services that they provide to anyone trying to offer a service. They’re trying to work with different partners to reach as many potential game subscribers as possible.

Phil said that NVIDIA has started doing early work on remote desktops prior to OnLive’s revealing. Actually, they filed quite a few patents early on in that area. But then they worked and supported most of the early cloud gaming startups like OnLive and Gaikai. They still work with the growing number of cloud gaming companies as the market evolves and grows.

Phil talked about how he sees the development of OnLive and Gaikai. The deployment of server infrastructure for cloud gaming was expensive for them, he speculated that OnLive has an 8,000 concurrent stream capacity and Gaikai half of that number. But he thinks that that was only part of the OnLive story, not all of it, maybe not even the most important part.

Phil said that OnLive and Gaikai were both able to lease the server infrastructure. It was a heavy burden on them as startups, from that standpoint. But they only supported one game per machine, so had no virtualization. They were early pioneers and they were focused mostly on getting it working. When they started, nobody was doing it, so they had to invent the encoding technology, the virtual machine technology, the distributed game technology. Being small startups, they were mostly focused on the quickest path to make it work, which is what they did. They didn’t really get to the second phase, which was cost-reducing it and adding more concurrency. And they did it largely without a lot of support from even NVIDIA. In the early days NVIDIA gave them little bits of help, but not a lot. NVIDIA didn’t design products for them. The Geforce GRID cloud gaming technology was the first time NVIDIA designed products for the cloud gaming market that were made for that purpose, so it makes it easier for them to scale it out.


Phil pointed out that the Kepler GPU architecture, that is underlying the Geforce GRID cloud gaming technology, is the first generation that supports cloud gaming. The GeForce GRID GPUs have the ability to encode four simultaneous streams to gamers. The actual virtualization of the GPU can be more than that. The encoding, currently, depends on the resolution and framerate. But practically, it’s about four. He thinks it will get on a Moore’s Law type of trajectory in the future, where the number of streams per server will double every year with the number of users per server going to 8, 16, 32 and so on.


Phil claimed that NVIDIA is working very hard on GPU virtualization and part of their VGX effort is to develop the hardware and software for a GPU hypervisor to enable the virtual GPU. Virtualizing a GPU is a very hard problem to solve, but NVIDIA is solving it and their early results are promising. He thinks that NVIDIA will get better with each generation of hardware and software and said that that’s a major effort for NVIDIA right now.


Phil said that NVIDIA is offloading the encoding parameters from cloud gaming companies. They were either doing it through external hardware like OnLive or through software on the CPU like Gaikai, both of which involve a lot of data transfer and power consumption. Because NVIDIA is doing it on the GPU, that offloads the CPU for more games running and reduces the power and enables more concurrency, so you can get more simultaneous streams per server and reduce the cost per stream.


Then there are many more servers with GPUs coming to data centers thanks to NVIDIA's work with server builders like Dell, Super Micro and Quanta to build space for GPUs into their architecture. They'we actually pioneered that primarily through their Tesla group. They are leveraging a lot of the infrastructure that was built for that to plug their GPUs in. That’s working out well and making it easy to assemble and put GPU servers into data centers.


Phil thinks that a good tradeoff of experience versus bandwidth for streaming games is 720p, 30 frames per second and about five megabits per second. They could do 1080p and 60 frame per second with the bit rate of 15 to 20 megabits per second, and they can go lower to 480p and 2 megabits. He added that bandwidth and latency are currently the problems for cloud gaming. NVIDIA is doing a lot about the problem of latency with the Geforce GRID cloud gaming technology by doing a much faster capture and encode of gameplay video. They’re able to save about 30 milliseconds of latency, which helps a lot. They’re also working on client optimizations, which can save maybe another 20 milliseconds of latency. Also, with Moore’s Law, they will improve the bandwidth and resolution.


Phil was at a product launch in South Korea with LG U+. They were announcing two choices for their TV cloud gaming service. One was 50 megabits per second and the other choice was 100 megabits per second. There, we can go 1080p, 60Hz, and it’ll be a beautiful picture. He thinks that is the future for this country as well.

Phil believes that the next console generation will also be the last console generation. The last one is almost 10 years old now in terms of the technology. The good thing about cloud gaming is it’s going to get better every year. One of the reasons NVIDIA is investing in it is they see that there are some issues today, but they’re all solvable, and they’re all moving in the right direction. Bandwidth is going up. The cost of server rooms is going down. They’re bringing latency down. The experience will just get better and better every year, to the point where he thinks it will become the predominant way that people play games.

He added that you can put out multiple Blu-ray discs, but who wants to jockey discs anymore? People don’t want discs in their lives anymore. They want to download everything, and when you’re downloading that kind of stuff, it takes a long time. So they’re also pushing the ability, of course, to play instantly. You don’t have to download anything. You don’t have to update any patches. It’s all maintained for you. You just play.

Phil emphasized that the average gamer playing on an Xbox 360 today with a standard television is probably experiencing 150 to 200 milliseconds of latency, and that’s what they’re used to playing with every day. He said that the beast HDMI inputs on TVs currently measure up to 60 milliseconds. Because NVIDIA can always improve the hardware at the server end and they can improve the capture and encode… They can do that portion in about 60 milliseconds and effectively hide the network delay. Gaikai showed, when they worked with Limelight, that with a distributed network in the United States, you could get to most homes in about 30 milliseconds. When he was out talking to the South Koreans about these things, they’re under 20 milliseconds to get to houses. People worry about the network latency, but actually, in the whole pipeline, it’s the smallest piece. Our monitors that we work with today are under 10 milliseconds of latency. They think that, working with Smart TV manufacturers, they’ll be able to cut that time down. It’s going to be possible very shortly to have a cloud-rendered experience that has lower latency than the current console plus standard television experience.


Phil also talked about the tradeoff of many distributed data centers to cover the US versus only a couple. The more data centers cover an area the less latency gamers get and vice versa. Of course it is more difficult and costlier to set up more data centers. They are working with different cloud gaming providers who pursue both strategies.

Phil Eisler also commented on the recent investment of their archrival AMD into cloud gaming company CiiNOW. He said there’s a lot of software that needs to be developed and supported, and NVIDIA invested quite a bit in that. They haven’t seen the cloud gaming software come from AMD and really at this time the only practical choice that people have in cloud gaming is NVIDIA. On paper there are also video encoders on AMD's architecture, but AMD has no software to make use of said video encoders for cloud gaming, so until AMD releases some software people don't know if the hardware is good enough or not.

NVIDIA is now already working on their second generation cloud gaming technology and they are investing a lot into it. For GPU vendors the revenue from cloud gaming is right now close to zero, but NVIDIA is betting big on its future and is investing money and time from their engineers in it. He thinks that AMD is not really showing such a commitment.

Phil said that currently NVIDIA doesn't have the intention of running their own cloud gaming data centers and are more than happy to sell their Geforce GRID cloud gaming technology to enable others to be successful in running cloud gaming services and data centers. There is great interest in cloud gaming worldwide from telco companies, games publishers and anybody in the games distribution business. Some companies also want to offer virtual desktops and applications. Currently there are so many different form factors like iOS devices, Android devices, Smart TVs and others which are incompatible with the general software development on PCs. The ability to stream to any of these devices is becoming more and more important for software developers, and the ability to reach all these devices is extended a lot by cloud gaming.


Phil thinks that cloud gaming is hugely disruptive. He compares it to cloud 2.0 where the screen is just rendered at the server and streamed to everybody. Cloud 1.0 was only running some sort of master servers and communicated data back and forth. He thinks that a lot will happen in cloud gaming the next year with many products and services arriving, NVIDIA's products are sampling to cloud gaming partners now. Asia is currently leading the charge in cloud gaming, but he expects that a lot will happen in the US the next year. In five years cloud gaming could be a significant portion of the way people play games.

Cloud gaming is one of the major strategic initiatives at NVIDIA. As already mentioned, there’s well over 100 people working on it to some degree at NVIDIA. Whether it’s on the hardware, the software, the firmware and at the driver level.

Finally, Phil Eisler said that he isn't afraid that NVIDIA's burgeoning cloud gaming business could cannibalize their established discrete graphics business. Their Geforce high-end graphics card experience still offers superior image quality and latency for local gamers. He thinks it’ll be 10 years before they have to worry about them switching over to the cloud. NVIDIA sees this more the opposite way, really, as expanding the market for GeforcePhil thinks it will attract new users, because it’s easier to play and you can now play PC games on any device, not just on a PC that you have to set up yourself. For the most part, it expands the market for NVIDIA more than it takes away.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

OnLive Will Not Sell Borderlands 2 at this Time - In Discussions with 2K Games About Getting the Game

At this year's E3 when OnLive was still going strong and only their management knew about their financial problems, they posted a Facebook video with parts of various game trailers of games that were on the service or about to come to it. Part of the video that you can see below was also Borderlands 2, which sort of confirmed that the game is coming to OnLive or that OnLive strongly believes that they will get the game.


After OnLive's bankruptcy debacle many people thought that OnLive will have troubles getting Borderlands 2 ready on time for the launch date that was yesterday, because they've lost many employees who were responsible for getting the games to the service. Perhaps this is still the case as OnLive hasn't released any new games this week, not even to the OnLive PlayPack which got one new game a week lately. It might well be that the games OnLive released in the last weeks were ready to go before their bankruptcy debacle and they've now run out of these games. They might be having troubles hiring back former employees and getting new people to bring the games to the service. If this is the case, it is the more unfortunate at this time frame in the fall where most of the biggest games of the year are released.

Borderlands 2 is certainly one of the blockbuster titles of this year and OnLive has now confirmed that the trouble with this game is not only in getting it to the service on time for release date, but that they are having trouble securing the game rights from its publisher 2K Games. OnLive posted on their Facebook page, "‎2K officially launched Borderlands 2 today to great critical acclaim. Unfortunately OnLive will not be selling the game at this time. We are currently in discussions with 2K about bringing the game to OnLive, and will update you when we have more specific information. Thanks for your continued support!" They've also confirmed this by Twitter with these words, "unfortunately we will not be selling Borderlands 2 at this time; we're in discussions with 2K about bringing the game to OnLive, stay tuned."