The bizarre genesis of Gaikai

David Perry walks through the formation of Gaikai, and reveals his ideas for its future
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David Perry walks through the formation of Gaikai, and reveals his ideas for its future

For me, the idea of Gaikai actually came from arcade machines.

Sega had released this flight simulator cabinet called Airline Pilot [released across arcades back in 1999]. A friend of mine came up to me and told me that we needed to buy that game, so we paid for it between us, and I stored the game in my garage.

So suddenly I found myself spending time sitting in this big arcade machine [pic], flying these planes, and I was thinking to myself; wouldn’t it be great one day to play a real flight simulator, the closest one to the real thing, without spending thousands upon thousands on it?

Wouldn’t it be great to play on hardware you couldn’t afford?

What if we could give you the experience of a real flight simulator, the sights and sounds and feedback? Effectively you would be playing something that costs a lot of money, but remotely, for much less.

That was the initial idea I had, and I gave speeches on this using an image of a concord cockpit, explaining how games could one day take you there.

And I got to thinking about that concept, of streaming games to remote locations, and thought that the next logical step for this would be the player’s ability to switch between places, from cockpit to the wheel of a rally car, for example.

It was actually during a speech back in Leipzig last year when I spoke about this again, and in my presentation I switched between images of a flight simulator to, in fact, football players; real football players. I was talking on the benefits of photorealistic football games on very powerful hardware that most people wouldn’t be able to afford.

(Actually, at the time, I then switched from a football match to the Olympic Games, where I had this idea of attaching a GPS device to the runners and giving players the chance to run against them, live, in real-time.)

So, all kinds of crazy ideas. But I was suddenly contacted by Andrew Gault and Rui Pereira, who told me that they were already working on this kind of technology, and asked if I’d like to see it.

They sent me a demo, and pretty soon after I told them, ‘guys, this is it’. When I was talking about moving the player to an expensive and powerful flight simulator, I was thinking about it as something that would be great for the future. But when I actually saw this system working, it made me think that maybe the time for this technology is now.

The whole system has seen big changes from the first time I was shown it. When I first saw it, the model was to be really small, and was trying to do a deal with one publisher and just try to get a game out. But it was inevitable where this had to go; we had to go big with the service.

And there are really interesting ways in which Gaikai could be used. Imagine a games journalist is tasked with writing up a preview of a game. That current model is the journalist explaining what he or she saw and thought. But, how about the article is written next to an actual Gaikai demo of it?

Like YouTube, a game on Gaikai can be embedded onto other sites. So imagine a demo of the game is embedded next to an article, where the reporter can explain where to go, what to see, give opinions on things that the players can actually see for themselves.

Every single person reading the preview, and starts to click on the game, means that the journalist just found an interested gamer for the publisher, for free. The publishers are going to love you! You’ve got them players! And the publisher can count them; they can find out how many players your preview made. It would be a whole different relationship.

That’s because Gaikai is a service. We’re not dictating where it goes. That’s not going to happen with OnLive.

We also think the service can change the relationship between publishers and players. We’re hoping that a publisher will say “we’re so proud of our E3 demo that it will be available on Gaikai for free over the next 48 hours.”

In fact, what I would love to do is have the hardware manufacturers support our embedded streams. I’d like them to support our custom stream and then allow live demos of the games on the consoles themselves.

Just imagine being on the PlayStation Store, looking at all the games and trials, and being able to play a demo of the game, instantly, without downloading.

I actually think Nintendo could do real damage with Gaikai. They’re now paying attention to the draw of online gaming, but they also have some of the best games to get into quickly.

Console games going through Gaikai can be dictated by the publisher and platform holder. They are in control of how much of the game you can preview before you have to download.

Or, they could charge you to continue; 100 Microsoft Points to carry on through the game. Which is, ironically, a bit like an arcade machine.