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Games in the Cloud?

Posted by: Cliff Edwards on February 24, 2009

One of the biggest downsides to playing most games is their lack of portability. Generally, you have to sit in front of the same screen on which you launched the game until you’ve finished or gotten too tired to play.

And as one of the few industries that is holding up during the long downturn, companies are scrambling to find new ways to keep people playing when the economy recovers.

A company called Instant Action thinks it has an answer to both dilemmas. The Oregon-based company, owned by media conglomerate InterActive Corp., announced today it will license technology that lets any game run directly in any relatively new pc or Mac’s Web browser.

In short, that means gaming companies will be able to convert some of their hottest 3D titles and serve them up over the Web. A gamer then could start a game at home, save it, go over to a friend’s house or somewhere with a good Internet connection and pick up the game right where he or she left off.

For game companies, there’s also the added benefit that it becomes more difficult to pirate a game since the software sits on a secure server. If gaming goes to the cloud, it could open up new markets for a number of companies that have been leery of piracy in Asia and South America.

There’s no telling whether InstantAction will ultimately be successful, but I think Web-based gaming is an idea whose time has come. Previous effort involved downloading the entire game, and some sites limited the types of games you could play, without giving you the freedom of mobility that people are demanding more and more.

I took a briefing last week with Andy Yang, general manager of InstantAction, and Brett Seyler, who head up licensing, and was impressed with the demo using InstantAction’s own web site. It included the requisite social aspects such as chat, presence and stats and had a number of games from different genres that seemed as appealing as anything you’d get on a major console.

InstantAction has been running its own online gaming destination in beta trials; it now has more than 1.4 million registrations. It plans to add iPhone support later this year for some of its in-house developed games.

Seyler says InstantAction decided to license the technology after getting a number of queries by game makers. The company does not have a set price for licensing the technology but plans to make it essentially a one-time fee and potential revenue sharing.

Many of the company’s games are free to play, supported by advertising that didn’t appear to intrusive. It does offer subscriptions for premium services and is banking on micro-transactions in which players can trade various items in a game.

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Reader Comments


February 24, 2009 06:26 PM

Question. How will a secure server stop piracy? Let's say I have an account w/ Instant Action and my friend doesn't. What's stopping me from giving him my account info to play the games? Might not be straight up piracy but would still affect sales.


February 25, 2009 06:46 AM

@ Craig,
True, but you then both can't play at the same time with the same account, and in certain games you would share the same progress in campaigns, etc..


February 25, 2009 08:55 AM

It's the same concept of having a CD key, you can only login in at one location at a time so you can't play together with your friend, you are simply letting them borrow your game.

Dan Taylor

February 25, 2009 09:12 AM

And now we know at least one of the companies David Perry has been 'looking into'.


February 25, 2009 12:05 PM

Could this ultimately lead to less expensive games?


February 25, 2009 05:41 PM

@ Mike: The cost is unlikely to go down. In marketing class they teach you to charge as much as the market will bear. Just because the cost of production goes down doesn't mean the price goes down. It just fattens up the profits until a competitor comes in with a lower price. Sorry. :(

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BusinessWeek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, Douglas MacMillan, and Spencer Ante dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. One of the first mainstream media tech blogs, Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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