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Impressions: Gaikai, the other cloud gaming service

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Mass Effect 2 Gaikai Gaikai was made publicly available today. It doesn’t have a lot of games, but what it does have speaks volumes of the service’s potential. I’ve spent a good amount of time with Gaikai and am impressed with what it offers. Even though it’s still in beta, I had a difficult time finding anything to gripe about. Gaikai works, and it works well. In fact, I’d say it works even better than OnLive.

The first game I tried with Gaikai was Dead Space 2. This is the newest game out of the few that Gaikai offers. Before playing the trial, Gaikai required a survey to be completed. The questions asked all seemed to be geared towards Gaikai’s future business endeavors. It questioned the possibility of Gears of War on Facebook and what pricing options I would prefer for games. We could very well be playing Gears of War in a browser on Facebook in the future. At that time, I just wanted my Dead Space.

Before the demo started, Gaikai tested my internet connection to make sure it was up to the task. Although David Perry (Gaikai’s CEO) suggested having a wired connection will provide more bandwidth, I stuck with a wireless connection instead. My internet connection speed hasn’t changed since my OnLive tests. It remains at around 12-13Mbps down, and between 3.5-4Mbps up. It’s the kind of connection speed the average high-speed internet household will have.

The Dead Space 2 demo is the same one you’d find on Xbox Live or PSN. The opening sequence played with no major hiccups and it looked surprisingly good on my connection. I couldn’t really judge Gaikai based on a cut scene though. I needed to stare into the eyes of a Necromorph to see how things really were.

Gaikai can display games in full-screen mode, but bandwidth limitations may not offer a smooth experience if you do that. I didn’t play in full-screen mode, but I did learn one thing. Gaikai is smooth. In fact, it’s shockingly smooth. When I play shooters on OnLive, there’s always a noticeable lag between aiming and shooting. It’s not really that prevalent if you’re stealthily shooting people in Splinter Cell: Conviction, but fast firefights were quite bad for me. Dead Space 2 may not necessarily be a fast-paced shooter, but you need good precision to take down those Necromorphs. Gaikai gave me that precision. The only trouble I had was getting the hang of WASD keys since I don’t usually game on PC.

I then tried Mass Effect 2. Again, great experience. Moving in and out of cover was graceful and it looked very good. Spore has far less movement, so it naturally worked just as well as the shooters.

The fact that the games start really fast, and had very little noticeable latency makes Gaikai a force to be reckoned with. In its current form, there isn’t any multiplayer connectivity. If Gaikai moves away from primarily being a demo and advertising service, and becomes a service to buy games, it will be successful. In fact, that survey I mentioned asked if I’d pay $9.99 for access to a game for 30-days. With how the economy is now, that sounds like a pretty good deal.

Site [Gaikai] Read [David Perry]

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