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Gaikai promises to stream PC games like WoW straight to your browser

David Perry is one of those game developers who doesn't do anything small -- he started out with a company called Shiny Entertainment, responsible for great old games like Earthworm Jim, MDK, Messiah, and the Enter the Matrix movie tie-in game, and nowadays he's moved on to the MMO market, where he's developed all kinds of crazy ideas (including, we're not kidding, a dance MMO). This is the kind of guy who has ideas and chases them down.

His latest idea is a system called Gaikai, a "game streaming service" that allows players to jump right into any PC games they'd like, no installation or hard drive space necessary, online. There are a number of services like this springing up lately, including the much-discussed OnLive, where instead of depending on your local hardware to render and produce the game you're playing, you just send and recieve information with a remote server. As you can see above, Gaikai is focusing on PC games, and anyone who's planning on running a PC gaming service has to include World of Warcraft. Starting at about 6:00 into the video above, he shows off a version of WoW that requires no installation or loading at all; just sign in and play.

Tempting, though the service isn't quite there yet. On the technical side, Perry does say that the server he's playing with in the video above is about 800 miles away, but with all of this net connection stuff (just ask my Xbox when it attempts to stream HD Netflix video), theory is always much different than practice. Not to mention that one user running a service like this is fine, but what if 12 million people all tried running this at the same time? And then there are licensing issues -- Blizzard obviously makes money off of selling their expansions and software in stores, and it's not yet clear exactly how that money (or how much of that money) will be made here.

I have no doubt that given how much both computing power and network speed has increased lately, a service like this will almost definitely become the de facto at some point -- instead of worrying about having your hardware at home, it'll likely just be easier to stream the gameplay in from elsewhere. But Gaikai is still in the development stages, and no one knows how long it'll be until a service like this is ready for primetime. Your current WoW installation isn't going anywhere fast, but within a few years from now, you may not need it at all.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, Blizzard, Hardware

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