Sony Computer Entertainment today announced that it entered into a definitive agreement on June 30, 2012 (Japan Time) to acquire Gaikai Inc., the world's leading interactive cloud-based gaming company, what will this mean for the PS4?
I'm not sold on network powered gaming yet. Having the processing power in the cloud means you don't have to buy hardware, and it means the operating company can upgrade the hardware at any time without bothering you, but the input and display lag has to kill certain genres of games. Would you play an FPS or a fighting game with noticeable lag, for instance? For a single-player cinematic experience, this system would be tough to beat (like Uncharted's campaign) though I think even some action games would need to be tweaked to be a bit more forgiving of timing based actions.
Sure, the internet is getting faster all the time, but that's just download and upload speed... bandwidth. The real issue is latency, which is how long it takes your signal to go from your computer (or device) to the servers and for information (in this case a screen image) to come back again. This is limited by how far away you are from the servers and the speed of light. There's not much Gaikai can do about the later, so they solve this problem by co-locating servers closer to population areas... having East coast and West coast datacenters is common as is having European and Asian area datacenters. That said, I wouldn't expect there to be datacenters all over the U.S.A. If you live in the middle of nowhere, you're probably out of luck as far as latency goes. Your only option is to move to New York or San Francisco (or somewhere closer to them).
Anyway, what does all this have to do with the PS4? Well, for starters, you may already have the hardware in your house now:
"By combining Gaikai's resources including its technological strength and engineering talent with SCE's extensive game platform knowledge and experience, SCE will provide users with unparalleled cloud entertainment experiences," said Andrew House, President and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. "SCE will deliver a world-class cloud-streaming service that allows users to instantly enjoy a broad array of content ranging from immersive core games with rich graphics to casual content anytime, anywhere on a variety of internet-connected devices." - Source: Sony Press Release
Hey, you know what's an "internet-connected device"? The PS3! What else? Most Sony TV's sold today. Sony could easily put a Gaikai app on the PS3 dashboard... they probably will do this whether or not they release an actual hardware PS4. Not having to release new system hardware would save the company a ton of money. More than enough to cover the $380 million (USD) they spent on Gaikai. It's hard to say why Sonly would have purchased Gaikai if they didn't plan to integrate it into the Playstation brand, though I guess stranger things have happened.
What do you think? Is cloud gaming in your future or will they have to pry physical hardware from your cold, dead hands?