It’s been clear for a good couple of years now that gaming – and computing as a whole – is moving towards the realm of clouds, digital downloads and online streaming. To an extent, these breakthroughs have been considered as something that could coexist peacefully with games consoles. Sony, for instance, recently purchased the game-streaming service Gaikai, in what seems like an attempt to extend the Playstation 3’s longevity by giving it access to the cloud gaming realm. Microsoft, meanwhile, have long been linked with an acquisition of troubled cloud-gaming platform, Onlive.
Now, it seems that the big boys of US cable TV have gone on the offensive, and are looking to deploy game-streaming services directly the cable boxes. The idea of cable TV giants such as AT&T, Verizon and Time Warner jumping on the cloud-gaming bandwagon is one that’s worth thinking about, as it could prove to be the greatest threat to games consoles yet.
The one thing that’s more popular in entertainment electronics than games consoles is TVs (hardly breaking news , given that must of us use our games consoles via our TVs). We may think that games consoles seem like a standard feature of most households, but they don’t even hold a light up to cable TV. If there was an option to have everything integrated into cable boxes, then why the hell would people want to splash out an extra couple of hundred dollars on a cumbersome console?
The big news here is that the cable giants aren’t just looking to bore us to death with games like Chess, Bejewelled and Frogger. No, their goal is to start streaming Triple-A blockbuster games on cable boxes as early as 2013. With this new service, the cable providers would supply their own controllers, though they’re also apparently looking at the possibility of using smartphone screens as controllers.
The push by cable companies to stream games is one that can’t be compared to the puny-by-comparison platforms like Gaikai and OnLive. First off, both of those services are done on limited budgets, and have both struggled to gain much of a foothold in the gaming market. OnLive in particular has fallen on hard times, as poor managament led the company to damn near go under a couple of months ago. Furthermore, both of those services are ultimately aiming to integrate with games consoles, rather than oppose them. The only market that’s likely to every be affected by them is PC hardware, as the platforms technically do away with the need for high-end graphics cards and processors.
A successful push for cable TV game-streaming though, could consume all in its path. The likes of Time Warner and AT&T have infinitely deep pockets to play around with the project. They have the ability to easily market such a service to all their customers through their cable boxes, and they can afford to wait a while before the profits start rolling in.
With a strong enough push, such an idea could easily spell the end for the likes of Gaikai and OnLive, and could even be the start of ‘platform-less’ gaming put into practice. One would hope that the cable giants would be forward-thinking in their approach, and allow for online interaction between gamers subscribed to different cable companies. If so, then this is something that could redefine home console gaming. Scary, but also exciting, as it would almost certainly force Sony and Microsoft to up their games.