3.0 - Gaming-on-demand platform?

Posted by Daeity On Friday, August 6, 2010

So, Blizzard and Microsoft are currently in a relationship regarding Microsoft's next-gen console, their Kinect device, and their cloud computing technologies.

According to Microsoft, 70% of their employees are hard at work on cloud-computing related projects and that number is likely to rise to 90% next year.

And, Rob Pardo has also confirmed that Blizzard has been in discussions with Microsoft's engineers regarding their cloud computing and live streaming technologies. As well, OnLive has been involved in ongoing discussions with Activision Blizzard regaring their streaming services, but they haven't committed to anything solid. Each time they meet, though, they're learning more-and-more about the technology and how it can be used for future game releases.

Are these some of the signs that Blizzard is making a move into on-demand streaming territory?

It would fit in very well with their services and would definitely work well with their new "Next Gen" MMO. Maybe the "Next Gen" bit isn't just about new consoles, but rather opening up their games for many platforms regardless of age? With live streaming services, you don't have to worry too much about processor speed, video card performance, memory, or harddrive capacity.

Of course, this will all depend if it the technology works or not. Gaming-on-demand is very deterministic based on broadband availability, you need guaranteed performance for delivering HD video and it's not available by many ISPs.

However, to combat the differences in bandwidth availability (if it's still a problem when their next-gen MMO is released), Blizzard could introduce multiple purchasing options like they have in the past. As you know, Blizzard has been recently experimenting with alternative pricing purchasing options in countries outside of NA. There's talk of monthly, daily, and hourly fees.

So for users that can't support it, there may be a reduced price structure for "on demand users" versus "old fashioned users with local installs." It would be enough to get a large player base streaming the game, and as ISP upgrade users will migrate over.

Also, did you notice their specific wording?

"Added additional purchasing options so that the game is accessible to a wider audience."

They're testing out different purchasing options so that the game "is accessible to a wider audience." That's the same thing Blizzard said about their next-gen MMO - they want it more accessible to a wider audience. All part of the same strategy? =]

Also, Blizzard has been hiring more employees that have background experience in streaming gameplay. One of the Next-Gen MMO software engineers has been working on "streaming gameplay" for the game. And they are even experimenting with streaming game play (the new Cataclysm Beta launcher) for World of Warcraft. (Not just direct streaming, either, it's P2P & torrent too.)

Blizzard is understandably worried about the technology, though, just like Kinect. There will be cautious movement forwards and a lot of testing and experimentation. They may also be keeping their options open.. if Microsoft can't meet their requirements for the technology, OnLive would definitely be an attractive acquisition for Activision Blizzard (if they can prove themselves, that is). =]

Streaming games on-demand / cloud computing is definitely the future of gaming as well as applications, if ISPs can keep up the pace. It's a great way to eliminate piracy and increase sales, which everyone in the gaming industry is interested in. But these are the hurdles that Blizzard is currently trying to address.. the input device and streaming technologies, both of which Rob Pardo believes can be overcome in the next generation of consoles.