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Instant gratification seems to be the big trend in games. First Otoy, then OnLive, and now another game startup, InstantAction, are all talking about how to deliver high-end games almost instantly to players.
But InstantAction’s announcement today is far different, and perhaps more down to earth, than the other companies that are trying to offer games on demand. Today, the company is announcing that LucasArts will use InstantAction’s technology to distribute its classic game remake, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition.
The company is also enhancing its service for users through a novel partnership with Gaikai, another company with games-on-demand technology.
Louis Castle, a well-known game designer and now chief executive of InstantAction in Las Vegas, says that his company will have a more realistic approach to letting gamers play heavy-download games on just about any machine. InstantAction already has a bunch of games on its site with cool 3-D graphics that you can play without doing a download.
Now it is expanding that service a new platform that can expand a game’s reach. There are multiple technologies in the offering. The first are InstantAction 2Go and anyexe. These let a downloadable game to be played via a web browser through a web link. You just click on the link, you start the download process, but the game code starts to execute almost immediately. That is because InstantAction has a progressive download chunking technology that lets you start playing a game while the rest of it downloads in the background. The game taps the power of your own computer as you play it. So you still need a somewhat powerful PC to play a game. The good thing is that the game is served to you almost instantly.
You can also take that web link and add it to any web page. You can thus embed the game in a Facebook page, a fan site, game review or any other web page. That part is powerful. It means you can distribute a game far and wide, going way beyond the site where the game download is stored.
The company uses the progressive download chunking technology to make games instantly available on its InstantAction.com site. You can save your progress in the game and transfer the game to any computer that you use, so there is no restriction on the number of systems you can play the game on.
To further enhance a player’s ability to play a game on any computer, InstantAction has partnered with Gaikai, a startup founded by game veteran David Perry. Gaikai, like OnLive and Otoy, has a technology that lets servers preprocess game graphics so that high-end games can be played on low-end computers. InstantAction will use Gaikai so that it can deliver a thin-client version (meaning one that can play on very low-end hardware) of a game’s free trial when a server is available and the connectivity exists to give the gamer a great experience. As the player plays a free trial, the game can transfer in the background and thus allow the player to buy and quickly play the game if so desired.
But InstantAction is not betting entirely on the success of services such as Gaikai. Castle thinks it will be some time before digitally distributed games can seriously displace retail games. Castle said that the company will team up with a major partner that will allow it to use a marquee game with InstantAction.
It’s an interesting move for Castle, who was the co-founder of Westwood Studios, the acclaimed maker of the Command & Conquer and Dune real-time strategy games. Electronic Arts bought Westwood and Castle made lots of games during his tenure there. He left EA anticipating retirement. But he met the InstantAction crew and decided to join them as CEO in July, 2009.
“It was such a compelling argument,” he said. “What I saw and wanted them to do was enable the embeddable game that can be place on any web page.”
InstantAction was started in 2000 as GarageGames. The original company developed the Torque game development engine, which has been used to develop lots of games from the original Tribes game to InstantAction’s own Marble Blast Ultra for Xbox Live.
In 2007, InterActiveCorp bought a majority interest in GarageGames. In contrast to other solutions, InstantAction has a clever approach to doing browser-based games. Others require a big download of game software — or disks — in order to run 3D games. The company tested it over years and launched its first beta test in March, 2008, and it formally launched a game service in February, 2009. Now the company has more than 100 employees.