Cloud-gaming firm Happy Cloud plans to work with Advanced Micro Devices to bring games-on-demand to connected TVs.
Under the partnership, Happy Cloud will give users access to Windows-based PC games via web-connected TVs that use AMD’s embedded G-Series microprocessors. Those chips combine graphics and a processor on a single chip, allowing TVs that use them to run thousands of high-quality Windows games. If it takes off, the console makers will have more cloud-based competition.
“You can get movies, TV shows, and music on demand straight to your TV,” said Eric Gastfriend, vice president and general manager at Happy Cloud. “Why not video games? It used to be that you needed a gaming console and a trip to the store to get a new game.” Now you can get them via the internet, downloading them not only to a PC, but also to a connected TV.
Like streaming firms OnLive and Gaikai, Happy Cloud delivers game to customers almost instantly. But in contrast to those rivals, Cambridge, Mass.-based Happy Cloud doesn’t rely solely on streaming. Rather, Happy Cloud uses progressive downloading. It installs a playable version of a game on your machine (or in this case, a TV) within a couple of minutes of purchasing the game. Then the rest of the game downloads in the background while you play.
Instead of waiting hours, you can start enjoying the game much earlier. And by the end of the process, the complete game is downloaded to your machine. That way, there is no need for constant streaming, as with Gaikai or OnLive. There is also no risk of lag, or slowdowns related to bad internet connections, as there is with streaming, Gastfriend said.
The solution allows users to access games on demand from the open web, or, in this case, Happy Cloud’s web site. The solution gives TV makers and set-top box makers a new source for game revenues and a new service to offer their customers.
Happy Cloud will be part of the set-top box reference design (or standard system) for AMD-based connected-TV platforms, said Buddy Broeker, director of embedded solutions at AMD.
Happy Cloud opened its online game store in July, allowing users to quickly play games that could take as much as 15 hours to fully download on digital download sites such as Steam. The company uses a virtualized file system pre-installed and pre-packaged on the network, eliminating download and installation delays normally required by high-end PC games. This tricks the game into thinking that it has been fully installed. Then Happy Cloud uses intelligent branching and caching algorithms to figure out what to download next.
Developers don’t need to modify their source code or provide demo builds to be used with Happy Cloud. Publishers can offer the Happy Cloud solution as a white-label service (one that carries the publishers’ own brand name on their own web sites).
Happy Cloud has 10 employees in Cambridge, Mass., and Beit Shemesh, Israel. It was founded in 2009 by brothers Jacob and David Guedalia and it has raised money from Jesselson Capital and Miles Guilburne, a former AOL executive. The company has raised $1 million to date. Happy Cloud is the Guedalias’ sixth company. They sold their last startup, iSkoot, to Qualcomm in October.
Besides Gaikai and Onlive, rivals include GameTree TV, Playcast, Steam, Spoon, GameStop, GameTap, Exent, Electronic Arts and Walmart. Services such as GameTap and Exent often require that 50 percent of the game be downloaded before playing, whereas Happy Cloud cuts the time until you can play by 90 to 95 percent.
Happy Cloud had more than 2,500 visitors to its site in its private beta, before it opened the site to the public in July. For a typical 8.5-gigabyte (DVD-size) game, the download time for Happy Cloud is just two minutes on a 20-megabit-per-second connection. Typically, that would take more than an hour on a normal download, not counting installation time. On a 4-megabit-per-second connection, it takes 10.5 minutes on Happy Cloud and 4.8 hours-plus on a normal download. With Happy Cloud, you can play demos for free.
Happy Cloud uses Akamai’s content delivery network in addition to its own proprietary technology for fast delivery of games. If a transmission is interrupted, you can resume the download at the same point at any time. You also use your own hard disk drive space to store games. Happy Cloud doesn’t yet work on Macs. The disadvantage of Happy Cloud is that you can only play it on a machine capable of handling the download.