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Electronic Arts teams up with Tokyo’s G-cluster to provide games over the cloud (exclusive)

Above: G-cluster

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

Tokyo cloud-gaming firm G-cluster has struck a deal with big game publisher Electronic Arts. Under it, EA will deliver high-end video games to consumers through G-cluster’s cloud service — even if they don’t have a game console.

That’s a big vote of confidence for an emerging technology. G-cluster is creating a white-label service that uses web-connected data centers, or the cloud, to deliver games via broadband networks to consumers homes. Those games can be displayed on televisions and controlled with ordinary game controllers. No console is necessary. Carriers are G-cluster’s primary partners.

The deal is a big step for EA, which hasn’t offered cloud games via services such as OnLive. Sevan Kessissian, the senior vice president of content and strategy at G-cluster, said in an interview yesterday at the Casual Connect game conference in San Francisco that the company is excited that EA is embracing innovation in game delivery. G-cluster will help EA find new consumers while the carriers benefit from having high-value game transactions on their networks.

“This means a lot to us,” he said.

The Tokyo-based company debuted its G-cluster Game Machine at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The aim is to get cable and telecom operators to adopt it and offer it as an enhancement to their entertainment services. As those operators do so, they don’t need to introduce their own heavy-duty game consoles.

Instead, they can simply provide gamers with the Game Machine, a small device which plugs into a HDMI port on a TV. You can plug a game controller into the Game Machine via a universal serial bus (USB) port. Or you can use your smartphone as the controller.

G-cluster got its big break in 2010 when SFR adopted its technology and launched a commercial cloud-gaming service on its Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) network in France. Now any of 10 million subscribers can play cloud games, where they process the content in the cloud or web-connected data center, and then send a video stream to the gamer’s machine. G-cluster taps Nvidia’s GeForce Gaming Grid to help execute its cloud infrastructure.

Players can use a game controller with a wireless receiver, smartphone, or tablet to control the game on a TV. They can play alone or with friends using PCs, smartphones, or tablets. The SFR players can access games via IPTV set-top boxes and PCs. In the near future, they will be able to access the service via smart TVs, mobile devices, tablets, and the G-cluster Game Machine.

Besides EA, G-cluster has signed up 35 major game publishers for its platform. Others include Ubisoft, Disney, Warner Bros., and Konami. The specific EA games that will be available on G-cluster will be announced later. Besides SFR, G-cluster’s service is offered with Orange in Europe, Broadmedia, and NTT Plala. More than 23 million unique sessions have been handled by G-cluster since the platform debuted.

G-cluster was founded in 2000.

G-cluster's Sevan Kessissian

Above: G-cluster’s Sevan Kessissian

Image Credit: Dean Takahashi

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