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Gaikai said this morning that it has signed up Electronic Arts as a publishing partner for the digital distribution of games. EA will provide a number of games for Gaikai to distribute elecroinically as part of a games-on-demand service. EA will also provide games for multiple years on an ongoing basis.

Like its larger rival OnLive, Aliso Viejo, Calif. based Gaikai has come up with a technology that lets it stream live video games from centralized servers directly to users’ computer screens. The users can play high-end games on just about any client device, from the iPad to a low-end PC, without the bother of downloading big game files.

John Schappert, chief operating officer of EA, said that he is interested to see what comes from the initial launches of digital distribution services such as OnLive and Gaikai.

“We are watching it closely and are in test mode,” Schappert said. “If the test doesn’t go well, that’s OK as we have other business. If it works, it’s a new form of distribution.”

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David Perry, chief executive of Gaikai, said in an interview that getting EA is a partner is a big boost for Gaikai’s stature and will help it sign up other partners. He said he expects to launch a digital advertising service web site this summer. At the E3 trade show, he showed a version of that web site and also showed how someone could play a massively multiplayer game on Facebook and join with another player in the same party, even if that player is on a different game platform, such as a PC web site.

He also said that affiliate partners can also embed Gaikai game on any website using a single line of code. Hence, a game web site could post a review of a game and use Gaikai to let the reader demo a game or buy and play the game instantly, without ever leaving the game web site. Gaikai is licensing its technology, but it is also letting publishers pay per performance. For instance, it will charge publishers 1 cent per minute for each game demo that it streams to users who are using Gaikai to play a game. That’s a low-risk business model for publishers, and it could help many game publishers make the leap to digital distribution without much pain, Perry said.

OnLive, meanwhile, said it is on schedule to launch its games-on-demand service with 23 top-selling games at 6pm Pacific time tonight. Besides EA, Gaikai has also signed up InstantAction as a publishing partner. The goal is to find new users who wouldn’t otherwise buy games in stores.

Among the game series that EA will provide to Gaikai are properties such as The Sims, Mass Effect, Battlefield: Bad Company, Need for Speed, and others. Specific titles are not yet announced.

“Gaikai’s innovations open whole new experiences for both current players and new customers looking for the best of interactive entertainment,” said Richard Hilleman, chief creative officer of Electronic Arts. “It also brings new opportunities and capabilities that will improve both our craft and products, including secure beta-testing and the ability to instantaneously bring the latest games into the hands of our waiting audience.”

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