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Gaikai live


Gaikai, David Perry’s shiny new cloud based gaming service, went live the other day. If you visit the Gaikai website, you can play the Mass Effect 2 demo right now, in your web browser, via link that pops up in the lower right corner (give it a couple of seconds). No downloads or installations needed (though you will need flash and java).

Unlike OnLive, Gaikai, is more of a marketing tool and only offers demos and timed trials, so there are no prickly ownership issues. Gaikai specifically focuses on giving retailers and publishers the ability to advertise games by allowing gamers to try the game instantly. They’re also targeting gaming websites under their affiliate program, promising that all you would need to do is “drop in one line of Javascript, and you instantly add a new source of revenue.”

I gave the service a try, and after playing through most of the Mass Effect 2 demo I was impressed with the service. Playing on a Mac and using the Safari browser (I couldn’t get it to load in Firefox), the game ran pretty smooth. I didn’t experience any lag aside from one minor hiccup where objects in the environment popped up, and that only happened once. As for the game itself, it’s the same old Mass Effect 2…on a Mac! (or PC if you prefer)

There are other games available to try through Gaikai’s service, including The Sims 3 and Spore (Dead Space 2 is also available after completing a survey). Unfortunately, I was unable to try them because the test that runs before the games said my connection speed was too low (even though I was able to play Mass Effect 2 without much of a problem). And therein lies Gaikai’s biggest flaw.

Like OnLive, you'll need a pretty fast broadband internet connection to use Gaikai. However, the average internet speed in the US isn’t exactly the greatest in the world.

Gaikai beta

Can't buy it if you're using a Mac

Another potential issue is people like me, Mac users. Sure, Gaikai runs just fine on Macs, but after the ME2 demo, I was asked if I wanted to buy the game. As far as I know, Mass Effect 2 is not available on Macs, and there are no plans to bring it to the house that Jobs built. Which means that Gaikai is actively advertising games to an audience who cannot purchase them, which conflicts with their goals. While there is Boot Camp, everyone can’t afford (or don’t want to) pay $180 for a full version of Windows.

Beyond these not-so-minor gripes, Gaikai is a taste of the future, not just for marketing, but also for PC gaming as a whole. Beyond just offering demos and timed trials of games without demos, theoretically, Gaikai would be a perfect fit for MMOs, especially the free-to-play ones. Imagine being able to launch and play free-to-play games like Vindictus or LOTRO without having to download and patch clients. Hopefully, Gaikai can live up to its potential.

Unfortunately, Gaikai does nothing for consoles.