First, a little back story. GameStop is a huge company with over 6,000 stores. As you all know, its primary method of business is buying used video games and consoles, and selling them back at discounted prices. Since first opening, they’ve grown quite a bit, and have included a few other services, including a video game magazine, exclusive content for purchasing new games with them, etc. However, GameStop has had a growing problem in the video games industry: increasingly, games being made which prevent the possibility of resale, and tablet/cloud gaming. The latter especially had been a problem, as it offered a cheaper gaming alternative that GameStop couldn’t buy and then resell for a profit. Well, that’s how it appeared at the time…
…until last year, when GameStop announced they were going to be partnering with Google to sell the Nexus 7 tablet, as well as buying and selling other Android-powered tablets. This seemed like a great way for a video game company to come to terms with the evolving industry, and share some of the profits that would otherwise be lost to them.
The story, however, doesn’t stop there. In 2011, GameStop purchased Spawn Labs’ streaming service, and promised to stream games to any Internet-enabled device. The service is to be made available in the summer of 2013, but since announcing their aspirations, GameStop has dialed back their promise a bit to include only PCs, tablets, and Internet-capable TVs. I say only, but not including consoles in the mix still effectively captures every medium that their initial business policy had left out. And although I’m tempted to say that they’re a little late to the party, the recent financial failure of streaming service OnLive reminds me that just because you’re first, doesn’t mean you’re doing it right.
GameStop execs say they’re in talks with developers and publishers, and plan to stream hundreds of games. This is a great development for cloud gaming. Although there’s nothing wrong with current companies like OnLive, the more competition an industry has, the more that industry’s competitors will strive to create a quality product.
Knowing all of that, I’m even more excited that Gaikai, another game streaming company, was acquired by Sony Computer Entertainment (for around $380 million) early last month. Now, I’m never for the little guy being devoured by his giant competition, but I think the acquisition will inject another shot of quality competition into the industry. Using Gaikai’s resources, Sony plans to create its own cloud gaming service. And according to Andrew House, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, Sony is looking to “aggressively expand” its services while bringing cloud gaming to “a variety of Internet-connected devices.” Whether that means they’ll stream games on their futures consoles or not, as GameStop had previously promised, only time can tell.
All of this development, coupled with OnLive teaming up with console wars newcomer Ouya, is set to really shake up the current video game environment. I’ve heard many a console gamer predict that tablet and cloud gaming will spell the death of consoles, but it seems instead to integrate itself nicely with the establishment. And since cloud gaming, which requires no installation or travel to play games, is much more convenient than console-based games, it will inspire console developers to include more quality and content to make up for the added cost and inconvenience. As cloud gaming continues to grow, this will just become more and more evident. And we, the consumers, will reap the benefits on both sides.
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