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Steam gets OnLive, Sony gets Gaikai, and Microsoft gets left behind

In the future, all of the major platforms will be streaming games over an online service in one way or another. You can already see it starting to happen. Sony will be doing it with PlayStation Now, and soon Steam will have an on-demand game channel thanks to Valve's partnership with the once-thought-dead cloud gaming service OnLive. But with major gaming platforms like the PS4 and the PC planning to have a streaming service available in the near future, I have to wonder, "What about Microsoft?"

When PlayStation Now launches, Sony plans on having its PlayStation 3 (and eventually PS Vita) library available for subscribers to stream, and it's expressed a desire to bring the entire back-catalog for all PlayStation consoles to the service as well. It's a bold plan, and it's not entirely clear when Sony will be launching PlayStation Now, or how much it will cost us to use it. But when it comes to pass, Sony will have essentially cracked the backward-compatibility nut, allowing gamers to relive their fondest gaming memories at a moment's notice.

On the PC side of things, Steam already provides a beloved service to PC Gamers. Now, with Valve's partnership with OnLive, it looks like all of those games you have in your Steam library can be played on just about anything with a screen. So, now the draw to invest in building your Steam library gets even more enticing.

The appeal of on-demand game streaming goes without saying--play any game, any time, anywhere. And with Valve and Sony so whole-heartedly embracing this inevitable future, one has to wonder, where is Microsoft in all of this? As of now, Microsoft is set up to be outdone by not one, but two of its competing platforms in terms of game access. On PC you can play any game that is compatible with your operating system, giving you access to decades worth of games. And with OnLive, those games are available anywhere, at any time. Soon Sony will give players access to at least the PS3 generation, on top of the burgeoning PS4 games library and other assorted multimedia features.

The numbers put Microsoft in a severe disadvantage when it comes down to the games you can play. After all, this month's Titanfall, (probably) next year's Halo, and a few other exclusive games are the only real incentives to get the higher-priced console. But if the XBOne were to implement a similar PlayStation Now-style service and offered all of the exclusive games from the previous generations, the console war might become a bit more of a fair fight.

However, the easy way of leveling the playing field seems to be off the table. Sony and Valve have already swallowed up the existing cloud gaming services, so it looks like for Xbox One to stay competitive in the on-demand gaming streaming race, it's just going to have to build a platform for itself. That can't be cheap.

8 comments

  • SnakeinmyBoot - March 6, 2014 12:30 p.m.

    It's still far too early for most countries as far as game streaming goes. The US internet infrastructure is still tied down by old copper lines and greedy cable companies trying to join forces, and I doubt too many other countries have it better. It's good to get a head start, though. Netflix wanted to have streaming when it launched and settle for mailed DVDs until its and the ISP's equipment was up to the challenge. MS has the tech background and resources to build up the own service instead of just buying one outright in time for streaming to be the next big thing. They just need to keep the minds behind Win 8's GUI and xbone's multimedia focused assets away from those plans. Still, I think that streaming games reliably is going to have to start out at lower resolutions and wait for the connections to consumers to be beefier before trying to sell it as a service capable of 1080p and 4k, maybe even 720p in some cases. Also, there's the fact that some people wont like the fact that they lose their games if their internet cuts out or if the company goes under. It might be the norm in 20 years, but streaming faces an uphill battle.
  • mothbanquet - March 6, 2014 1:55 a.m.

    All this is well and good but what happens when, as with Steam, publishers decide to have their own clunky, derivative and invasive Origin+ or UPlayMor? You know it'll happen...
  • DonScrillinger - March 6, 2014 12:54 a.m.

    So you can play old games on the ps4 when ever they get it up and running and the Onlive steam service .that's really next gen :-/smh ..sorry but I think playing last gen games on your new 400+ /500+ next gen system basically having backwards compatibility seems only use full if u living in the past .Me personally I spent 500+ for next gen excitement not yesterday's news .but I'm sure if my fellow gamers on live wanted old games and it was in major demand ,I'm sure it can be achieved through the cloud service Microsoft has to offer .
  • brickman409 - March 5, 2014 11:20 p.m.

    Cloud streaming isn't really that big of a deal. It seems like the average casual gamer doesn't know what the difference is between downloading and streaming. But yeah, this is just one more thing that the PS4 will have and Xbone won't.
  • qualopec_1 - March 5, 2014 9:30 p.m.

    I am one of those who is not interested in old games. So it makes no difference to me or I'm indifferent to that kind of service.
  • bobob101 - March 5, 2014 7:58 p.m.

    And three years after all of this is over, we will see Nintendo open up their own streaming service. I would pay a lot of money for streaming games on my 3DS. Now that would be amazing.
  • schroederrock - March 5, 2014 6:57 p.m.

    Did someone forget to do their homework? Sony can have Gaikai - it's a piece of crap if you compare it to Azure, which backs Xbox Live and all cloud computing. It's seriously the biggest and best cloud service in the world - that's why Microsoft is putting so much behind it. Did GR actually allow this post to go live? Seems pretty air-headed seeing how Microsoft made the Azure announcement with XBL a long time ago and Microsoft have already made statements about their testing of streaming games and that they've done it with Halo 4 already. The question is simply "is streaming games online a good idea?". If you ask me, not one bit - latency kills the experience heavily unless you can keep it constantly under 50ms. Otherwise you'll see and feel noticeable input lag and likely won't get uncompressed 1080p and 5.1/7.1 audio through the stream as that would be a pretty demanding bitrate to keep up with if you don't have a dedicated broadband connection.
  • zakaweb - March 5, 2014 6:35 p.m.

    " After all, this month's Titanfall, (probably) next year's Halo, and a few other exclusive games are the only real incentives to get the higher-priced console. " What a ridiculous statement and I have both systems.

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