Sony and Gaikai: A Gamer's Thoughts... and Fears - mbellacio Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Sony and Gaikai: A Gamer's Thoughts... and Fears

The news of Sony's acquisition of Gaikai has been fairly widespread, and there have been a lot of opinions about what Sony will do with Gaikai. Most of the speculations are positive, ranging from the potential for backwards compatibility to cheaper consoles and less risky hardware cycles. On the surface, Gaikai, which has compared itself to Netflix in concept, seems like a brilliant idea. However, the gaming industry has also seen many good ideas utterly wasted or crushed before they could realize their potential. This would be my biggest fear with Sony's acquisition of Gaikai.

My mind tends to drift back to Microsoft's purchase of Rare way back when. Initially, many were excited at the idea of seeing some of their Rare favorites on the Xbox 360. But, apart from the disappointing Perfect Dark Zero, that hope was never realized. That debacle was the source of much bitterness and confusion on the part of gamers and gaming media in general. Here Microsoft was sitting on a potential gold mine, and they were refusing to dig.

It didn't take much for me to begin to believe that perhaps Microsoft's goal was not to use RARE's talents, but perhaps to suppress them and at least ensure that Nintendo wouldn't have access to them. Imagine how different things would be right now if Sony had purchased Bungie immediately after the first Halo launched.

I may be misinformed, about the reasons for which Microsoft handled Rare the way they did, but the point is that I see the scenario as probably the average gamer would have. The equivalent would be something like hearing that Haagen-Dazs was buying Ben & Jerry's, or vice versa, then finding out that your favorite flavors had been discontinued.

My big fear is that Sony's recent move on Gaikai might not be about giving gamer's a better experience through better services, but to herd gamers away from the idea of cloud-based gaming by sitting on a company that has the potential to do it the best. Sony after all, is in the hardware business. And while logically, there are many ways that Sony could benefit from using Gaikai, logic and common sense do not always win the day in business. Add to that the simple fact that Sony does not have the best track record in doing what makes sense. The PSP Go and the Sony Move motion-control gimmick are perfect examples of that.

Another reason for my concern is because of what I perceive as being a new and disturbing trend in not only gaming, but the technology industry as a whole, and maybe it's not even a new trend. It seems that the current way of dealing with new ideas, new competitors, new IP's is to try and block, suppress or outright destroy them. The mentality is: "We know we don't have anything that can compete with the other guys, and we don't want to spend any money to try, so let's try and wipe them off the board."

Again, I may not be enough of an insider to understand the details of what Sony is doing. I could be way off in left field on what any or all of this means. But, I'm seeing this from ground level and from the outside in. The problem with that is that perception often has a significant impact on how well something is received. Case in point, the Wii U. Although it is clear that Nintendo felt that they have done an adequate job of promoting their new console, many are still confused and uncertain. That seems to have translated into some apathy for the Wii U.

To my way of thinking, if Sony does plan to do something useful with Gaikai, they need to show what that is soon. The longer they "sit" on it, the more inclined I would be to suspect that the purchase was more of a defensive measure designed to protect their hardware business in the next-gen console war to come. If you visit Gaikai's homepage and read their FAQ's, you'll see how great the potential is for their service. I hope that Sony is committed to using it well.

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