Arcade revival (in handheld form)

All hail the mobile gaming revolution. As the dwindling figures started occurring circa ‘92 for the local arcades due to the 16 bit era matching the performance of arcade quality games such as Street fighter 2 (ok near arcade quality). The gaming industry thought this was the end of the arcade business as we know it. Initially, during the period of 1994-2000 we experienced a lot of arcade ports onto consoles this was primarily driven by Capcom, Namco and Sega with games such as Tekken, Soul Calibur, Sega Rally and Final Fight to name a few. This was mainly due to a backlog of (over the last 10 years) arcade games that were easily transferrable for the console experience. This missed out on the key factors for me such as the price, accessibility, competitiveness and social element of arcade gaming. It didn’t feel quite the same. However, once the arcade scene was deemed not to be profitable outside of Japan a shift occurred for all developers and publishers to concentrate on console gaming. As we have observed it takes a lot of investment of time and money to produce a console game with longevity, great graphics and mass appeal. This marked the end of the so called ‘arcade experience’ as it could not compete with traditional gaming. Granted the introduction of the Xbox 360 back in 1996 introduced arcade games back into the fold. However, mostly these were games of yesteryear and were more of a novelty serving the already present gaming audience. Games such as Geometry Wars proved there was a market still for arcade games. Once the Iphone (and later Android) was introduced with throwaway priced games starting from ‘FREE’, back in 2008, we experienced smaller developers reigniting the arcade experience all over again. I would describe the arcade experience as being: • Accessible • Anyone can play • Chuckable games • Little investment needed in time and money • Gimmicky • Short games • One more go factor • Socialising with fellow arcaders • Competitiveness • Unique interface When you look at the above list you can see that this transfers over very well to mobile gaming. Games are cheap; require little investment time and for the most part little money as well. They have the social element buttoned down such as competing against friend’s high scores and sharing. Lastly, they are accessible due to the wide adoption of mobile smartphones. I can name a few games true to this formula such as Cut the rope, angry birds, Jenga, Doodle Jump, Bejewelled and Tiny wings. I enjoy console gaming but sometimes it is nice to know while sitting on the train or waiting for someone you can quickly fire up a quick game of Angry birds. Long live arcade gaming.

Gaikai – a platform agnostic solution for the future gaming needs

I have just played the demo version of Mass Effect 2 on the Gaikai website; judging from the website it’s an impressive user of today’s technology for streaming a game in real time in your browser thus making it a platform agnostic solution.

I have just played the demo version of Mass Effect 2 on the Gaikai website; judging from the website it’s an impressive user of today’s technology for streaming a game in real time in your browser thus making it a platform agnostic solution.  Theoretically you should be able to play games using OSX, Linux or a Windows system using any choice of browser albeit Chrome, Firefox, IE, Opera or Safari.

All that was required was a visit to the website and install the Gaikai Java applet which is similar to most other plug-ins to play video or music such as Flash or Quicktime.  There is no need for special hardware such as excess RAM, dedicated graphics card or a powerful CPU.  Instead the Gaikai technology uses your PC as a thin client to stream the display data whilst the actual game is hosted and played on the Gaikai servers.

This is similar to the Onlive solution however this will require you to purchase a special box and controller to access it unlike Gaikai which will support your mouse and keyboard as standard.  I am sure in time there will be controllers that will be made compatible with this system.  The closest example I can think of is Facebook which currently offers only the most basic arcade/console games and takes up minimum hardware power.

At the moment the Gaikai platform headed by (Dave Perry) is marketed as an advertising platform for accessing game demos but this has been downplayed somewhat.  The potential for this technology in the coming years, due to the trend in an ever increasing oversaturated OS market, seems to make sense.  As the internet browser is common place and a powerful application among all devices; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out this is where we are heading for PC and mobile gaming in the future this is why HTC have invested heavily in OnLive.  Similar to streaming media platforms such as Netflix, Napster, Spotify and Qriocity all games will be available in a large library ready for the gamer to play.

The only question remains is how to generate sufficient revenue and profits from such a platform?  Personally, I think games 3-5 years old should be available as part of your monthly subscription with each publisher getting a share based on how much their games are played and you pay extra for any new release games.

I don’t think it will put out Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft anytime soon (let’s face it they are great at what they do and have a very successful business model) but Gaikai will be a great platform to provide accessible gaming and help grow the gaming community further whether it is farmed out on a publisher by publisher basis or becomes a competitor to Steam.

Game saves – save anywhere is the future

I trade in my old XBOX 360 for a new slim model ensuring that I have copied all of my game saves and content to an external drive.  Copy version seems ok with all game saves intact.  I copy the content and game saves to my new XBOX 360 slim.  I fire up Forza 3.  I look for my game save.  No game save available.  Dissapointment sets in…

I am not a happy bunny after spending around 15 hours Forza 3 prior to this and losing my game save is not on.  I will not be touching Forza 3 anytime soon.  A similar thing happened with my PS3 where I was unable to copy over my Uncharted 2 content.  Why do hardware manufacturers make it so difficult to retrieve your game saves?

This brings me to cloud gaming profiles.  Imagine a world where you play a game and the saved game is automatically uploaded as part of your profile.  Wherever you are you can access your game save and profile.  It is a simple idea and in this hi-tech day and age I am surprised it hasn’t been thought of already?

Granted we are not going to see Microsoft, Sony or Nintendo hold hands and share user profiles.  However, all three should be able to implement a cloud game save solution.  The amount of hours I have poured into various games over the years only to find that I can no longer revive my scores or game states.

We are stepping in the right direction with Apple and it’s Game Center where your game saves are backed up as part of the App to re-sync later.  However, this is locally via PC and your Iphone/Ipod Touch.  As gamers we need a better solution.  Please Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo listen!!!