These guys need Lafayette….and Lafayette needs these guys.
Lafayette has been chasing the star of the movie industry. Maybe it would be a better fit for the city to go after the new rising star of the entertainment industry: video games. And Lafayette would certainly be the place for a new streaming-on-demand version of video games to test their chops.
Games are big business these days with the game industry surpassing the movie industry for the first time last year and posting a 40% increase in size while doing so.
Cnet carries an interesting story on the latest “platform” to challenge the console gaming platform troika of Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo (with ‘puters making a fouth leg): OnLive. Admitedly, OnLive is only a startup but it is hard to argue with their basic concept: move the gaming industry online.
That is basically the same idea that has undermined the CD-based version of the music industry, is destroying the phone company, is arguably killing newspapers, and has radically restructured the retail industry in just about every business category from booksellers to auctions.
OnLive’s version of the idea is to stream games. If their idea wins out—and why shouldn’t it?—there’ll be no fancy console or monster PC, no physical game cartridge/CD/DVD at all. Just stream the gameplay down to your computer’s screen. All the fancy processing and video magic takes place on the server. Along the way, one presumes, the console goes the way of the dodo and the CD.
Now the problem, arguably, is that this model seems to be before it’s time. It needs a lot of bandwidth to run a quality experience. And most people in most places simply don’t have the bandwidth. LiveOn contends that they’ve got compression tactics that will allow them to run HD games over 5 megs. Maybe. But it seems a stretch. And latency is a BIG issue for gamers and is something that no amount of server-end trickery will alleviate—pulling the trigger in a first person shooter needs to be followed by an immediate spray of bullets for the game to work. Locating on a server on the other side of the contenient will be dicey on latency regardless of whether or not they can really compress their video stream into 5 megs.
Reading between the lines I am under the impression that a big part of their current business model is to give game sellers a place to market their wares that give game users a “taste” before buying. If streaming a game gives you a good idea of how it will play then OnLive’s streaming games could substitute for offering crippled or time-limited versions that run the danger of being opened up by software crackers and widely distributed. For game developers and marketers a slightly “glitchy” streaming might be feature of the system rather than a bug. They’d probably rather you’d buy….and if the streaming actually works well enough in some cases to substitute for phyical ownership then they still get a nice revenue stream and an easy way to upgrade or extend their games to keep that revenue stream from established games going. You can see why game developers might be really entranced with the model.
But OnLive clearly has bigger ambitions; it is in their interest to have steaming games actually work well for all types of games. That way they get to stand in the middle of all that money streaming between the user and developer. But, fact is, streaming is not likely to be satisfactory for a lot of the fast action, quick reaction games that people play on consoles. Most networks just won’t support it.
But here’s the kicker (you saw it coming): the LUS system in Lafayette will fully support streaming games: If OnLive locates a server on-network they’ll have an open 100 meg pipe to every user in the city inside the LUS “campus.” No fancy compression algorithms that pixelate on fast motion, no latency to make reaction times feel sluggish. Very, very few places in the world offer that sort of connectivity and locating a server on LUS fiber will give OnLive a place to showcase the very best of what they can offer, running as it should on a thoroughly modern, fiber fast, low latency network.
Of course, Lafayette benefits too. The community needs a way to showcase that network and point to the sorts of applications and uses that will make full use of what we have built.