Electronic Arts has announced it is jumping into the cloud gaming business with both feet, splashing an unspecified amount of cash to acquire talent and assets of GameFly's cloud gaming subsidiary.
Cloud gaming began as a means of expanding PC gaming to a wider audience: Rather than requiring a beefy PC with high-performance components, cloud gaming takes technology originally developed for administering remote servers and combines it with powerful, GPU-stuffed servers to allow low-end devices to play high-end games. Games are executed and rendered on the remote server and the resulting video and audio streams returned to the client device, which can then control the action via inputs which are sent to the server.
While the idea is sound, though, commercial success has been largely lacking. Cloud gaming pioneer OnLive hit serious financial struggles and while a business model shift and partnership with ill-fated peripherals specialist Mad Catz were hoped to give it new legs the company folded in April 2015. Sony, meanwhile, picked up a raft of patents from OnLive's corpse following its acquisition of rival Gaikai in 2012 - an acquisition which would see the company focus less on PC gaming and more on allowing limited backwards compatibility on the PlayStation 4 by running PlayStation 3 games on Gaikai servers.
Electronics Arts chief executive John Riccitiello predicted these troubles back in 2011, claiming that 'I don't think people want a streaming game service. I think they want their games to work. At times, that will be delivered best with streaming. At times, you should just download the game. Sometimes delivering a game by streaming is a really inefficient way to do it. I think the consumer, at least in my view, doesn't care what the technology is, what lives behind the veiled curtain; they just want it to work.'
Riccitiello's comments stand in contrast to those made late yesterday by chief technology officer Ken Moss, confirming that EA had acquired the cloud-gaming subsidiary of Israel-based GameFly. 'Cloud gaming is an exciting frontier that will help us to give even more players the ability to experience games on any device from anywhere,' Moss explains. 'We’re thrilled to bring this talented team’s expertise into EA as we continue to innovate and expand the future of games and play.'
EA has not disclosed terms of the deal, nor when - or if - it plans to integrate the cloud gaming technology acquired from GameFly into its Origin game distribution service. It has, however, confirmed that it will 'continue exploring new ways for players to access and experience games from any device'.
The acquisition comes following renewed industry interest in cloud gaming technology, as broadband speeds increase and latencies drop.