Retail vs. Streaming Video Games

Retail vs. Streaming Video Games

There isn’t a foolproof way to woo the mainstream public into adopting a new technology that’s still a little shaky on its newborn legs. There’s one way to give that technology a decent chance, though: Get Wal-Mart to utilize it.

Wal-Mart has signed an agreement with Gaikai to provide streaming services for its GameCenter website. “Over the next 12 months, when people see a video game on TV and want to try it out, they can be sure the fastest way will be on Walmart’s website,” Gaikai CEO Dave Perry told VentureBeat in a recent interview. “It’s an exciting time and you’ll see more sites around the world doing these stealth launches with us.”

The partnership between Gaikai and Wal-Mart won’t necessarily put cloud gaming in every American’s living room by next week, but it will definitely make the average game player more comfortable with the idea of streaming games. Between the Gaikai and Wal-Mart team-up and GameStop’s acquisition of streaming company Spawn Labs earlier this spring, widespread video game streaming might be much closer than we think.

It’s still going to take some time for the mainstream gaming audience to get used to the idea of streaming a whole video game to their console or computer: As far as console games go, the retail industry is relatively healthy, and there will always be a significant number of gamers who enjoy collecting hardcopies, or insist on at least having a product downloaded to their hard drive. And, as we’ve brought up several times here at GameTheory, game streaming has to contend with bandwidth caps. This can be a big problem for a family sharing an internet connection.

However, Gaikai and Wal-Mart’s deal is meant to primarily let players stream demos, not full titles. This is not surprising as, unlike OnLive, Gaikai mainly doles out demos and then offers the interested players several options for purchasing the full game. In other words, Gaikai and Wal-Mart’s partnership combines technology that’s relatively new to the industry alongside familiar options that are as old as gaming itself, like buying titles at Wal-Mart. Shoppers are eased into the world of game streaming instead of being forced headlong into it, and are therefore less likely to feel threatened or resentful of the new tech.

By itself, the joined forces of Gaikai and Wal-Mart won’t revolutionize video game distribution overnight. Even so, we’re seeing another instance of a big chain that’s trying to educate its buyers about game streaming. With all the talk of cloud computing and cloud gaming pouring in from all sides, and with online game demos allowing players to try before they buy in the comfort of their own homes, it’ll be very interesting to see where video game distribution sits two years from now.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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