Editorial: Sony’s Gaikai acquisition and the PS4 backwards compatibility dilemma

Posted By | On 02nd, Jul. 2012 Under Editorials | Follow This Author @KartikMdgl


Sony recently announced that they have acquired Gaikai – a cloud gaming service. Of course, there were rumors of this well before E3, and while both companies had declined that anything of this sort was brewing, things obviously didn’t turn out that way. So now that the deal is complete and after having spent $380 million, one thing is for certain – this has been a good deal for Sony, or more specifically their PlayStation division, SCE.

The main question this raises is, will the PlayStation 4 have hardware and/or software backwards compatibility? Or is Sony going to omit that altogether in favor of streaming via their new found asset. I’m leaning towards the latter especially considering there is very less likelihood of PS3’s successor having a Cell processor under its hood.

On one hand, the entire catalog of Playstation goodness accumulated over a decade will be available readily but on the other hand, are people even ready for this? Considering the underdeveloped online infrastructure and bandwidth caps can end many dreams, and this also applies to the advanced countries out there.

Give it a go over here. I did, too, and the results weren’t pretty. Of course, there’s a lot of time for this tech to mature and who knows, in two years we may very well have the ability to handle these games at a decent visual fidelity. We have every right to be pessimistic now as streaming is something that is very dependent on your internet connection, and if there’s no alternative available for it in the future (unlikely), expect some massive consumer discontent.

In the press release Sony mentioned something about creating a new cloud service and if you remember they had registered a trademark for ‘PS Cloud’, which sort of explains that they were planning this for a long time. Sony is cooking something and we don’t know what is that, however, one thing is for certain; even though this is risky, it can be highly beneficial for the company if implemented well.

Kaz Hirai has been advocating the ‘One Sony’ mantra, and considering they already have Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited and other services, streamlining them and making them accessible under one account can prove highly beneficial for them. In the future, if PS3’s successor can make all this content and services available under a single account for the consumer, the possibilities are endless for Sony, but the hard part is doing so.

Gaikai’s tech is also suitable for Sony, as the service doesn’t require any game modifications unlike OnLive. This really allows any game to be compatible with the service without requiring any major modification to the core code, and it seems like this is the tech that Sony liked when you consider the vast amount of content from various platforms they have to offer: PSP, PS1, PS2 and so on.

This can be beneficial for their TV division as well, but considering its acquired by SCE, it will most likely be used for their gaming division only, and they will probably license it to third-party TV manufacturers like Samsung and LG who already use this tech on their TVs – think of Skype (which is owned by Microsoft) on the Vita.

Sony has most likely solved the backwards compatibility dilemma with this one move, but it remains to be seen whether people respond positively to this extremely forward thinking decision by them. Ultimately it all depends on Sony’s execution of the said technology, in a way that’s not only easily accessible for millions of people but also provides a solid alternative to people who don’t prefer physical media.

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