As the new generation of gaming consoles looms on the horizon, the question of how new technology will change the landscape lingers in our minds. Cloud-based gaming is one such technology that is gaining popularity, with services like OnLive offering instant, on-demand access to a wide variety of popular titles. There has been speculation that streaming and downloadable games will become more of a presence in future console generations, with physical game media eventually being replaced entirely. While the switch entirely to digital gaming is unlikely to happen that quickly, the news that Sony has just acquired Gaikai, a cloud-based gaming service, does support the notion that on-demand streaming will eventually come to our home consoles.

This newly announced deal has Sony paying $380 million (£242m) to acquire the Gaikai firm, including its existing data centers and online infrastructure. This paves the way for Sony to introduce a cloud-based gaming service onto the current generation Playstation 3, and the rumoured but unconfirmed Playstaton 4. This move also allows Sony to expand its gaming line-up, as titles available on Gaikai, even those intended for other consoles, could potentially become available to Playstation owners. Only the bare minimum of details regarding the deal are known at this time, and Sony has not revealed what specific plans they have for the Gaikai service outside of utilizing the technology they have established.

To anyone that has used a cloud-based gaming service, the benefits are fairly obvious. Services like Gaikai and OnLive allow you to stream the gameplay to your PC, forgoing the need to download and install large game files. These services also allow you to try out full versions of a game prior to purchase, as opposed to diluted game demos, and the lack of physical media means instant access to the game content. However, these benefits can also prove a hindrance to some. Streaming game content requires a fast and stable internet connection, which some people do not have. Internet connection problems can cause lag, buffering and sometimes complete crashes of your game. The lack of physical media also means that your purchased games are only available for as long as the service supports them.

Gaikai was founded in 2008 and offered browser-based online gaming, incorporating in-game advertising to boost revenue. The service launched internationally in 2011, and they have since partnered with several game publishers and popular websites such as YouTube and Facebook. What the Sony acquisition means for both the current and future generations of their gaming platform is unknown at this time, though a streaming “games on demand” service seems highly likely. It is also interesting to note that Gaikai currently has a partnership with Samsung to integrate gaming into a line of TVs they are developing. However, it is unknown if this acquisition by Sony will affect this deal. We could be seeing a line of PlayStation-branded Bravia televisions powered by the Gaikai technology coming off the assembly line.