The jury is still out on whether there is a market for cloud-based gaming – and, no, I don’t mean Farmville and the like – but it seems OnLive will soon be getting some company in this space. A somewhat similar service dubbed Gaikai is set to debut in December and apparently aims to have all the major game publishers on board at launch. Much like OnLive, Gaikai will run games on remote servers and stream video back to the player through a browser plug-in, without additional downloads or special hardware required, meaning that the most-demanding of games can be played on low-end PCs.
But beyond the technological aspect of enabling games to be played though a broadband connection, the two companies actually have a different business plan in mind. Instead of focusing on renting or selling full streaming versions of games, like OnLive, Gaikai will function as a demo service for publishers. Apparently it will give publishers the ability to feature their games on Gaikai's or perhaps their own websites, so customers can actually try games for free at the point-of-sale, then pay for a full download of the game, order a physical copy or continue playing the streaming version.
The concept may sound a bit less ambitious than OnLive’s but it is nevertheless quite interesting – and may have better chances of succeeding with today’s broadband scenario. The company plans to start sending out invites later this month as they start announcing partnerships, but come December Gaikai will officially launch subscription-free.