Video game publishers are constantly trying to find new ways to put money in their pockets, whether its working against the used games market (i.e. Capcom applying the one-save game feature to "Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, and Sony's idea to limit online access for used gamers with the PSN Pass) or trying to eliminate piracy, which is what most of the entertainment industry is trying to do (Recording Industry Association of America for instance). In this case, it's the latter.
Some video game publishers are looking to the cloud as the anti-piracy future of gaming. Hard copies and digital downloads of games are too easy to replicate, since users can just create an image of the game and distribute it across the web, making it available to anyone with the right software to run it. The same issue is occurring with mobile devices. In fact, "Angry Birds" is the most pirated game in China.
"Piracy in the mobile space is rampant," said Rob Wyatt, chief scientist at cloud gaming provider Otoy. "It's even easier for games built on WebGL and HTML5 -- every texture, shader and asset is loaded as a separate file, so it's easy to find the file and download it."
So what's a publisher to do? Recently, turning to the cloud has become a viable option. Cloud-based gaming companies like OnLive, Gaikai and Otoy run their games on strong remote computer servers and stream them to a user's computer/device. These games are nearly impossible to steal because they "live" in the cloud.
Some publishers are pretty serious about cloud-based gaming becoming the new standard in gaming. They see it as a win-win because publishers score the price they want for games and beat piracy while users still receive a quality gaming experience (a half-decent internet connection will not show a difference in quality between cloud gaming and PC/console gaming, according to Venture Beat). In fact, OnLive's CEO Steve Perlman believes that cloud gaming will be the only type of gaming left in 10 years -- making retailers like GameStop obsolete.
"We'll be there in 10 years -- if that," said Perlman.
But what about consoles like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii U? According to Wyatt, a combination of the recession we're currently in and the lack of need for next-generation consoles will put cloud-based gaming in a better spot in the future. Wyatt says the recession has restricted gamers' spending on video game consoles, which has prevented new systems like the PS4 from being released.
"That next generation is seriously in doubt, both boxes are pretty much the same feature set," said Wyatt of the PS3 and PS4. "I don't think there's much need for a next-generation console -- you're going to have one box, and you play it on any device like a television or a tablet."
Game companies could make their money via cloud-based gaming through two possible options, or a combination of the two. They could either provide a monthly subscription fee for users, or require them to pay full price for each new game, like a video game store. Or they can do what OnLive does, and offer a subscription fee but also charge full price for newer titles.
Cloud gaming is sure to satisfy game publishers in many ways, and there are some benefits for gamers as well. For instance, cloud gaming could eliminate cheating in online games, such as small groups of people using "man in the middle" attacks.
"Because it's in the cloud, you can't access the network," said Wyatt. "Spoofing packets is nearly impossible because of the speed of the transmission and because all the computing happens at the other end."