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Above the Clouds

Gaikai's Dave Perry on Facebook, new consoles and making games the most valuable form of entertainment

At least week's Cloud Gaming Europe conference, Gaikai's David Perry delivered an upbeat keynote on why reducing friction between the player and the game is essential to finding new audiences for games. That's the philosophy at the heart of cloud gaming - one click and you're in, running high-end games on any device. No compatibility problems, no waiting time. And Gaikai is delivering that, not only to the hardcore gamer, but to anyone that with a Facebook account, to anyone looking for hilarious cat videos on YouTube, to anyone checking out deals at Best Buy. One click, and you're playing Crysis.

In this exclusive interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Perry expands on the Facebook deal and details for the first time plans to stream full games over the cloud, where the company goes after that, why console manufacturers cannot afford to ignore cloud gaming and how to make video games the most valuable form of entertainment.

GamesIndustry.biz Can you begin with some more details on the Facebook deal, because I remember Nanea Reeves talking about this way back at E3 last year. She showed me World of Warcraft running in Facebook but it was all very hush-hush.
David Perry

Our problem as a company is that we have a lot of things on and we have to look at our production pipeline and try and work out in what order this is coming. Everyone wants everything right now. That's the problem with this cloud gaming thing, it's hot. And because it's hot, whatever a company's interest is, they want it right now. Some things become immovable. Like CES. I can't move CES, it's going to happen. Last year we said we wanted to show Gaikai on digital televisions, we were really going to do it. And we didn't want to do it behind closed doors, we wanted to do it on the show floor so it has to be fully playable by anyone that walks up. And LG asked us if there was any way we could make it 3D because the whole booth is displaying 3D. Our guys were already pretty tired but they pulled it off so we had all games running in stereo 3D playable.

Now the dust has settled on that we've switched the focus to running on Facebook. We've had Facebook working for some time but to be very clear is it's not some sort of weak version of it. It's truly embedded in Facebook in the canvas page, fully integrated with all of the social features in real time. That integration with Facebook is starting to deliver on the whole vision of Gaikai much more clearly. I don't believe the games industry will ever be number one unless we can improve our accessibility. We're always going to be dragging behind movies and music. If we could get as equal, meaning as accessible everywhere, games generally would make more money. People have this interesting relationship - there are people who continue to spend a lot of money on something like World of Warcraft. You pay a monthly fee to have access to one single video game. You can choose the best movie in history, the most successful, but would you pay $16 a month to have access to it? Not in a million years. There's something special about games that somehow makes it acceptable to spend more money on them. Therefore, the theory being, if we could get as accessible as movies and music, because of the way monetisation works, games could become the most valuable form of entertainment. Games even make money from trying to make you play them faster. In Farmville people pay to develop faster. Would you ever pay to speed up a movie or a song?

I don't want to take your console from your cold dead hands, that's not the case at all. You're going to continue to play the way you play.

GamesIndustry.biz Pay to see the big conclusion of a thriller like the Usual Suspects... you're paying to avoid the content of the game.
David Perry

It's the most ridiculous thing. It's such a special, lucky situation that we have. And the second thing is that piracy is so easy for movies and music but for internet connected online multiplayer games it's not. How lucky are we where we're in an industry where users pay more and piracy struggles to hamper online games - which is the way everything is going. And we're sitting there and the only thing that's blocking us is that everything is such a pain to get running. When you give them something that's not a pain, like Farmville, it's so easy to get up and running, and you get 100 million people playing. It's the same with Angry Birds. If you had to click on 40 different things to get it running, fill out forms, type in your mother's maiden name and all the rest of it, it wouldn't have had anything like the success its had. That's why Apple's been so successful.

GamesIndustry.biz It's all about accessibility. What you've done is took Gaikai to where the consumers are, games sites, publishers, retailers, social networks. I've read comments where people say "why would I want to play Warcraft on Facebook?" But it's not about those people, it's about people on Facebook that have never played Warcraft before.
David Perry

It's not aimed at them at all! It's for the people that have heard of something called World of Warcraft and think "what is that?" The barrier for them is they're 40 minutes from playing it, from downloading the trial, the clicks, the forms to fill in... they don't want to know what it is that badly. But if they're one click away from it, and they keep seeing that offer, at some point they are going to give it a try. The truth with these games is once you kill that first enemy, you realise it's pretty cool. Whatever the game is, an MMO or action game, just put them in front of the player. Why isn't EA's FIFA game on FIFA.com? There's people visiting that site that don't have consoles and have never bought one but that's your specific customer right there. We're not targeting those that have a PlayStation and have bought the game before. We're targeting football fans. The industry needs to grow. All those people out there who already buy the games are already hardcore gamers and they'll continue to buy the game but we want to keep on growing. The more money that comes into a publisher the more money they can put on the next game and the more they'll bet on the next game. Because of the new paradigms of distribution and devices, imagine if there were five times the amount of people playing your games. Five times the amount of money, five times the investment into your next game. It's a win for everyone.

GamesIndustry.biz So with Facebook, YouTube, Best Buy and all the others, how many people is your technology in front of?
David Perry

If you give me your game today I can put your game in front of more than 100 million people, easily. Quite honestly if we put you on the homepage of YouTube right now on it's own, you're already hitting that number. To some extent we've achieved our goal but we wanted to achieve it in the purest sense. We wanted to have a lot of sites running Gaikai, we have 300 in the pipe right now. Our first were strategically important, like Eurogamer, we were on-boarding the sites that we thought were going to move the needle. With Facebook, with YouTube, we can do Google + just as easily, if you combine them it's an enormous reach.

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Matt Martin


Matt Martin joined GamesIndustry in 2006 and was made editor of the site in 2008. With over ten years experience in journalism, he has written for multiple trade, consumer, contract and business-to-business publications in the games, retail and technology sectors.