JAN. 13, 2014 • Later this quarter Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. will include the GameNow streaming service in its latest slate of Toshiba HDTVs. The models supporting GameNow include the L7400U, L5400U and the L3400U. The announcement came during the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. GameNow is operated by Ubitus Inc. in Taiwan. The company was started in 2007 and launched its first cloud gaming service in Japan during the fall of 2011. Ubitus’ company’s early focus was in partnerships with mobile phone carriers yet quickly branched out into television and computer platforms. GameNow was added to Google TV during the spring of 2013, with LG coming on board to add the service to its LA7900, LA8600, and LA9600 models. At the same time Deutsche Telekom partnered with Ubitus to bring the first commercial cloud gaming service to Germany as part of the carrier’s existing Gamesload service. GameNow has content deals with Capcom, Konami, Sega, Square Enix, and Warner Bros. Interactive. The service permits a free timed trial after which subscription plans or package deals must be purchased to play.
Impact: Much of the chatter on game streaming coming out of CES was about Sony’s PlayStation Now plans. Although Ubitus and GameNow have been flying under the radar for a while now, the company has set its sights on speeding up the rollout of the service via smart TV partnerships. To pay for such ambitions last year $15 million in funding was secured by a group led by Samsung Ventures. Previous rounds included investment by Acorn Campus Ventures, Birch Venture Capital, DOCOMO Innovation Fund, IT-Farm Corporation and NTT. A criticism of GameNow is that it lacks the breadth of content that could be found on OnLive, and that latency issues impedes responsive gameplay. There is something to be said for being the predominant streaming option on new HDTVs, which seems to be Ubitus’ goal. We openly wonder, however, whether GameNow is the game streaming implementation to win the hearts and minds of gamers. We suspect that consumers who purchase one of these new Toshiba or LG sets have designs on putting them in a prideful location in the living room where there likely already is a game console waiting to be plugged in. That scenario will seriously impact the need to utilize GameNow. While we completely understand why consumer electronics makers will want to have a service like GameNow to add to the feature list, we question how many HDTV purchasers will end up signing on. In short we do not think cloud streaming services like this are much competition for console systems or PC gaming.