Scandinavian innovators change the face of wireless gaming.
What do you think of when you think of Finland?
Well, if you're anything like me, you think of Laplanders, those really big reindeer, probably a lot of snow, and the only country in Europe to pay back the United States its Lend-Lease from WWII. Pioneering advances in wireless communication and gaming would be pretty far down on the list.
Well, surprise! At E3 I had the pleasure of running into the Finnish co-op booth (not quite literally, though), and finding a company called G-Cluster there. G-Cluster has developed a service that allows wireless palm-top owners to pay a fee to receive full, PC games right to their screen, which they can play right on the palm-top, at full speed and great graphics and everything.
How is it possible? And how big a change will this make in the wireless industry?
GiN spoke with Mika Peltola, the CEO of G-Cluster. He had some things to say about his company, the innovation of G-Screen, and the future of wireless gaming.
GiN: Tell us a bit about how G-Cluster got its start in this industry.
Peltola: G-cluster was founded by a bunch of guys obsessed with computer graphics, networks and simulation. All of a sudden we hit upon a crazy vision about employing these technologies for gaming. We jokingly used to call our vision the "The Dr. Evil vision of computer gaming" – a huge stack of servers sitting in a hollowed-out volcano, serving millions of simultaneous gamers.
GiN: Where did you get the idea for something like G-Screen?
Peltola: We realized that the current fixed-line and wireless- broadband networks really enables us to push all of the heavy processing to the server, rather than using the client to do everything. This in turn enables us to cater even the best games to any client out there – a cell-phone, a PDA, Web-tablet or set-top-box. Compare this with being forced to fork up 200-300 dollars for a proprietary game-console or being forced to constantly upgrade your PC.
GiN: How are you able to let people play high-end games on their little palm-top computers?
Peltola: The G-screen solution allows us to do everything from game adaptation to billing the customer to playing the game. By modifying the controller preferences, we can create the ability to play the high-end games with the buttons on a Pocket PC, like the Compaq iPAQ. Through an 802.11b wireless LAN connection, G-screen connects our proprietary games server, which is loaded with the games, directly to a Pocket PC. It allows our customers to play games that would never fit into the storage unit of the handheld. The game functions as quickly and sounds just as good as it does on a desktop computer. Our servers compute the time played and charge customers at the broadband LAN, which we call "hotspots."
GiN: Which hand-held platforms currently support G-Screen?
Peltola: Currently, G-screen can support any 802.11b wireless-enabled device. We are demonstrating the G-screen solution using Compaq’s iPAQ, but it would also work with a wireless-enabled laptop computer.
GiN: Which games are you planning to release on G-Screen?
Peltola: We are planning to release a wide range of best-selling PC games from a major games publisher. We will provide games in all popular genres like first person shoot-em-up, racing, sports, parlor and adventure.
GiN: With your technology, can you convert any game currently on the market?
Peltola: Yes. The most challenging part of the task is reconfiguring the controller preferences. We can normally complete this task in a matter of days. After this and a brief testing process, we load can load the game directly to the server for immediate game play. We’re giving developers a new opportunity for revenue from their games with minimal changes.
GiN: Are there many people out there who haven’t gotten a wireless hand-held simply because they can’t play decent games on it?
Peltola: Today PDAs are really a productivity tool for professionals so there is still a huge untapped market of consumers. Consumers will definitely not invest in a hand-held if it doesn’t feature interesting entertainment, and that is where we think our technology really makes a difference.
GiN: Do you foresee a drastic increase in wireless device sales because of G-Screen?
Peltola: We already work with Compaq and some other device manufacturers to make G-screen a compelling argument to buy a handheld. Games are a great driver for device sales, as the PC market has shown us.
GiN: Do you think much of current online gaming will be entirely wireless in the future?
Peltola: Not all online games will go wireless. A lot of people want to sit in front of their big-screen TV and play. But wireless is an added value even in the home. It’s so much more convenient to play games in any room by carrying a tablet with you.
GiN: What will G-Cluster next accomplish?
Peltola: We will bring our technology to other thin client markets like set-top-boxes. There are more than 50 million cable subscribers. The opportunity is huge!