Sony has recently launched its new Google TV box (NSZ-GS7). The device’s specs site was shining a bit of light for gamers, promising compatibility with cloud gaming service OnLive and its wireless controller. A feature that seems to have been completely scraped, and could give other manufacturers a major advantage over Sony.
Sony’s absence in OnLive’s list of partners may come as a surprise, as the company clearly has high hopes for it. This was revealed during an interview with Games Industry, in which a Sony’s VP Scott Rhode mentioned the following about cloud gaming and its future:
“It just makes sense. And so, over the next five years, you’re going to see everything evolve to that state because people want access to their data anywhere.
Will there be a streaming service? Will there be a partnership? I’m not going to answer those questions right now. But, like I’ve said ten times, like a broken record, the industry is always evolving”
Meanwhile, the VP’s direct superior, President Shuhei Yoshida, was a bit more open about Sony’s plans. In an interview with MCV, he goes as far as mentioning they are “looking at what OnLive is doing, and the tech around that, and considering how this can be a part of Playstation.” He goes on to mention the following:
“I think when it becomes a reality, what it’d do is allow us to reach a broader audience on devices Playstation platforms, reaching broader audiences than we currently can.”
With so much interest in the topic, one would assume Sony would do whatever it takes to be part of this “bright future.” So what is it that really happened here?
The Japanese electronics giant mentions that this feature was listed as a mistake. This “mistake” was quickly fixed and the spec sheet no longer lists the OnLive controller as an optional accessory. What seems odd is that this happened right after Sony’s $380 million Gaikai acquisition. This could mean that plans to include OnLive services on this Google TV device were present before, only to be re-considered after purchasing what is said to be a competing company.
As they currently stand, neither OnLive, Gaikai or PlayStation really compete against each other (at least directly); these fall under different categories. Sony’s PlayStation continues to stand strong regardless of any success OnLive could have because it is a full-blown gaming machine. Cloud Gaming is nowhere close to beating the console’s performance, graphics and game selection. As for Gaikai, it is unclear if Sony has plans to change its nature, but the service is not exactly a gaming platform, but more like a gaming-portal.
But even if these do in some direct or indirect way compete against each other, it is not exactly the right time to be picking and choosing sides right now. Google TV’s state is critical and its future uncertain. After doing a bit of research, users will find most other Google TV options come with OnLive support (LG, Vizio, etc.). It may not be important to everybody, but those that like gaming would be thrilled to be able to play affordably in any TV.
The fact that OnLive has its lures is not the only factor that may come into play when a customer is making a decision. Soon after Sony’s Google TV box launch, a competitor gave the company something to worry about. Vizio’s Co-Star Google TV box does not only offer everything Sony’s brings to the table, it also costs $99 (half Sony’s price). And yes, it does come with full OnLive compatibility.
As Google TV fans, we have much to thank Sony for. After all, this company was the first to fully trust and invest in Google’s TV platform. But why limit a device that could be taken to its full potential? This is not Sony’s personal platform, it is Google’s. As such, Sony should offer every incentive available to make Google TV more popular (and sell its product), regardless of its nature.
I do not mean to bash on Sony, it is one of my favorite electronics manufacturers. But we simply can’t find a justification to it not making its devices work with this service, if all other companies are signing up. The only answer we can find is competition. And if this was Sony’s deciding factor, then what a shame.
This is an open platform. Instead of discarding the competition, compete against it. Build a controller compatible with Gaikai. Expand its services and make it better than OnLive. Make your customers choose your product over others, don’t force them to.