Will Facebook Gamers Want to Play World of Warcraft Instead of FarmVille? Gaikai Hopes So

David Perry revealed today at the Cloud Gaming Europe conference that his streaming games company, Gaikai, has already finished a deal with Facebook and they’re ready to launch.  To add some spice to the announcement, he displayed a demo of World of Warcraft running on Facebook within the Gaikai app, and pointed out that it only took a few clicks to get into the game.  Will Gaikai win the attention of Facebook gamers?

In his talk, longtime gaming veteran (and maker of Earthworm Jim, a personal favorite) Perry talked about the progression of games as a step ladder rather than a smooth transitional flow.  He believes the next step will be from hard drives and consoles to cloud-based streaming, and that the audience will eat it up for ease of use.  Perry demonstrated the lengthy process required for someone to sign up for a demo to play a game on Steam, and then revealed that once Gaikai is on Facebook it would only take a few clicks — just like Zynga.

So will this work?  Will people flock to play a hardcore MMORPG like World of Warcraft on Facebook?  As it stands, people are spending hours on games like CityVille and The Sims Social, so I personally don’t think it’s much of a stretch to invest yourself in the magnificent Universe of Warcraft instead.  I am a long time gamer, and having used OnLive and Gaikai before, I’ve noticed that they allowed me to try a bunch of new games I’d never buy; I would never walk down to the store, pick up Mafia II and play that game, but after I tried it on OnLive in a matter of minutes I was tempted to buy.

The gaming industry hasn’t always had success at predicting the changing of the tides.  When the Wii came out it was dismissed by Sony and Microsoft as a gimmicky toy — it went on to outsell the XBox 360 and Playstation 3.  When iPhone games started to pick up, it took a while for publishers to realize it was a viable platform.  When Facebook games were first released, they were dismissed as nonsense by most game makers.  Developers and publishers in the console industry tend to suffer from NIH syndrome — not invented here.  If they didn’t figure it out, they don’t really get it, and will dismiss it before analyzing it.

I predict cloud gaming services like Gaikai and Onlive have bright futures.  If you don’t believe me, head over to Gaikai and notice how quickly you’ll be able to play a high quality game like FIFA Soccer 12, Crysis, Mass Effect 2 or Dead Space 2.  Take a look at this Crysis 2 screenshot below.  It took me about 3 minutes to get up and running in this game, which happens to be one of the most graphically complex games available to date.

And with one click, the ‘buy’ button at the top, I was a step away from picking up the whole experience.

Now that is, as David mentions, a frictionless experience.  David also went on to make bold comments which were quite aggressive and critical of the console industry.

I suspect he doesn’t really believe all of that doomsday stuff — the best way to get press and attention is to be vitriolic and aggressive.  He wants to paint the image of Gaikai being a company who wants to make billions of dollars, thereby attracting investor and game developer interest.  He wants the company to be taken seriously as a competitor to the consoles, and he probably wants to have it on record that he predicted the trend early — Gaikai was no fluke.

We’ll keep you informed on Gaikai’s progress.