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Cloud Gaming Coming to the Sony PlayStation, and None Too Soon

Sony (SNE) PlayStation customers will be able to save their games in the cloud -- a simple but savvy move, and one that other companies will soon emulate. Expect this development to have the biggest impact on the mobile world, where devices (and game saves) are much more vulnerable to all sorts of hazards.

Virtual back-up -- with a catch
The personalized details of a user's game, like her game progress and statistics, are traditionally saved on the local hardware like the hard drive. These details have become more valuable to users as games themselves have become more complex: A title like Grand Theft Auto 4 can take more than 100 hours to complete.

Kotaku's Luke Plunkett says the update will be in the next PlayStation 3 software, 3.60. Sony does have two caveats:

  • It will be only available to subscribers of PlayStation Plus, Sony's exclusive annual membership club
  • Game publishers can choose not to allow virtual back-ups
It's hard to picture a company opting out of the virtual save program unless it had its own cloud plans -- and was willing to pay for the required servers and maintenance a cloud service needs.

Why mobile companies will follow
The Sony cloud save program may prompt similar ones for the Nintendo (NTYDO) Wii and Microsoft (MSFT) XBox 360, but it will definitely influence mobile companies like Apple (APPL) and Google (GOOG), as well as the mobile game developers themselves. It will have a larger impact on mobile apps, specifically mobile gaming apps.

First, mobile devices are more apt to lose data than home units. From getting wet to being dropped, environmental hazards are a big problem for cell phones. Companies like Dropbox and can back up documents, but typically not internal app data like game saves.

Second, mobile games are becoming as complex as their home counterparts. Recent titles like Epic Games' Infinity Blade are longer than console games, while titles like Roxio's best-selling Angry Birds save hard-earned results from hours of gameplay.

Finally, a cloud saving programing will give one of the mobile online services a major leg up. Right now Microsoft XBox Live, Apple GameCenter, OpenFeint, and several other online communities are vying for an audience, but none offer virtual saves.

Sony hasn't announced if cloud saves will be available on the already-impressive NGP portable, but it would be a natural add-on -- and a nice weapon against Nintendo 3DS and other mobile competition.

Photo courtesy of hyku // CC 2.0