Sony has officially announced its intent to acquire cloud gaming service online for approximately $380 million, confirming rumors that have been flitting around since before last month's E3 2012 trade show. The PlayStation 3 maker will use its new toy to "establish a new cloud service, ensuring the it continues to provide users with truly innovative and immersive interactive entertainment experiences."
There's no indication of what the new service will be called or when Sony plans to get it going, but it's definitely not going to happen until after the acquisition jumps through the necessary regulatory hoops. You can, however, expect the core product that Gaikai offers to be at the heart of the new operation. As Sony CEO Andrew House said, "SCE will deliver a world-class cloud-streaming service that allows users to instantly enjoy a broad array of content ranging from immersive core games with rich graphics to casual content anytime, anywhere on a variety of internet-connected devices."
What we have here amounts to a huge game-changer. There are still a lot of unanswered questions concerning how the deal will affect Gaikai's existing business and publisher relationships. There's also the question of how Sony's acquisition will impact plans to integrate Gaikai streaming capabilities into other devices, such as the company's deal with LG for Gaikai-equipped TVs.
So yes, there are questions. The fact of the matter, however, is that Sony just took a giant forward step into the next generation of what gaming technology will offer. Even if Sony's version of Gaikai ends up launching during the PS3 era, what you're looking at here is the future of the company's games business. Hopefully we'll see some of the bigger questions answered soon as this acquisition unfolds.