Square Enix is getting into the cloud gaming business with the launch today of Coreonline. The browser-based, Java-powered game streaming service developed by Hapti.co seems easy enough to use, requiring nothing more than a quick, free registration and the installation of a small Java plugin to get started.
As of now, only Hitman: Blood Money and Mini Ninjas are playable -- both for free -- though the site also lists Tomb Raider: Underworld and Gyromancer as "coming soon" and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light as an October 2012 release.
According to the press release, the service keeps track of things like saved games and achievements in the cloud, meaning that as long as you're signed in and playing with your own account, your progress is being recorded. Coreonline supports Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer browsers, though you'll need to have the latest version of Java installed in order to play.
The press release also notes that Coreonline uses an ad-supported free-to-play business model, serving video ads to gamers who don't pay for individual levels or full games. In practice, it's a little more complicated.
When you fire up a level for free play, say from Hitman: Blood Money, you're presented with a list of ads of varying lengths that you can watch to earn minutes of playtime. So a 7-second ad might get you just five minutes, whereas a 1-minute-plus ad could earn you 20 minutes or more. If you opt instead to buy the content, a single level from Blood Money would cost $0.49 and the full game would cost $4.99.
The actual play feels very smooth based on my few minutes of running through a handful of Hitman levels. The mouse/keyboard controls are the same as what they were in the original PC game. It remains to be seen if this unusual take on ad-supported play will actually be embraced by gamers, but Coreonline at least seems to deliver on its promises.