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Games in the Cloud?

One of the biggest downsides to playing most games is their lack of portability. Generally, you have to sit in front of the same screen on which you launched the game until you??e finished or gotten too tired to play.

And as one of the few industries that is holding up during the long downturn, companies are scrambling to find new ways to keep people playing when the economy recovers.

A company called Instant Action thinks it has an answer to both dilemmas. The Oregon-based company, owned by media conglomerate InterActive Corp., announced today it will license technology that lets any game run directly in any relatively new pc or Mac?? Web browser.

In short, that means gaming companies will be able to convert some of their hottest 3D titles and serve them up over the Web. A gamer then could start a game at home, save it, go over to a friend?? house or somewhere with a good Internet connection and pick up the game right where he or she left off.

For game companies, there?? also the added benefit that it becomes more difficult to pirate a game since the software sits on a secure server. If gaming goes to the cloud, it could open up new markets for a number of companies that have been leery of piracy in Asia and South America.

There?? no telling whether InstantAction will ultimately be successful, but I think Web-based gaming is an idea whose time has come. Previous effort involved downloading the entire game, and some sites limited the types of games you could play, without giving you the freedom of mobility that people are demanding more and more.

I took a briefing last week with Andy Yang, general manager of InstantAction, and Brett Seyler, who head up licensing, and was impressed with the demo using InstantAction?? own web site. It included the requisite social aspects such as chat, presence and stats and had a number of games from different genres that seemed as appealing as anything you?? get on a major console.

InstantAction has been running its own online gaming destination in beta trials; it now has more than 1.4 million registrations. It plans to add iPhone support later this year for some of its in-house developed games.

Seyler says InstantAction decided to license the technology after getting a number of queries by game makers. The company does not have a set price for licensing the technology but plans to make it essentially a one-time fee and potential revenue sharing.

Many of the company?? games are free to play, supported by advertising that didn?? appear to intrusive. It does offer subscriptions for premium services and is banking on micro-transactions in which players can trade various items in a game.

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