Cloud gaming may have taken a hit with the floundering of OnLive, but Agawi is still going strong and today, the Menlo Park company is officially launching its GameZen app for Windows 8. We previewed that partnership back in September, before Windows 8 had even launched, when executive chairman Peter Relan talked about how his service differs from the competition. Now the app is live, and Relan and company can prove their model is better.
So what does Agawi’s GameZen product bring to Windows 8? 1,000 game titles to start, and with the key difference from native games being that they’re actually ready to play in Windows 8′s modern tile-based interface without pushing users back out to the desktop. And while most of these games are relatively low on the spec requirement scale (more powerful titles are planned for later), GameZen also offers hardware-independence, meaning they can run regardless of what kind of Windows devices are out there. It also works on Windows RT, which is a huge boon for users of Microsoft’s Surface RT, a device that can’t run the full gamut of existing Windows software.
For developers, Relan explained that GameZen is a shortcut to access to the crowd of early Windows 8 adopters. Porting titles, even simple ones, to run natively in Windows 8′s modern UI can be difficult and costly, hence GameZen’s value proposition.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for discovery. There are 700,000 apps on the iOS App Store, 275,000 just for iPads, but Windows tablets are coming out and they’re not nearly as populated as the App Stores,” he said. “It’s really a B2B play, though the app is a B2C app. The point is to let developers bring their games to cloud gaming, which means they don’t have to port these games.”
For developers, Relan is suggesting that getting on board with GameZen is a a way to capture early attention in an ecosystem that’s just emerging. Of course, it also helps Microsoft by populating the Windows 8 app store (albeit via a second embedded app atore akin to a Zinio for games) with titles that users can take advantage of right away without having to cajole and incentivize individual developers separately. Agawi’s business model with GameZen is based entirely around discovery at this stage, so for it, being an early partner with Microsoft during the splashy Windows 8 launch has clear benefits.
“The financial arrangement is primarily that we will bear the costs of cloud-based streaming,” he said. And developers, we’re basically featuring and spotlighting so they get discovered, and we have a business model around that for making our money off of that side and covering the costs of streaming.” To help encourage developers to join, however, Agawi is currently offering promotion services at “virtually” no cost until the end of the year.
Since Agawi has big plans to eventually move up to top-tier titles, I asked if Relan thought his company might ever come into direct competition with Microsoft’s own Xbox gaming efforts. He said he doesn’t think the two will butt heads. And in fact GameZen is filling a particular niche on Windows 8 devices that Microsoft itself hasn’t seemed quick to fill, despite streaming media service for other areas like music and movies.