Agawi, formerly iSwifter, steps into the cloud gaming ring

A long time ago I wrote about iSwifter (a couple of times), an app designed to bring Flash gaming to the iPad. I wasn't all that impressed with iSwifter either time I looked at it. It seemed to be one of those "Good on paper, less good in practice" technologies at the time. The problem was that the games iSwifter provided access to weren't designed for touch controls.

The way iSwifter worked (rendering Flash on its servers and streaming the results to the iPad) was very similar to the way cloud gaming services like OnLive and GaiKai work, so I suppose it isn't surprising that iSwifter has now morphed into a cloud gaming service called Agawi. Agawi stands for Any Game, Anywhere, Instantly.

Agawi is in the news this week because it has announced that it'll be using Microsoft's Azure cloud hosting in order to bring games to Windows 8 tablets. Agawi is moving beyond Facebook and other casual games and will now support what it calls "mid-core" games (browser based games that require some kind of download) and hardcore games, which I guess includes anything that runs as a stand-alone title. Agawi says it'll have AAA games in its roster, though it doesn't name names.

Agawi says it will succeed where OnLive is struggling because it uses the cloud rather than paying for a bunch of servers, and because it won't deal directly with customers. Instead Agawi intends to make deals with game publishers to offer their games; the customers will pay the publishers and Agawi gets a cut (presumably). This is the business model Gaikai intended to pursue before it was purchased by Sony, and it seemed to struggle. Maybe Agawi can do better.

I can't help but feel skeptical at this point. OnLive struggled not because of its technology but due to a lack of customers and I can't help but think Agawi will encounter the same Catch-22. Hardcore gamers want their games to work perfectly so want to play them locally, while casual gamers are perfectly content to play the games they have now. They don't want to get involved in complex titles. As for Agawi's original business model — bringing Flash-based games to platforms that don't support Flash — the company already has that covered with iSwifter. Why not just port that to platforms beyond the iPad?

Agawi plans to launch alongside of Windows 8 in October, according to Engadget. It'll be interesting to see if they're the ones who can finally crack the cloud gaming nut.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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