We recently spoke with Gaikai CEO David Perry about all things PlayStation Now. The longtime developer joined the cloud-gaming company in 2009 and in 2012 Sony acquired it to form the core of PlayStation Now. Check out our interview as we touch on signing with Sony, remote play, what it takes to get a game on PS Now, expansion to more devices, overcoming rough cloud-gaming experiences, and looking to the future.
When you're finished, be sure to check out our interview with Sony's Eric Lempel on PlayStation Now as well.
What initially interested you about cloud-based gaming?
I just got an email out of the blue from a couple of guys from the Netherlands, “Hey, we liked your speech. [Ed—Perry spoke in February 2009 at the DICE conference in Las Vegas about instant access gaming.] We’re actually working on this technology right now." And I was like “Yeah, probably not," because it’s going to be really hard to make this work well. Then they sent me a link. I was suddenly playing World of Warcraft at my house all the way from Amsterdam. And you can imagine the link was terrible because it was halfway around the world, but the fact that I was sitting there playing it... And then they said, "Here we also have Mario Kart." I was playing Mario Kart across the world. And I just went “Man this is exciting.” I cancelled what I was working on at the time and just jumped right into this because I thought this is going to be important.
Wherever I am, I want to pull up any song and listen to it. I’d love to be able to pull up any movie and watch it. I’d like to be able to have a chat with someone about a game and be able to pull it up and play it, or if some game came out at 9 a.m. this morning and I’m able to jump right into it and within one minute be in it. And then be teleporting my friends to me within another minute. That would be huge.
Why was Sony the right direction to go?
We were very worried because we were doing only PC games. With PC games there’s a general problem. There are different systems running those games. You might have Gamespy in the game and Gamespy doesn’t exist anymore, or you might have Steam running a game and Steam adds a security system. So to try and run a game in the cloud it’s like, "Where am I? What’s going on?" Any built-in security systems are going to panic.
Instead of being able to focus on the streaming part and the experience, we were focused on, "How do we make it so that this PC game stops freaking out and will just run properly through the cloud?" And that was becoming a real problem for us because it was massively reducing the amount of games that we could get going quickly. And they expected keyboard and mouse, but we wanted them to work on television sets. We were trying to come up with systems that modify a legacy game in real time. We were actually changing the screens of the games in real time using image recognition and things like that. It was like Pandora’s box, the amount of work. You kept peeling back these layers of problems and trying to fix them. Our fantasy was that we could instead get off this platform that was so complex. We wanted to get one where there was a large set of very high-quality games but with a standardized control system, something that used a joypad that all the games would be compatible with. And it didn’t have crazy random security systems included.
I’ve been a Sony fan since day one, and so it was extremely exciting to us when they started to pay attention to what we were doing. They were at all the cloud-gaming conferences, and I was keynoting quite a few of them so we had a more open dialog with Sony over time. Then we showed them some of the future technology that was never released, but they got to see what we were working on behind closed doors. I think that finally sealed the deal because then they could see where this was going.

Gaikai's David Perry.
How does Gaikai fit within the Sony corporate structure?
You would assume that we would all just have to move to Japan so that we could work with the teams there, but Sony is an interesting entity. We have advanced R&D being done in San Francisco, and if you think about some of their best games like The Last of Us is done in Santa Monica, so they’re kind of distributed already. It wasn’t an enormous shock to the system to say, “Can we stay where we are? We really like where we are. We have a building that has a built-in data center."
To be sitting on top of a real data center is fantastic for development. We can go downstairs and do anything we want to the servers and put new servers in. There’s a 24-hour network operations center, people there all day long looking at screens monitoring everything. To have a data center in your developer’s building was just incredibly attractive to us so we didn’t really want to move.
Furthermore, it’s pretty discrete what we’re doing. It’s very clear it’s this cloud-based gaming thing so it doesn’t step on other peoples’ toes. It’s not like we’re doing the same thing that somebody else is doing. Imagine if we were doing a piece of the PlayStation Store. That wouldn’t work because then we would have to move in with them. By doing something very clearly different I think it’s worked out okay. Our team does fly to Japan quite often. It does mean lots of international phone calls and things like that, but ultimately the communication and the sharing has worked out well.
Just to be very clear, we only do two things for Sony. We focus on cloud gaming and remote play. Remote play was important because it needed to use this system of transferring experiences locally, and then of course the cloud stuff, which was all network based. The network we built with Sony is much bigger and more complex than the one we had as a startup. It’s dramatically more advanced and it’s designed to scale because we have to allow for a lot of PlayStation gamers to play if some new game comes out that they really all want to play. The optimization and capabilities that we’ve got internet-wise are far better than we had before.

What did you learn from developing Remote Play?
Remote play was the perfect way for a new company like us to learn how to work with Sony. Instead of jumping in at the deep end, it allowed us to work on something that to us was reasonably straightforward because we had that capability already here at Gaikai. But to build that into the operating system of the PlayStation meant working hand in hand with the team in Japan. That was a really good, gentle intro into how do we get this code to work properly within the operating system correctly.
And we get it to work on the other side on the Vita. That was prior to the acquisition. That was one of the demonstrations that Sony had seen its state-of-the-art games running literally straight to any device. We showed tablets and phones and televisions and everything, but we also showed PlayStation Vita. To put a high-end game on that beautiful screen, it was something that we loved to show here. I think when they saw that it made it very clear that this needs to be done. It worked out well. It’s very popular. It’s used a lot.
I tried it out on Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag.
And you gotta remember, this is all first generation. It’s kind of fun to imagine what you can do with it once you’ve got the capability. There’s all kinds of stuff we can do in the future to accelerate it and to offer new kinds of sharing and things like that. Once you get it working and people go, "Yeah, it works. Now what?" That’s the next ten years. That’s the fun part. That’s why I’m still here. I’m still enjoying the creative side of this as well.
Do you ever wish the Vita had some extra shoulder buttons to match the DualShock?
Yeah, that’s what we need. I agree. It’s funny because you know I hope we get involved in more and more conversations as we become integrated into more things at Sony. These are the kind of conversations I really want to have.