The future belongs to the cloud technologies say experts in IT. But what is going on in the clouds and behind them is not clear for everyone. Before, one could only dream about the cloud benefits for gamers. What does the cloud virtual reality please us with, how to play a beautiful game on a slow PC, save more than $ 1000 on your gaming hobby — we have discussed all this with Anton Danyushin, the executive director of Playkey, Russia’s first cloud gaming service.
— Hello Anton. Please tell us a few words about yourself and your company.
— We are gamers-“rebels”. Our “rebellion” is directed against the large spending on computer hardware for the opportunity to play top projects. Year after year, the technical requirements for MMO and AAA games are rising as well as the computer parts prices. One can, of course, buy a console, but it is not a secret that it is even more expensive. To keep up with everything one sometimes has neither the strength, nor the means, nor the will. This is why Playkey, the cloud gaming service, came into sight. It is like a gamers’ magic wand for 590 rubles (about $ 8.6) a month. And it runs cool games on computers that are not capable of this by definition.
Have you ever dreamed about playing GTA V, The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 using an average laptop? Probably you will say that this is not possible as you are good in computers and understand how everything works. Believe me, I too, as I can remember, have a great interest in technology. As a teenager I had a Celeron 133 MHz with 8 MB RAM and a 420 MB HDD. All the time something had to be deleted in order to install at least one game. Back then it used all the free 300 megabytes on the drive. It gave a lot of inconveniences. The modern gamer has problems with sustaining the FPS level without sacrificing graphics. One wants Full HD, Ultra settings, removed pixels from the image and have an instant response time. And I completely understand how it frustrates when a game is great but the computer is not good enough. That same moment when you play a step by step NFS. This is one of the reasons why I make my contribution to the solution of a gamers’ problem as an executive director of the Playkey company and not only my almost ten years of experience managing large telecom and IT projects help me, but also those most sincere feelings from the childhood.
— How and from whom did the idea of creating the service emerge? How was the team put together?
— The progenitor of Playkey is the Enaza company — one of the leaders in digital distribution in Russia. Being in it, we have closely monitored the latest technologies. When cloud services appeared — Dutch Gaikai and the American OnLive, we were very interested in the idea. Gaikai and OnLive “ended” after meeting Sony. The first service became a part of PlayStation Now in 2012 and Sony bought out the patents of the second in 2015 and closed the service itself. Of course, even after closing no one was in a hurry to share the internal kitchen of these cloud services and voice the ready technology to the masses. And we decided to try to make something similar by ourselves. And we did! The developments took place since 2012, the first commercial product we launched at the end of 2014. And now, in 2016, still alive, successful and sharing a ready-made solution to the problems of Russian gamers.
— What problems arose during the work?
— There were plenty of difficulties! From the first alpha version to a working service much was experienced. I will not delve into the details. Maybe later we will share how we had spent 1.5 years for nothing and then we have put everything together in three months!
— If not a secret, what is the structure of the company? Do you have many employees? Can you describe the approximate operational processes? Who does what, which departments (if any), what is the interaction and so on.
— There are more than thirty people in the Playkey team. They are highly skilled programmers and engineers who share a passion for computer games and a desire to help the same people, who are just like us. We know firsthand the difficulties that faces the Russian gamer today. As part of Playkey we provide a stable work of the service, negotiate directly with publishers and copyright holders in order to replenish the catalogue of more than hundred and fifty games, integrate projects into Playkey and, of course, closely communicate with our users.
— Which companies give you their games?
— Ubisoft, Capcom, Sega, Codemasters, Plug In Digital. Cool games mean serious work with large companies; it is not easy to make friends fast. But we intend to involve in our Playkey-movement the majority of the most popular game publishers.
— How long after the official release of the game it is available at Playkey? What does it depend on?
— It depends on three factors: the copyright owner / publisher, the project itself and, of course, the Playkey user. For example, Far Cry Primal appeared in the Playkey service in just a week after the world PC release. There are also games which are 2–3 years old and are still popular which we add at the request of our users.
— How a decision is made about adding a particular game? How specifically the games are chosen into the catalogue?
— We have extensive experience working with digital content. We monitor market trends, popular and most interesting games. But most importantly we ask Playkey users what do they want.
Of course, we cannot objectively take into account the wishes of everybody but we respect the choice of Playkeyers. For example, in February in our VK group “Playkey.net” we carried the so-called “#AgreeableWeekends” — a two-day poll on the desired projects. Doom 2016, XCOM 2, Dota 2, PAYDAY2, Deadpool, Mafia 3, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and others which gained a large amount of votes are already in our plans. A complete list of planned games can be looked up on the website of the service playkey.net.
— What latest games do you have?
— Top projects like GTA V, Far Cry Primal, Fallout 4, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, the Assassin’s Creed series, including Syndicate, The Crew and Watch Dogs, online games of Wargaming, Armored Warfare and many others are already included in the catalogue of the service. There are plans to launch soon Rise of the Tomb Raider and Tom Clancy’s The Division. A full catalogue of games is also on the website of the cloud service.
To play at Playkey a digital game key is required and also a subscription to the service. If the key was previously purchased from the copyright owner, there is no need to buy it again on Playkey. When using the old login and password, for example, that of Steam in The Witcher 3, Playkey uploads the saved gaming progress in its cloud. In Playkey games the online mode is supported, the official DLC. Some of the games are available in Full HD 1080p, the rest in HD ready 720p. We also actualize files on our servers as updates are released.
— Do you plan to add advertising in order to reduce the game prices?
— No, we do not plan. Playkey is used to play cool games on a slow computer and no one likes ads (laughs).
— What servers, graphic cards and, in general, what kind of equipment is used?
— Playkey servers are located in Russia and abroad. You did even write about this in your news before. The servers are equipped with 2x Intel Xeon E5-2660 v2 processors and specialized graphic processors — NVIDIA GRID M40, 64 GB memory, information is stored on RAIDs.
The response time of a player depends on his proximity to a free server. In Playkey ping is on average from fifteen to ninety milliseconds. And it is enough to play, for example, in shooters. Image quality depends additionally on the users’ Internet speed — for a comfortable game one needs five Mbit/s and higher. The service provides the opportunity to play with a FPS of thirty and above. Playkeyers are very active in GTA V and there, you know, the response rate and the image quality are very important.
In general, we provide capacities that easily replace the modern gamer a top-notch PC so that the user can enjoy top games on his simple home PC or a laptop. Actually, this is how the problem of compatibility of a slow computer and cool projects is resolved!
— Cloud gaming is an absolute end to piracy? Or people will still find a way to outsmart any restrictions? Did have any hacking cases or something like that? Are there any security measures or precautions?
— The focus of PC games is now increasingly shifting towards multiplayer games. This means that using “cracked” games one will not be able to play with his friends or simply with real players. There are less and less “cracked” games. Plus, usually, in order to install such games one needs to spend some time on it: not everything works right away and the game is not always stably working. In the Playkey case there is no need to install the game on your home PC — everything is located on our servers. And, of course, all the data transmission with the account names and passwords passes through secure protocols.
— What are your plans on promoting abroad? To which countries?
— Now the service is available in Russia, but we plan to launch Playkey in English this spring.