InstantAction Puts 3D Gaming Into Web Browsers

instant-actionInstantAction today officially unveiled its technology platform, which purportedly makes it possible to play any video game in a web browser. Not just 2D casual games, but hardcore 3D games with high-end graphics that would otherwise require a next-gen game console, or a huge client install on the PC.

Even, say, World of Warcraft, played in a browser? Yes, an InstantAction spokesperson assured me, “Any game.” How about the Microsoft Xbox 360 hit Gears of War? Instant Action Technology V-P Brett Seyler told me last week during a demo that if the company got Microsoft’s approval, his company could convert Gears for web-based play in “2-3 weeks, max.”

Neither of those games or other well-known titles were shown to me at the demo, but I did get hands-on time with some of the nine internally developed 3D games InstantAction has been hosting on its site during beta, and they are pretty impressive. For instance, Fallen Empire: Legions, offers fast-paced, first-person shooter action, while Ace of Aces gives you realistic WWI-themed dogfights; in both cases, you get a full 3D gaming experience that just happens to be on the web. Download and install the small 150K plug-in, download a particular game in a matter of minutes, and you’re ready to play.

How does it work? Seyler wouldn’t elaborate other than to say that the game runs as a separate process from the web browser, via what he called the company’s proprietary “secret sauce,” which applies API hooks to the code of any game engine. This process does require a 3D graphics card, but Seyler told me even low-end processors can handle the job. (The platform is derived from game engine company GarageGames, which IAC/InterActiveCorp bought in 2007.)

InstantAction execs tell me they’re in talks with “pretty much every big [game] publisher,” and to expect deals to be announced this year or 2010. If their technology is as robust as they claim, I expect a number of them. However, it remains to be seen how many 3D game publishers are ready to move away from the retail software sales model and re-package their titles as integrated web experiences. Doing so will probably require them to embrace new revenue models that better suit casual web play, such as advertising and microtransactions. Then again, considering the high number of web game players, and the skyrocketing costs of high-end 3D games, they may find themselves with little choice.

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