Akamai rides Happy Cloud to speed up game downloads


Back in May, I wrote about Boston-area startup Happy Cloud, which is trying to speed up game downloads and make them almost instantly playable. Using progressive download technology to get games up and running within minutes, Happy Cloud can better compete against streaming gaming services like OnLive. Now, the company has partnered with content delivery network Akamai to boost its performance and in the process, it’s showing how software downloads of all kinds might get similar on-demand treatment.

Happy Cloud will leverage Akamai’s Electronic Software Delivery for Gaming solution, which was first introduced in March and was billed as a way to boost the performance of game downloads. That system, however, speeds up game downloads but doesn’t make them playable right away. By partnering together, the two companies will now be able to offer gaming companies the ability to provide on-demand gaming and an alternative to streaming services like OnLive and Gaikai.

Happy Cloud works by using a virtualized file system to pre-install a game in the cloud, eliminating the need for a user to go through an installation process. Consumers just load up Happy Cloud on their computer one time and then when they buy a game, the service begins sending the data in the order it’s needed so players can get started right away instead of waiting for the download to be completed. That allows most games, even large big-name titles, to be played within about one to six minutes, depending on the size of the game and the strength of the connection. By now integrating Happy Cloud into Akamai’s nearly 100,000 servers around the world, downloads will be boosted by as much as 35 percent, reducing the wait time to play a game to about a couple minutes in most cases. That’s a big improvement over typical game downloads, which can take several hours or more to complete.

“This gives us a leg up in distribution and scalability and allows us to have an unparalleled cloud gaming solution by using cloud infrastructure that already exists,” said Eric Gastfriend, VP and GM of Happy Cloud. Gastfriend said the companies will co-market their solution to gaming companies. Currently, Happy Cloud has about 15 games on its service now.

Kris Alexander, Chief Strategist for Connected Devices and Gaming at Akamai, said the combination is exciting because it hints at a potential larger trend for the software industry. He said software companies, not just gaming companies, could employ similar technology to speed up downloads and offer try-before-you-buy options for consumers.

“That’s where this gets interesting for larger consumer software companies,” said Alexander. “There’s no equivalent simple solution for trying software in a few minutes to decide whether to buy it.”

This makes sense in our increasingly on-demand world. People don’t want to wait and being able to provide instantly usable software of any kind could help convert wavering consumers and reduce download abandonment. It might be more limited to larger software that traditionally takes longer to download or install. And with more cloud computing on the way, solutions like this may have less appeal over time. But Happy Cloud and now Akamai are showing that the cloud can be tapped intelligently to deliver software.

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