In a private meeting outside of this year's Game Developers Conference, InstantAction CEO Louis Castle unveiled the InstantAction Platform, a unique game distribution service that the company believes will change the way consumers play games.
In a nutshell, the InstantAction Platform delivers full PC games from third-party partners to end users through their web browsers. Games are downloaded progressively to a user's PC, meaning that they are available to play sometimes within minutes, either within the browser or in a full-screen mode.
Games are available to play for free in a twenty-minute trial state, after which players may either purchase the game outright or buy more time via microtransactions (which cap off at the full cost of the game, much like a "rent-to-own" model).
In addition, playable games may be either linked or embedded, can be accessed from any machine (with game saves stored in the "cloud," server-side), and Castle is confident that when the platform launches, it will require no browser plug-ins, other than Java. The games do not run on a virtual machine, meaning they will take full advantage of the end user's specs.
According to Castle, this delivery mechanism is superior to OnLive -- which delivers games instantly via streaming video rather than installing locally -- because it does not have the same steep bandwidth requirements. Games can be delivered over the InstantAction platform even if the end user has a bad connection, though games will of course be slower to launch.
"It's going to be a long time before we have predictably good bandwidth," Castle told Gamasutra. "[OnLive is] going to be great for a few people, but it won't be the right solution for most people."
Castle also announced that the company has partnered with Gaikai to allow a similar streaming solution to OnLive in certain scenarios. In one example, Castle said users might begin playing a game instantly via streaming video, until the background progressive download "catches up" enough to play locally. In another example, a game that might be too resource-intensive for an end user may instead be streamed if need be, at an hourly rate estimated to be in the $5 an hour range.
A full range of publishing partners has not been announced at press time, though the private demos we saw suggested that both UbiSoft and LucasArts are on board. A specific launch date has not been set, but Castle says the tech is ready to go, estimates that it may be available to consumers as soon as the end of this month.