TC50: Spawn Labs Is Slingbox For Video Games

58146v2-max-250x250Slingbox owners love their devices. They allow you to watch your home television content anywhere you are in the world with an Internet connection. A new startup, Spawn Labs, launching today at TechCrunch50 wants to extend that concept to video games.

But Spawn Labs offering is actually a bit more robust because it includes a social element as well. A key part to playing video games is playing them against other people. And with the Spawn HD Pro appliance, you’ll be able to do just that. Say a friend has an Xbox 360 in California and wants to play a game against you, but you’re in New York. From New York, you would simply install the Spawn Player application on your computer, and you could remotely connect to their system, to play a game.

The key to all of this is of course the Spawn HD Pro box, which will retail for $199 (available on their site today). These boxes will be able to transmit HD-quality (720p) content over the Internet to the computer on the other end. On those computers, users can play the game with an input device of their choosing.

The idea of playing popular video games over the web is a hot area right now. The two most well-known names in this field are OnLive and OTOY. But both of those are attempting to use their own servers to create a completely online experience, Spawn Labs is simply allowing you to take an existing console and transmit the content over the Internet. Of course, one potential issue with this method is that someone must be on the other end (where the console is) to make sure it has the game disc you want to play inside of it.

Eventually, the plan is to expand Spawn Labs’ technology beyond video games as well. They’d basically like to handle any and all video content over their box. Computers, other set-top boxes, and even mobile devices are all in the pipeline to be hooked up to Spawn Labs’ services.

Today, President and CEO David Wilson presented alongside QA engineer Daniel Bethke.

Expert Panel Q&A (paraphrased)

The experts: Don Dodge, Yossi Vardi, Ron Conway, George Zachary, and Jason Hirschhorn.

Q: Is it a weakness to have one game in at a time?

DW: That is something we thought about, but the direction of the industry is to have games on console’s hard drives.

Q: How do the graphics travel? And is this software on the console itself eventually?

DW: When you’re in a bandwidth constrained around, the network will downscale.

Q: So this is more targeted in the home?

DW: We’re targeting both.

Q: The bet is that customers will pay $200 for a hardware device to play games remotely. How often do players do that?

DW: Right now they can’t do it. But there is a strong desire for this. We have orders from several of the top game developers in the world for this.

Q: What kind of support?

DW: It runs any game on the supported consoles. (Xbox 360, Wii, Gabecube, PS3, etc)

Q: This also assumes the player has their controller?

DW: You don’t need one, but you can use any controller you want.

Q:  What about the handhelds?

DW: Theoretically yes, not sure yet though.




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