Sony Puffs Up Its Gaming Cloud, Buys Gaikai For $380M. OnLive Next In Line For A Buyer?

Some more consolidation in cloud-based gaming services: Sony Computer Entertainment announced today that it will pay $380 million to acquire Gaikai, the California-based provider of a platform that currently delivers some 40 games, including Mass Effect, the Sims, and FIFA Soccer, as cloud-based services to a variety of devices, without the need of a games console. We’d first heard murmurs about a tie-up between Gaikai and Sony in May, and the deal raises questions of what might happen next with rival streaming platform OnLive.

The move is a sign of how console-based companies are feeling the pressure to offer other, cheaper routes to accessing games content via other devices, as revenues from hardware-based services decline. Sony, makers of the PlayStation, says that as a result of the deal, it will establish a new cloud gaming service, as yet unnamed.

Today’s deal closed on June 30, Sony says. Gaikai had raised $45 million in venture funding since 2010, with investors including Benchmark Capital, NEA and Intel Capital.

In Sony’s last quarter, it noted that amid record losses for the company, it saw declines in sales of its PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2 and PSP devices. That is down to a number of factors: pressure from competitors like Microsoft and Nintendo, yes, but also the rise of mobile gaming and other services that do not require consoles for consumers to get their shooting/jumping/virtual world building fixes.

If Gaikai’s existing deals remain in place, the move will also see Sony develop another line of business, as a service provider to a number of competing consumer electronics companies: these include LG and Samsung, both of which signed deals with Gaikai to deliver games to their connected TVs this year. You can see a full list of its partnerships since 2010 here.

The rumor also raises the prospect of what might happen next with OnLive, another games streaming company. In June, a leaked Microsoft strategy memo, originally posted on Scribd but now taken down by lawyers, noted streaming companies like OnLive as a threat to the gaming console business, and mentioned the company by name as an acquisition target.

Like Gaikai, OnLive works across different platforms, including Android, Google TV, the iPad — and Windows.

As VentureBeat also points out, the prospects for where Sony could use Gaikai are big indeed: effectively, it could mean a “PlayStation anywhere” type approach not just to consoles but to TVs, kiosks, mobile devices and more. Potentially it gives Sony the ability to do that for hardware beyond its own.

“SCE will deliver a world-class cloud-streaming service that allows users to instantly enjoy a broad array of content ranging from immersive core games with rich graphics to casual content anytime, anywhere on a variety of internet-connected devices,” said Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc, said in a statement.