Utomik has a solid model and nice interface but lacks selection at launch
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Subscription-based, online gaming services have been tried by many, and with mixed results. Cloud service OnLive was an early candidate but saw its demise in 2015. More recently, Sony has had moderately more success with its PlayStation Now service, which it offers on a number of platforms. But none of these attempts have so far been quite able to replicate the game-changing success that Netflix has had in the realm of TV and movies. Now, a new start-up called Utomik seeks to change that, with what it hopes will be the Netflix of gaming.
As we all know, most subscription-based game services have streamed games to your computer from a remote server. This means that your gaming rig doesn’t have to have a lot of horsepower for even the biggest AAA games since the company’s servers are doing the work back at the source. However, the downside to this method is, unless you have a super-fast Internet speed, the demons of lag and stuttering might raise their ugly heads – and you just know they’ll do that just at the moment you’re about to make a crucial jump, or deliver the final death-blow in a Boss fight.
Utomik seeks to avoid streaming issues – and related rage-tantrums – by adopting a hybrid system, whereby games are actually partly downloaded to your computer before you start playing; a certain chunk is sent to you at the beginning, and then the rest is downloaded as you play. This eliminates performance issues during play, making for a nice, smooth user experience when playing even the big titles.
“Utomik seeks to avoid streaming issues – and related rage-tantrums – by adopting a hybrid system.”
The downside to this method, though, is you’ll need to have room for those downloads on your computer. The bigger games will need 1 GB and more of your hard drive space to start with, and more as you play. You can uninstall them after you’re done, but let’s face it, most gamers will want to have many games on the go at once, and having all that data stored on your PC might get problematic. Plus, you have to wait for 10 or 15 minutes for the initial install before you play, which doesn’t exactly fit with the Netflix model of on-demand gaming.
The interface is designed much like Steam’s storefront, with channels for genre or particular publishers making for an easy and familiar layout. There doesn’t seem to be the option to view all titles in the library – perhaps that’s by design to hide the small library size – but if you’re looking for a particular title, there’s a handy search function. Technically, Utomik offers a smooth user experience, with an easy sign-up and payment process in which you can get started playing within minutes.
But let’s face it: it’s all about the games. And at the moment, game selection on Utomik isn’t exactly stellar – the library consists of mostly smaller games, peppered here and there with a few older big names like Borderlands or Star Wars The Force Unleashed II – and that’s going to be the toughest sell in attracting new subscribers. At $6.00 US per month, consumers will have to decide if it’s worth it for what you get, even with all-you-can-play freedom. But the company promises that more titles will be coming regularly, and with better selection the cost will surely look a lot more appealing.
“At $6.00 US per month, consumers will have to decide if it’s worth it for what you get, even with all-you-can-play freedom.”
Is Utomik the Netflix of gaming that the legends have foretold will one day revolutionize gaming? The answer is, not yet. The game library at launch is still a bit too small for the $6.00 monthly price, and it’ll be a while before traditional content-deliverers like Sony, Microsoft and Steam have to start worrying. But the basic model is solid, and as Utomik grows, adds more titles and more subscribers, its all-you-can-play service will certainly have the potential to be a viable alternative. Imagine having access to a Steam-sized library, with unlimited playtime, for only $6.00 per month – that’s the intriguing but as yet unrealized prospect Utomik has in the long-term. We’ll keep our eye on it and update you as news continues to come in.