Thursday during Gamescom 2011, GameStop president Tony Bartel said that the company's upcoming game streaming service is currently in closed beta, and is expected to launch sometime during the first half of next year. When launched, the service will stream Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC-based games to dedicated hardware and smart devices through GameStop's recently-acquired Spawn software client.
"Spawn recently began its first beta and is currently live, testing the streaming of Xbox 360, PS3 and PC games from a data center in Austin, Texas," he said. "We continue to get positive feedback from our publishing partners about the pro-console, low-investment model that we have chosen."
Bartel added that the closed beta will go national by the end of 2011, and then the company will reveal more details at the beginning of next year (CES 2012?) including what the service will offer and its pricing model. That said, there's a good chance GameStop will mimic OnLive's offering by providing two rental options along with a permanent "full pass."
And like OnLive, GameStop may also offer dedicated console-like hardware that will connect directly to an HDMI-ready HDTV. "Those conversations are taking place today," he said. "There's a whole cadre of services that GameStop can offer far beyond just Spawn. The beauty of Spawn is it can take a very large assortment of games. There's really no restriction versus an Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game."
GameStop's Spawn client will be offered via the company's PowerUp Rewards membership which currently boasts over 12 million members. The service will allow gamers to demo titles presumably in the same manner as OnLive, offering timed gameplay rather than requiring publishers to provide a separate demo file (as some games just can't be chopped up into small nuggets).
Bartel also revealed that GameStop is experimenting with PC game delivery. "We can take that to any Internet-connected device including TV," he said. "So clearly, it's part of our acquisition forethought. We anticipated being involved in smart TVs as well."