Startup Marries Games to Grid Computing

Web game developers can make decent money through advertising, but that revenue generally depends on clickthroughs and other variables beyond their control. What if they could earn some cash simply by making their games popular? That’s essentially the value proposition of Plura Processing, a startup that sells distributed network computing power.
Backed by $2 million in funding from Houston’s Creeris Ventures, Plura was founded in 2007 on the observation that “There is an immense amount of excess computing power wasting away on everyone’s home computers. We thought a technology that could tap into that power in a safe way could be game-changing to high-performance computing and cloud computing,” Chief Strategy Officer Shion Deysarkar tells me.
To do that, they’re partnering with game makers. Developers of online Flash and Java games can become Plura affiliates.¬†“When people come to these sites to play games a Java applet is initiated, which connects the user’s computer to our grid-computing network,” Deysarkar explained to me. Plura then sells that computing power to its customers, and in return, affiliates get a cut of the revenue based on the average number of simultaneous users and percentage of compute power used, up to $2,600 a month. (Here’s a more detailed explanation on the Plura site.)
The setup is still in beta with a handful of partners, including Desktop Tower Defense, which is among the most popular web games of all time. Assuming all this works as billed, I think it’s definitely a revenue stream game developers should consider, in addition to advertising. For companies in need of high-performance computing resources, Plura claims to offer rates that are highly competitive with Amazon’s EC2, at least for certain applications.
Of course, there are concerns from the affiliates’ point of view, which Deysarkar acknowledges: Some users may balk at the idea of a third party using their computing power or an occasional slowdown in individual performance. (With Plura’s applet installed, loading DTD seems to require a few extra seconds for me.)¬†Those are challenges for both game developers (and Plura) to consider.
From a gamer’s perspective, the coolest thing is how a service like Plura incentivizes Flash developers to improve their product. “If a game developer can increase the time someone plays his game from 5 minutes to 6 minutes,” as Deysarkar put it to me, “that’s a 20 percent increase in revenue.” So it’s in their interest not only to attract new players, but keep existing ones playing. That’ll probably translate into better and bigger games for players, more money for developers — and more computing power to sell.
Image credit: Plura Processing