Considering their baffling pricing models and new found love of DLC, Square Enix is perhaps one of the last companies you would expect to be giving things away. But surprisingly enough, it looks like they plan to do just that… technically. Announced today, the Coreonline service is Square Enix’s big leap into cloud gaming, providing a variety of games from their library to users free of charge, with one catch: players earn their game time by watching ads. The games are run entirely off the browser, and are compatible with Chrome, Internet Explorer and Safari. Mac compatibility is spotty, requiring specific browsers to get certain games working properly.
The rates are about what you’d expect. Going off of Joystiq’s testing, watching a one minute commercial gives you about thirty minutes of play time, while watching a roughly ten second commercial gives you five. Ads can be removed permanently by purchasing individual levels or the entire game.
“Square Enix is at the forefront of experimentation of new business and services models in the game industry,” said Yoichi Wada, chief executive officer of Square Enix. “Through our COREONLINE technology service, users can access our content easily through the browser.”
Alright… but how many games are going to be available over Coreonline anyway? At the moment, only two: Hitman: Blood Money and Mini Ninjas. Laura Croft: Guardian of Light is planned for an October release, while Tomb Raider: Underworld and Gyromancer will be added at an unspecified date.
The library is definitely underwhelming at this point, and the idea of selling a game level-by-level is one that should never be allowed to catch on, but this sort of ad-supported gaming service was something that was inevitable. It’s worked for streaming TV, so why not games? As long as those games are also available for purchase in the traditional means, Coreonline seems like it might turn out to be a decent alternative for gaming on a budget.