When the global game streaming industry started making waves thanks to Google Stadia’s launch, industry stalwarts predicted that with superior internet connections at hand, the world of gaming hardware might face a considerable setback. India, however, remains largely away from it due to inconsistent internet connectivity in many areas. As a result, services such as Google Stadia, Sony PlayStation Now and Microsoft Project xCloud have mostly remained away from treading into India with game streaming services. Now, Doofy, an Indian startup founded by two Indian entrepreneurs, aims to bring game streaming to Indians, irrespective of which device they are using.
What is Doofy?
In the overall sense, Doofy is a game streaming service that has the same objective as the big guns – give you a cloud platform where you can login using a simple username and password, access a store of games, pick what you want to play, and start with it right away – no fancy hardware required. At the moment, Doofy will reside in your browser (or a desktop app), where you can login to your account, subscribe to daily, weekly or monthly plans, and get access to Doofy’s cloud streaming service. You then get access to a fairly basic interface that is presently based off Valve’s Steam store, and login to Steam with your credentials as well. Once logged in, you can simply download whichever game you want to play on to the Doofy interface, and start playing it directly from your browser.
Speaking to News18, Doofy’s founder Anirudh Balagopal says that he and his business partner have been beta testing the project “for a while”, and only premiered Doofy via ProductHunt on Wednesday, September 9. At the moment, the service only has two full-time employees – Balagopal and Harikrishan Thoppil, who is also the co-founder of the startup. Balagopal also says that they had a “lot of help from extremely talented friends who are ex-Amazon and ex-Microsoft employees.” The service is presently bootstrapped at the moment, and they have so far used “a lot of AWS server credits” that they had as a result of their ties with Amazon.
As for the scale of the venture, Balagopal says that they have so far managed to host the game streaming platform without any official partnerships in terms of the infrastructure. “Our team is quite good at managing infrastructure since we have quite a bit of domain expertise in distributed systems and scaling,” is what he says has helped them put the service up so far.
How does Doofy work?
Balagopal tells me that with Doofy, he has not opted to go for a Stadia-like approach, where users also get a free game, and can essentially pay for the game and the streaming platform as a bundled service. Instead, he has hosted his cloud servers in Mumbai, and affirms that his infrastructure is capable enough to run games thanks to updated graphics cards and processing power. They use this platform to run the games, and stream it over cloud platforms to a user’s device, which works like any other laptop app.
At the moment, Doofy works on both Windows and Mac platforms, and Balagopal says that they “might” expand the service to smartphones in the future. “At the moment, however, we have stuck to laptops. We will have official game partnership announcements to make in the near future, but right now, we essentially offer a way for any user to turn their laptop into a proper gaming device. We already have Steam as a service on Doofy right now, and we are almost ready to integrate the Epic Games store on it very soon as well,” he says. Essentially, Doofy will cover both the major game stores that PC gamers use to access games.
Given that internet connectivity has been the primary concern in the game streaming field, Balagopal says that the rising number of fiber broadband connections across India has really helped them with making Doofy work. “Jio Fiber has really changed the playing field in the last couple of months, and all competitors are catching up with their fiber plans, too. We have been lucky to find that our service works very well on any Jio Fiber plan or equivalent connections. Having a local server in Mumbai helps a lot too,” he affirms.
At the moment, Doofy recommends at least a 100Mbps fiber broadband line for seamless gaming through cloud platforms. I can confirm that it seems to work pretty well on the 300Mbps home broadband line that I presently have, and integrating with Steam and initiating the game was a fairly uncluttered experience. That said, the Doofy interface does seem barebone at the moment, and it is not a particularly finessed product right now. For instance, once you login, you are prompted to download Doofy’s Windows or Mac desktop app. While there is an in-browser mode, there is nothing on the screen that indicates so, until you simply press next to skip this step.
Once you launch the in-browser mode, you are taken to a separate URL that throws up a security prompt – a red flag for any potentially regular user. Beyond this, while logging into Steam and starting a game is quite easy, the games themselves took a while to load. We played CS:GO and GTA V via Doofy, of which both took quite some time to load levels. While this is certainly work in progress, Balagopal claims that the initial response on Doofy’s release via ProductHunt has been “very positive”, although he doesn’t have exact numbers to share right away.
How much would you pay?
Right now, Doofy will charge you daily, weekly and monthly for using their service. The plans are priced at Rs 199 for daily, Rs 499 for weekly and Rs 1,999 for monthly, and this is just for playing via Doofy – no games included. When it comes to games, you are on your own to explore Steam’s library, and use your own games that you already have via the Steam store (with Epic Store coming soon). In terms of availability of games, you get everything that’s on Steam at the moment, and soon, everything from the Epic Store as well.
In ways, the pricing appears steep if you wish to play through Doofy everyday. However, for frequent travellers who largely use business laptops, it really can make sense if you’re stuck at an airport or ahead of a meeting, and wish to play a round of FIFA while you want, straight from a paltry MacBook Air. The appeal of this is there to see. Small things like adjusting display resolution while loading a game leads to you getting a blank screen. In essence, while the games do work, it takes a bit too long for their levels and stories to load. All of these will need to be ironed out, before Doofy can ask their users to shell out game subscription money every month.