OnLive Descends from the Cloud

Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony in trouble?

Posted by Staff
A new games service and "microconsole" called OnLive could send shockwaves through the games industry if it lives up to its promise. In a nutshell, cloud-based gaming will be here by the end of the year.

Developed by Rearden, a San Francisco tech company, OnLive, enables users to play games by connecting directly with a server farm that does all the processing remotely, meaning that a powerful games console or PC won't be necessary... apparently.

Warner Brothers, Autodesk and Maverick Capital are the three primary investors in OnLive.

The service will be accessible via PC and Mac, as well as by a tiny set-top box that will deliver the game directly to your TV.

You might be a little sceptical at this point - SPOnG doesn't blame you. However, big-name games companies including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, THQ, Epic Games, Eidos, Atari Interactive and Codemasters have already said that they will support the service.

Onlive's main claim to being taken seriously is data compression. While the amount of processing power required for top-end games has been spiralling ever-upward since since the early days of 8-bit consoles, data compression has not kept pace. OnLive says, however, that it has technology that deals with the issue and that homes only need a broadband connection running at two megabits per second for standard definition play or five megabits a second to get high-definition graphics. That's within the reach of many broadband connections.

Unsurprisingly, specifics of how the tech works have not been revealed.

The system has been demoed using Crysis, a top-end PC game, which is often used a benchmark for system performance - you need a grunty piece of kit to play it. While reports are favourable, it's yet to be seen how well the service handles mass-usage.

Apparently the compression technology is good enough that users can play a game if they are as much as 1,000 miles away from the servers. That means the US can be covered by five server farms, according to reports.

Without the need for buying games the service will be paid for by monthly subscriptions. If OnLive takes off, that's a major shot across the bows of bricks and mortar retail - not only as an alternative to buying games but also as a factor that could choke trade-ins. It could also threaten publishers, as the barrier for entry to self-publishing by developers will be much lower with this model.

The biggest threat, of course, is to the existing platform holders, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. Mike McGarvey, COO of OnLive, said the new technology, “breaks the console cycle where a gamer has to buy a new machine every few years.”

“This is video gaming on demand, where we deliver the games as a service, not something on a disk or in hardware”, Steve Perlman, founder and CEO of OnLive said. “Hardware is no longer the defining factor of the game experience.”

OnLive could, happily, also hurt pirates. Without the need to buy games in the first place, there would be no need to illegally download them.

So, the sell lines all seem to be in place.

The service's interface is built around a Grid system, through which users can select games and demos. It also includes features such as the ability to view others' games, voice chat and the ability to record clips in a mode similar to games like Halo 3.

Specific plans for the service's release have not been announced, making it unclear where and precisely when OnLive will be rolled out and how much it will cost.

The service will be shown off at GDC later today. That was originally planned to be its big coming out party, but an embargo was reportedly broken by Variety. Still, that's a good enough way to get people to come to your launch.

OnLive isn't the only new platform to emerge at GDC. The Zeebo also turned up.

Beyond the ambiguity surrounding price, there are a couple of drawbacks. The service's capacity for HD tops out at 720p - which will offend graphics whores. The set-top box and controller that have been shown off so far are pretty uglyl, although the box will be compatible with standard PC controllers.

Sceptics may also remember the Phantom, a similar concept from Infinium Labs, which turned out to be vapourware.

Still, you've got to be at least a little bit excited...



Psalms 24 Mar 2009 12:05
Mac? This could be big news for Mac gaming, if the fees are reasonable and the library is good this sounds great.

That's assuming it ever comes to the UK...
Joji 24 Mar 2009 12:54
Making gaming like this I don't really agree with. I don't want my games to become like my Sky tv service, all bill based and whatever. While I'm all for DLC, this is step too far out of the box.

Lets face it, us gamers like investing in new consoles now and then, like other things in life. We like having a collection of games on shelves, and the option to buy physical games from multiple sources online or off. Take that away to rely on Dave Blogg's wiring me the latest game?? I don't think so. I have enough trouble with Sky as it is.

My Sky box went down the crapper a month ago and it took me countless phone calls to get my service back on, after getting a new box. I had to go through ebay and bag a second hand one and hook it up, because Sky want to nickle and dime me £65 just to hook one up for me. B******s to that.

So yeah, imagine going through all this crap to play a game. We really don't need it. I'll stick with Xbox Live thanks.

Between this and Zeebo, I now think both are doomed, especially with Nintendo as stronger as ever. In the end, the games will decide, and I don't see them beating Nintendo there. I'm all for growing the market, but I really think we have enough consoles, already.
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Daz 24 Mar 2009 14:37
seems like a good idea, it all depends on how much the box is, how much a month they want and are the games any good.
deleted 24 Mar 2009 14:40
my only concern is interupted connections, will you be able to pick up and play exactly where it was left when the connection is interupted?
headcasephil 25 Mar 2009 13:07
this idea could work but i hope it don't think about it how you going to pay for it fist of all credit card that cuts out the 8 to 18 year old gamer subscription direct debit that cuts out the 8 to 16 year old gamer and quite a lot of the 16 to 18 as not the right type of bank account
you could do a pre pay card but are places like game/gamestation going to stock a card that takes a load of trade away from them if you can get say need for speed shift for 35.00 and have it on disk game makes 10.00 profit or get a card for 10.00 and RENT the game but game only make 10.00 for the card with you think shops are going to go for plus the fact that it would mean my shelves would be empty all so what about the people that go to college/uni stay in halls and have no internet access or have most likely very restricked accsess not going to work well it might work for usa or japan but i it would not work in the uk
himynameis______ 25 Mar 2009 17:45
I honestly think it's set to phail, especially in the economy today - it's all in the crapper.
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