Play the latest games, regardless of your hardware

Written by Ben Hardwidge

March 25, 2009 // 3:35 p.m.

Tags: #cloud #compression #computing #controller #games #mac #online #onlivemicroconsole #patent #pc #server #stream #tv #video

Although many people are sceptical about the practicalities of gaming using cloud computing, a new firm called OnLive has unveiled a way of using the technology that aims to revolutionise the way in which people buy games and hardware. Put simply, OnLive lets you play new games remotely via the Web, regardless of your hardware. As such, you can run it on a low-spec PC or Mac, and there’s even an OnLive console for playing the games on your TV.

Unveiled at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco yesterday, OnLive works in a similar way to StreamMyGame, sending your controller actions upstream, and compressing the game’s visuals into a video stream and sending them downstream via the Internet. The difference with OnLive, however, is that all the games are held at OnLive’s game server centre, rather than on your own home PC.

The technology isn’t limited to ageing retro games, either. The list of launch titles features an impressive array of current, high-spec games, including F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin, Crysis Warhead and Burnout Paradise. A large number of developers have been announced as launch partners too, including big players such as EA, Ubisoft, THQ, Eidos, Codemasters and Epic, while independent developers such as 2D Boy are also supporting the technology.

OnLive’s was founded by Steve Perlman, who was also responsible for WebTV and had a hand in developing QuickTime for Apple as well. He described OnLive as “the most powerful game system in the world. No high-end hardware, no upgrades, no endless downloads, no discs, no recalls, no obsolescence. With OnLive, your video game experience is always state-of-the-art.”

Perlman also pointed out that OnLive “cleared the last remaining hurdle for the video games industry: effective online distribution.” He added that “by putting the value back into the games themselves and removing the reliance on expensive, short-lived hardware, we are dramatically shifting the economics of the industry.”

As well as offering you the ability to play games online, OnLive also says that it can take advantage of its system to eliminate the need to download or install games before you play. The company says that you can play any game instantly, and will also be offering gaming community features, which will include a section for showing off your best gaming clips.

OnLive can either be operated from a PC or Mac via a web browser, or you can use the OnLive MicroConsole to play the games on the TV. The latter supports two USB controllers, four wireless controllers and four Bluetooth headsets, and it also features HDMI and optical S/PDIF outputs.

OnLive will be launched in the US in summer this year, although you can also sign up to be a BETA tester if you fancy having a play with it before then. However, no plans have been announced to bring the technology to Europe yet.

Could OnLive offer a glimpse of the future when it comes to playing games, or will there always be a need to have all your own hardware? Would you be happy playing games using a video stream? There's already a discussion going on in the forums, so why not join in?
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