OnLive: The end of console gaming is nigh?

Before you pitch both your Xbox and your PlayStation, let's take a look at the technology behind the console-less console that was revealed last night at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. It has been created by the same people who created WebTV which was ultimately sold to Microsoft for US$500 million.

Entrepreneur Steve Perlman, C.E.O. of his Palo Alto-based company OnLive Inc. and a former principal scientist at Apple, says "It's the last console you'll need." What does he mean by that? The OnLive console is thin client that streams gaming content from the Internet to your television. If you prefer, they will also stream gaming content to a low-end Macintosh or PC. All of the processing is done from the server end which means that OnLive will be responsible for any hardware upgrades required for new titles and that means that you won't need to buy a new console every few years.

Experienced players know that the true enemy of online gaming is lag. Simply put, this is the delay between when a command is issued and when the server responds. Anything that slows down response time or creates hiccups in the flow of game can ruin the gaming experience pretty quickly and even more so when your 10th level Elf "needs food badly". Well, after seven years of working on the project, the OnLive people think they have solved this. OnLive says they can now compress and stream the content fast enough that people will not be able to notice the lag. In fact, they demonstrated Crysis in action at the Game Developers Conference.

There would seem to be many advantages to this new system of delivery but there would be concerns as well:
-The system requires a high speed Internet connection to be present
-Playing games may reduce the usable bandwidth for everyone else in the house
-Playing games may use up your monthly cap (a 250GB cap could be used up in 12 full days of playing)
-The popularity of the service may place huge strains on the servers thus increasing the lag to noticeable levels

As with all gaming solution, the key to this venture will be in the titles that are made available. Electronic Arts Inc., Eidos Interactive Ltd. and Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. have already signed up to produce content.

Many a smart gamer will hold on to their existing consoles and titles to see how this venture will be played out. Among the greatest interest will be to see if this product is marketed at casual gamers or core gamers. The biggest potential loser would be your local game shop since titles will be sold electronically and downloaded directly to the device.

Screenshot: OnLive MicroConsole
Screenshot: How it Works
Link: OnLive Website

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