OnLive: A console’s nightmare

Turn on your favorite console, pick up the controller and play. For more than 30 years, this is how we’ve been playing our video games. Controllers may get more buttons or consoles may become slimmer but the console itself is the centerpiece of the game experience. OnLive has a different idea, and it involves outsourcing the console to cyberspaceland in order to bridge the gap for the consumer.
A huge barrier of entry for console video games has always been the console itself. Usually a few hundred dollars per box, video gaming doesn’t appeal to the casual spender. Add in the fact that even if you buy one console, you could still be missing out on another platform’s greatest hits.

A video game console’s main job while you play is to receive controller input, interpret and then send the game-generated images and sounds to the TV. Because the only thing going down this process chain is information, the creators of OnLive realized that the bulk of a video game console’s communication can be handled by Internet servers and therefore doesn’t require such a powerful and expensive machine to operate.

After seven years of very tight-lipped research and development, OnLive presented their new console and service plan at Game Developers Conference 2009. Showcased was their new controller and OnLive “console,” and remarkably they are both nearly the same size, with the console barely an inch tall, if that. The console sports two USB ports on the front, along with HDMI, ethernet and S/PDIF output, along with a micro-USB power input on the back, making the whole package around the size of a small handbook and only using two wires.

The essential idea behind how it actually works is that you connect to the Internet with your controller (which is wireless), and sophisticated servers on the other side of the line handle all the interpretation and gaming while streaming video back to you of what you’re playing in real time, just like Internet video does today.

Unlike most Internet video, however, OnLive has managed to squeeze an entire high definition video feed through the Internet lines in order to give crisp video, as if a traditional console was actually there. This change causes the console itself to be extremely easy and cheap to build, and consumers only need to worry about the cost of games. Its tiny form factor makes it very portable, and because the games you own are stored in the Internet “cloud,” all of your games go with your console if you wanted to take it to a friend’s house or with you on vacation, etc.

Consider, also, that theoretically the OnLive console could be the last console anyone needed. You would no longer have to buy new hardware to keep up with computing limitations.

Because your TV only needs information coming in from the OnLive console, consumers no longer have to worry about hardware limitations. Games from all consoles (including PC) can be played on one TV using the same service, and even high-performance PC-only games like “Crysis: Warhead” (which is a confirmed game by OnLive) will look just as impressive as an expensive computer without the $2000+ price tag.

To play a game, all you do is hook the system to your TV and an active Internet connection, then just sign in to your account and pick a game from OnLive’s online menus.

OnLive confirms that it will probably charge customers on a subscription basis. The game will take a moment to load and then you begin playing. Network engineers at OnLive say that latency between their server and your TV is around 80ms on a 1.5Mbit connection, a number which early playtesters regard as essentially unnoticeable.

As for getting the games themselves, OnLive is constantly reaching out to game developers in order to market their games on the OnLive service.

The OnLive service is even capable of offering digital rentals of their games along with full titles so that you can always try before you buy. All in all, it seems like the OnLive console is poised to make most of our video gaming hardware obsolete in one fell swoop.

OnLive is set to be released by the end of this year, just in time for the holidays.

BY Faddy Sabra
Source:The Nevada Sagebrush

© 2009 The Nevada Sagebrush.



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