OnLive Console Promises Streaming Gameplay
Move over Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. A new player is in town. Unveiled at GDC 2009, OnLive is a new video game “micro-console” that is planned for released in winter 2009. OnLive is unique in that it does not require a console at all, although it is optional to hook up to a television. That’s because OnLive is a video game streaming service, similar to cable television. All you need is a 6 mbps Internet connection.
Before you write this off as an early April Fool’s Day joke, consider the publishers backing OnLive: Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Take-Two, Warner Bros., THQ, Eidos, Atari, Codemasters and more. The only major third party publisher not confirmed to be backing the service is Activision. In their video at OnLive.com they show gameplay for Mirror’s Edge, Tomb Raider: Underworld, Burnout Paradise, MLB 2K9, HAWX, BioShock, Crysis Wars and Lego Batman.
While pricing information was not revealed, games will be purchased for the system and will not include a hard drive or any disc. All gameplay is streamed from their servers to your console, PC or Mac. That’s right. You can play the games on your personal computer or laptop using a browser plug-in. This means, according to them, that you can play games using OnLive with a standard non-gaming PC, including advanced games such as Crysis since the brunt work is done on their hardware.
What does this mean for the future of video games? Potentially it is a new era where physical copies of games are no longer needed and upgrades of hardware are not necessary. It is obvious why the third party support for OnLive is so strong: the service eliminates piracy as well as used game sales. If OnLive succeeds, this could be the end of GameStop as we know it. There are a number of unknowns though. Pricing is key to the success of this system, how well it gets marketed and what games will be available at launch. Ultimately an outside force – the international economy – could play a big role in the success of a new and unknown competitor in the industry.