Over the last seven years this little project has been sitting in Silicon Valley undetected and undisturbed working away at something that hopes to revolutionise the way in which we play video games and change the hardware that we have in our homes, and at the Gaming Developers Conference we finally got a good look at what it is.
The basic idea behind OnLive is that you will be able to essentially get on demand video games through the ‘cloud’ and onto your Mac, PC or even TV. By instantly streaming compressed video you will be able to play it ‘almost instantaneously’ giving the same experience that you would have if you were playing it locally – truly digital game distribution!
But the real genius behind this is that it relies on the video compression and broadband streaming (along with the cloud), and not on the actual hardware on the computer which will mean that even low end machines will be able to benefit from high quality gaming.
This system moves the work from the home and over to a remote data centre which can be located thousands of miles away and still deliver games with as little as one millisecond of lag (as demonstrated at the conference). This system (already dubbed as transparent cloud computing) looks set to completely change the way we think about games, and could spell the end for the console.
But this is more than just a vision or concept: it is a reality, and one that has been demonstrated to work as promised. For a whole hour at the GDC the OnLive system (a clever play on the words ‘on line’ and ‘live’ both of which are integral to the idea) was tested for all to see, and the results were pretty amazing.
Obviously the number of sceptics is high, and it remains to be seen how well this will work in the wider world, but it is definitely looking promising. With ten publishers including Atari, EA and Ubisoft already on board, and the number set to grow, it looks like it stands a very good chance of threatening the console systems, which will become a bit of a waste of money – interesting to see this announcement around the same time that we heard about the Zeebo ‘affordable’ console being launched in Brazil.
Whilst the computer will be able to connect through the internet as normal (1.5mbps needed for standard definition, 5mbps for high) TVs will need a sleek, shiny and small MicroConsole to connect up to the internet, but after that you’ll just need to pay for the monthly service.
Obviously that will be a big problem: how much it costs. Hopefully we will end up with a price that makes it cheaper than buying a console and new games to play on it, but we cannot be sure; but I feel that the success of the OnLive system hangs purely on this point.
But with easier multiplayer games, loads of games instantly available and the hundreds more benefits that will come from this community I can’t help thinking that it will do well, and can’t wait to see when we’ll be able to get hold of it!