Gaming with OnLive

February 20, 2011

Playing video games is a different experience than consuming any other digital media content, such as watching a movie or listening to music, whether it is on a hand-held device or at its best on a gaming console.

But with the fast lifestyle most people have, it's difficult to keep up with the latest in the gaming world – what game is on which console, and what's the latest update to a certain platform?

Cost is another factor, as playing most of the interesting games calls for different consoles, which is simply not an affordable proposition. Buying another console for an exclusive title may also be not a good idea.

OnLive is a service that may bring in all the pros of gaming and eliminate the cons, like having to purchase a dedicated console for NextGen games. It's gaming on the cloud.

No console is required to take advantage of it, and just a PC with a good Internet connection can throw you straight into the action. OnLive delivers most of the exciting games to your home through your Internet connection.

You can play instantly, as no high-end hardware is required and no disturbing daily updates are sent. It's as simple as that, and does not require huge game downloads, as it's streamed to your PC and even your Mac.

OnLive has partnered with big game publishers like Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Atari, Warner Bros and many others. The games are available in a high definition format (720p). They were announced last year, launched last month in the US, and are coming to Europe next year, with no word yet on international availability.

Of course it is not free, as there is a monthly fee of US$15 (approximately RO6), and the games are available for an estimated US$60 (RO23).

I didn't get the chance to test it personally, but from all the positive responses on the web and the video reviews, it seems to work very well.

Although using OnLive doesn't require a console, you can order a device called MicroConsole to play it on your HD TV without a PC.

However, talking about its advantages doesn't mean that it is perfect, as latency is one of its potential downfalls. The delay in games is not acceptable, and ruins the whole experience.

It is not an easy procedure, from the time you press on the controller and send data to the servers and receive it back. But that is the main obstacle the OnLive team spent years trying to overcome, and successfully did.

The service also implemented multiple social features through which you can check your friends' status and see what they are playing in real time.

Another similar service is Gaikai, which promises to bring 3D gaming to any modern browser. It's not ready yet, but its founder said he had to bring this forward when OnLive made its announcement.

On a side note, speaking in the language used by big organisations, I see that OnLive is a big opportunity for current console makers (Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft).

By establishing an agreement with or simply acquiring OnLive, one of them may rise above the others. It may also give earlier gaming console makers, like Sega, the opportunity for a huge comeback.

A surprise move from Apple may put it in the middle of the games industry, especially after its invasion of the hand-held gaming market with the iPod Touch/iPhone games.

But that is unlikely to happen, as these companies already have the infrastructure, and are capable of establishing a similar service to keep their loyal customers, as well as bring in new ones.