So, has the wave of the future arrived? Warner Bros. sure thinks so, as they presented the new micro-console, OnLive, at GDC with a huge freaking publicity splash. What makes OnLive so special? Well, perhaps the fact that it’s not technically a gaming console, but a small attachment for your TV or PC, rendering the “hardware arms race” obsolete.
Think of OnLive as Hulu or Youtube, but for video games. Rather than playing the games on your console or PC at home, games are stored and played via cloud servers, and relayed back to you through a video signal. The servers are responding to what your controller is doing through the OnLive micro-console. So essentially, you’re seeing a video of the game being played, all at 60 fps, and at 720p or standard definition, depending on your Internet connection speed. Meanwhile, the actual game is taking place on the OnLive cloud servers.
The OnLive micro-console itself is a small box with video outputs. That’s it. From there, the service is accessed through your Internet connection, and the game is played online. OnLive launches this Winter, and there are already several big names attached including Epic, EA, Take Two, THQ and Ubisoft. The demos shown at GDC apparently displayed a wide variety of games, all streaming in real-time over the Web.
To be honest, while I think this might be ahead of its time due to our current Internet capabilities (or lack thereof), this could very well change the console playing field. Imagine not needing to upgrade your console every 2-3 years, but rather, just having a small box that allows you to access the same games over the Internet? All of the hardware work is being done many miles away, and then sent to your TV or PC via a video image, with supposedly no delay in the controller response time.
So what do you guys think? Could this thing actually have a future? Several big name companies seem to think so. Personally, I’m cautiously curious about the whole thing. There are still a lot of questions to be answered- what happens if my Internet cuts out or slows down- do I not get to play in HD anymore? What if I just want to play offline with friends? How does the service hold up with several hundreds of thousands of gamers accessing it at once? How does multiplayer work? Can the server load handle streaming the game to all of the combatants and handle their latency?
Tell us your thoughts- go!