Wednesday, March 25, 2009

New service OnLive could make your PC extinct - play PC games on your TV over the internet

[caption id="attachment_1796" align="alignright" width="159" caption="OnLive - A company to offer cloud gaming."]OnLive - A company to offer cloud gaming.[/caption]

OnLive - a concept developed from Steve Perlman, is a demand service that could change the way you game.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars continuously upgrading your PC to play the latest and greatest games, the OnLive servers would handle that processing.  Imagine being able to play Crysis on a netbook.  That's what the OnLive service is hoping to achieve.

So how does it work?  Think cloud computer gaming.

Your controller or keyboard/mouse signals are sent directly over the internet to the OnLive machines where they send back video of your reaction/movement.  In a normal case scenario, you have the game as the client that sends your the information to the online server.  Now you just have this dumb client that acts as the gateway between you and OnLive.

OnLive uses patented video compression along with algorithms that are supposed to compensate for any lag, packet loss during the process. OnLive claims their servers will be able to process the video compression and deliver the video back to you in less then 1  millisecond (ms).

The video can be delivered up to 720p resolution and framerate of 60 FPS.  The overall quality of the game your playing depends on your connection speeds. To play these games at 720p, you need at least a 5 mbps connection, standard definition television games require at least 1.5 mbps.

This also means that you wouldn't have to deal with installing games, the games would be readily available to you - video games on demand.

In addition, you could broadcast what you see on your screen to your friends or any observer.

The whole idea of having the games centralized in a controlled environment is appealing to the publisher.  It essentially kills piracy, and the need to put DRM on their games.  For a consumer, it means not having to deal with cheaters in online games.

Several video game publishers like THQ, EA, Ubisoft, Atari, Warner Bros, Take-Two, Epic Games, Codemasters have already jumped on-board.  For game developers, there's little modification that needs to be done to make their games run with OnLive.  They also provide a SDK (Software Development Kit) to help speed up the process.

[caption id="attachment_1798" align="aligncenter" width="550" caption="OnLive in game menu"]OnLive in game menu[/caption]

If you don't feel the desire to carry around a laptop when you're on the go, they have a micro-console.  The console is roughly the size of your hand.   It acts as the video decoding hub, which includes 2 USB ports, support for 4 bluetooth devices, and audio/video outputs via HDMI & optical connection.  It's expected to be priced considerably lower then any current generation console, and possibly free if you sign up with an OnLive service contract.

[caption id="attachment_1797" align="aligncenter" width="350" caption="The OnLive Console"]onlive-console[/caption]

No definite price or monthly subscription cost has been confirmed, it's still being debated internally, but it's said to be on par with the monthly Xbox Live fee.

OnLive is currently undergoing internal beta testing.  An open beta is planned for this summer, and the service is expected to launch shortly around fall 2009.

With more and more companies offering their products and services online, I hope those ISPs like Comcast & AT&T that are now imposing bandwidth caps change their mind because what they're essentially doing is putting a nail in the coffin for these businesses.