OnLive: Will videogames be changed forever?

Onlive_lFirst you bought an Atari 2600, then the Nintendo NES, then the Super Nintendo, then the Sega Genesis, then the Sony PlayStation, then the Nintendo64, then the Playstation 2, then the XBox, then the XBox360, then the Nintendo Wii, then the Playstation 3. (We’ll just ignore that Sega Saturn and TurboGrafx 16 collecting dust in your crawl space.) Then you bought the OnLive system, and never had to dig into your wallet for another plastic-encased video game console again.

At least, that’s the hope of two silicon valley veterans, who announced yesterday a new video gaming system called OnLive that is trying to do for video games what iTunes has done for music and what outfits like Roku and AppleTV are trying to do for television and feature films. Here’s the gist: You download a program to your Mac or PC, hook up an OnLive "micro-console" to your TV, make sure you’re signed onto some super-fast broadband inter-tubes, and then through the magic of patented coding hoopdedoo, you can stream the game of your choice and play it in real time. When the games get more sophisticated, you don’t need to shell out for a new box — like, say, the PlayStation 4, or XBox 720; OnLive just amps up its servers instead.

The catch? Well, there’s a few. While OnLive has some pretty big gaming companies (Electronic Arts, Ubisoft) already signed on, A-list franchises like Microsoft’s Halo and Nintendo’s Mario and Zelda aren’t so much on board, for obvious reasons. The system itself, meanwhile, is only as stable as your Internet connection, and there’s no greater gaming buzzkill than have your DSL cut out right as you’re about to unleash your final blow on the bad guy. Finally, while Sony and Microsoft certainly have good reason to worry, there’s nothing that OnLive has presented thus far that looks like it’ll directly threaten Nintendo’s motion-controlled Wii or hand-held DS, both industry leaders.

What do you think, PopWatchers? While there’s been no talk of price just yet, the system will have a public beta this summer, and promises to launch for real in time for the holidays. Are you gonna be first in line? Or will they only get your XBox or PS3 controllers when they pry them out of your cold, dead, calloused hands?

Comments (14 total) Add your comment
  • Nix

    I’m all for the theoretical services that exist “out there” in the cloud, but like everything else server-based, my enjoyment on the end is too dependent on infrastructure that is not exactly the most dependable.

  • randY

    just what we need for 3D Commerce.

  • Jordan

    I think there’s a good chance this technology will revolutionize gaming…just not any time soon. Bandwidth limitations will probably prevent this from catching on on a large scale at the moment, but in 5-10 years when a 5Mbps connection is the standard, I could see this “cloud computing” stuff being commonplace. It’s a great idea, and I’d buy into it in a heartbeat, but I don’t think we’re quite there technology-wise for it to have mass market viability.

  • givetoandy

    It’s a nice idea, but I think there are too many folks who have a game system but don’t have high speed internet. This calls for those people to alter their budget to almost $600 extra a month for high speed internet so they can play videogames.
    I label this idea a “fail” because mass marketing won’t support the cause, and those who buy into it will be left out in the cold early on.

  • givetoandy

    Oops. I meant to say $600 extra a year (not a month) for speedier internet.

  • Greg

    No. Consoles have a much lower overall cost of ownership than the traditional computer (Mac/PC). Modern consoles are at the dawn of being consumer appliances rather than simply game machines. All we need on consoles is a decent word processor and money manager and we’re set, we can finally throw away the traditional computers. Today it is even conceivable that consumers buy a console system without even using it for gaming.

  • LJ

    Input-sensitive games like Street Fighter still can’t be played consistently well online due to lag, and that’s only sending your controller presses. The bandwidth required for hi-def video (HDTV is severely compressed), on top of sending input and other info to the server, makes me extremely skeptical that OnLive will be a satisfying experience. Maybe in the future when fat pipes are stable, reliable, and common.
    The other issue with OnLive, much like iTunes, is the issue of ownership. People can (and do) still plug in their original NES to enjoy the games they own. With this kind of service, if they remove it from the server its gone forever. No thanks.

  • Des

    This will work for New Zealand which has a high bandwidth and quality internet. For a third world country like USA it will fail

  • Andrew

    I cant even fully enjoy this generations games because I can only get dial-up at home.
    Game Companies should invest in telecom companies to spread high-speed internet.

  • RBlackstone

    Cold, dead, calloused hands.

  • Anonymous

    Anyone who insults the Turbografx-16 and Saturn like that does not deserve to call themselves a hardcore gamer.

  • tdwilly

    everyone keeps talking about lag lag lag…i think the developers of onlive know how important reaction time is in gaming …and lag would be a nail in the coffin for this one spends seven years developing something like this to let the one thing that would kill it before it starts be a problem.
    anyone else want to comment on the lag issue check out

  • BUY NINTENDO DS LITE, DSi & Wii : Bundles on Clearance SALE

    The concept on nintendo console and pc gaming has become very much popular now-a-days. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog through out. So thnks for posting it.

  • Brian

    I think if they did this in a couple more years, it’d be a hit. There’s just not enough people who have that fast of a connection. If you thought the RROD was bad for Xbox, wait til we hear of all the crashes with this system! I have a feeling this is going to go south real fast.

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