March 24, 2009

GDC 2009: Presenting OnLive’s Revolutionary Gaming Service

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Written by: Greg DeRiso
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onlive_tech_diagram_610x471.jpgThe Game Developers Conference is one of those events meant for the most tech-savvy people out there and is going on right now. Among the highlights of the conference is a new service by the name of OnLive.

The service uses next-generation “cloud” technology. “Cloud” technology is what you see what you use a service such as YouTube or Hulu and involves the streaming content from server content directly to your computer without the need of a download. OnLive’s service is set to do this for games but what makes this service different from, say, Gametap, is that everything runs on their own, super-powered, server machines. OnLive has put a great deal of work into eliminating any lag issues and achieve high-end performance on common Internet connection speeds with 1.5MB for standard definition and 5.0MB for high definition. If you ask me, that’s a very reasonable base-line.

So what does all of this mean to you, the gamer? Well, basically it means that you will be able to play the highest of high-end games – like Crysis – without the need for a high-end PC or expensive game console. The OnLive service is also available in a variety of ways. The first option is playing on your PC on your computer monitor. If your PC has the output, you can hook it to your TV via HDMI. Another option is to buy the OnLive “console” box. The box hooks up to your TV through an HDMI connection and features Ethernet, Digital Audio, two standard USB ports, and one mini-USB to power the unit. The box itself is apparently only slightly larger than a PSP game case.

So I bet you’re wondering about the games, am I right? Well Crysis and Burnout Paradise were demoed at the show and according to IGN, both ran very well – 60 frames per second even. The service supports mouse and keyboard combination’s as well as game pads. OnLive also keeps a friends list, online profile, tied-account info (stuff like game saves and such), and “Brag Clips”. Let me explain these “Brag Clips” a little bit. Say you’re playing Call of Duty and you get an impossible head-shot. Simply hit the “Brag Clip” key and the OnLive service will save the last ten seconds of gameplay so that you can share it with everyone.

OnLive hasn’t announced any pricing info yet but they did say that the service will enter beta testing in the summer and will hopefully launch sometime in the winter. So what do you think? Comment below and let us know!


  1. Seems like a rather pie-in-the-sky idea to me – especially the idea of low-latency high-def – but it’ll be interesting to keep tabs on and see if it pans out.

    In the back of my head, I keep hearing echos of the Phantom though. Different idea, I know, but still…

  2. I heard the echos of the Phantom as well as the Sega Channel but perhaps in this era of high-speed Internet and high-end technology, such an idea can finally come to fruition.

  3. Oh gods, the Sega Channel…ugh, such memories. I remember as a kid being angry that they didn’t have it in my area. Heh.

  4. shorap

    Sounds awesome, a little too awesome in fact. If it does pan out and I can successfully play PC games through my MBP, then I’ll be one of the first in the digital queue.

  5. shorap

    I also wasn’t able to get the Sega Channel…where the hell was it even offered anyway.

  6. Mr.Dingy

    I’d like to see this work but I’m going to be cautious because this seems like an awfully complex concept to get working properly.

  7. otterhaus

    Phantom meets Sega Channel. Amazing.

    I doubt this could work in the long run, especially in situations with bandwidth limitations. Even at the suggested 1.5M, that’s still a bit to be pushing. While broadband penetration is getting to be pretty good, it’s not at the level this sorta service can run. I can see this is going to be a real niche service if it ever makes it through, not because of the pricing or anything like that, but the architecture just isn’t up to snuff everywhere.

    That and they’ll have to pry my Geforce cards from my cold, dead hands.

  8. @shorap: To the best of my knowledge, the Sega Channel was only offered in larger cities but I can’t say for sure. It was an odd service as best.

  9. I agree that bandwidth limitations will likely be the largest hurdle for this service. Even DSL hasn’t reached most rural area’s yet and that is a large portion of OnLive’s potential audience. If the streaming technology on the server side of things is as good as they say, then the 1.5MB could be very reasonable. And I totally agree with your love for your Geforce cards – I love building a monster PC every couple years. ;)

  10. This is definitely worth watching if you ask me. I can only imagine how sweet it would be to be able to run whatever game I want off of my Hp Mini. Oh the possibilities. I for one would like to see this happen.

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