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That’s the Name of the Game: OnLive’s impact on gaming
Game Developer’s Conference 2009 kicked off on Monday of this week with developers and publishers meeting and greeting in the bay area. While the conference has been growing in size every year, its traditionally been known to be rather sparse with actual announcements.
Despite this, every year sees more big names announcing even bigger titles. Nintendo announced a new game that makes use of the Wii Fit balance board and Infinity Ward announced the release date of their sequel to Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (11.10.09).
The biggest news for the video game industry might have come from a company that even the most dedicated gamer has never heard of. OnLive is a service that promises to bring the newest and biggest games to your computer or TV with little to no technology on the user end. The idea is that users will pay a subscription fee and OnLive with remove the hardware from the user experience.
The premise is pretty simple. The user logs on to the OnLive service and selects which game they would like to play. Through their broadband internet connection, the game is streamed to the user. While the controller input is being made on the user’s end, all of the processing and rendering is made by the OnLive service’s hardware. Users can play on their PC or Mac, as well as on their TV utilizing what OnLive calls their “OnLive Microconsole.”
Why is this important? Why should I care? The biggest value proposition that OnLive presents to gamers is that upgrading your computer is no longer necessary. As is, presumably, buying a new console every 5 years. Now all you need to do is maintain your broadband connection, as well as your subscription to the OnLive service. How is this revolutionary? Console manufacturers generally lose money on their newest consoles. Their bottom line is always helped out by the sale of games with those new consoles. Now, with internet speeds reaching higher and higher, the hardware market can be cut out and games can be streamed into the player’s household, a lot like Youtube, or Netflix’s streaming services.
This sounds great doesn’t it? But maybe it sounds a little too good.
Gamers are crying foul because of the logistics of the service. OnLive promises to send a lot of information back and forth between the gamer and their servers. OnLive service centers will be some distance away from the user of course, and information will take a matter of time to travel back and forth.
The first step is for the user to push a button on their controller. That information must be sent to the OnLive service center. Then the OnLive service center has to register this button-push with the game running on their hardware. Then the game has to react to that input. Then OnLive must send result of this button push back to the user. Then the user has to react to what happens.
All of this information traveling would supposedly result in some drastic lag, possibly even making games unplayable. Even if the information can travel that fast, imagine hundreds of thousands of users all using the service at the same time. How could it work?
Gamers might be in the right in their disbelief, but we’ll see more for ourselves when the service launches possibly later this year.
Find out more at Onlive.com.
You can read more of Daniel’s writing on Video Games at playreadwrite.blogspot.com.