John mentioned the announcement of OnLive, yesterday, on his Tech5 podcast. Here’s some info from the developing firm – and a link to someone who’s actually at the GDC:

A new online video game distribution network hopes to free players from buying game discs or the console systems and high-priced computers needed to play them.

The OnLive Game Service, expected to launch later this year — was officially announced today at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco — lets subscribers choose from a on-demand catalog of new video games that can be played on Windows and Apple Macintosh computers or television sets.

Bypassing current console systems such as the Microsoft Xbox that play only games made for that specific platform, OnLive lets computers play games stored on its network of super-powerful data servers. These servers bounce game data back and forth from the player’s computer using proprietary compression technology to make the games run as if they are loaded on the computer.

To play over big-screen HDTVs, a small microconsole unit (the size of a deck of cards) that connects to home broadband networks is used. Game controllers and headsets can connect to the microconsole using USB or wireless connections…

The price of the microconsole needed for TV-based connectivity and monthly subscriptions will be announced later.

“Were providing you with the latest high-end titles, the exact same ones you would see at Target or Best Buy, in the same release windows. But what is really cool is you don’t need any high-end hardware to play them,” says OnLive founder and chief operating officer Steve Perlman. “There’s no physical media. It’s an all-digital platform. You never need to upgrade your equipment at home.”

I went looking for the most trustworthy person I can think of writing about gaming – Garnett Lee. At least at time of posting, he’s probably too busy crawling the booths at the GDC to get something in print about this. But, I found this link from Wagner James Au.

  1. dusanmal says:

    There is no other reason to do this than to increase control from the manufacturer/provider of the game. Any content existing on the server can exist locally. And, it will always be more efficient and hence better gaming experience if all the content is indeed locally stored. So, this scheme equals to renting a game for the price of purchase and with additional cost of definitely lower performance.

  2. keaneo says:


  3. Kahless says:

    This could actually increase game distribution. If you don’t need to buy a new computer just to play a game (as was the case with Crysis initially), more people would probably play it. This would also probably benefit Mac OS X and Linux operating systems, since it would make gaming on these systems possible, which has been a hindrance to adoption for some.

  4. Poppa Boner says:

    #2 – Can’t you be nice? This is why we can’t have nice things, on the Internet.

    Fuck games, who has time for them.

  5. Ah_Yea says:

    I just realized this is the perfect platform for Korea.

    The internet cafe’s no longer need to constantly upgrade their hardware, load multiple games, etc.

  6. Somebody_Else says:

    There are already online distribution systems for PC games (such as Steam and Gamer’s Gate). They work well.

    As for making a console that can do it, well, look up “The Phantom (Game System)” on wikipedia. That whole fiasco leads me to believe anything like this is probably a fraud.

  7. Bob says:

    I think the limiting factor will end up being bandwidth and lag. I really can’t see this going large scale at a central location on each coast, the bandwidth just is not their for most people.

    Now that I have said this, the technology is really interesting. What I could see happening is smaller data centers being set up for the ISP’s. They could sell the gaming system as part of the access plan, and they could provide the additional bandwidth to the last mile.

  8. Luc says:

    The world deserves the cloud. No proprietary software has been left unhacked and cracked in the last 15 years. Why invest money and effort on something that people will just crack instead of paying for it? Cloud computing solves that problem. As a user, I hate the cloud. But as a hypothetical developer, I would embrace the cloud wholeheartedly. In fact, I think I am actually going to. It’s the only way!

  9. keaneo says:

    #4 – find me a properly prissy acronym for pointing out the questions raised are covered in the article and links!

    Or I’ll start adding smilies for the sensitive among us. 🙂

  10. Agito says:

    Bandwith is not a problem in Europe, I can get 20mb ADSL for a little under 50$, and that is alot cheaper year to year than upgrading your machine with the latest hardware several times a year.
    What I think is going to kill this idea is the price of it and the latency issue bound to be there.

  11. madtruckman says:

    until we get faster download speeds and drop these draconian caps that ISP’s arbitrarily put on users this will never happen….

  12. keaneo says:

    I know it’s OT; but, T-Mobile is readying a expansion, blah-blah, of their 3G network. I was going to call them – then noticed – just like #11’s criticism of ISP’s, they have a frigging 5GB cap with minute-by-minute additions after that.

    Screw ’em.

  13. ArianeB says:

    An hour long video of the whole GDC demo can be found at

    I could see the OnLive model becoming the standard for many types of gaming in a few years. The problem right now is that the current standard in streaming HD video is 1280×768, while I am running my gaming computer at 2048×1152.

    I’m not sure it would work well with MMORPGs or 3D Virtual Worlds like Second Life, at least as they are currently designed to work. On the other hand new types of MMORPGs could be specifically designed around the OnLive model and work even better than they do now.

    Should be interesting to watch the progress of this and see how this changes everything.

  14. GregA says:


    Mac, yes, but there is no and probably will not be a linux port. I bet microsoft either buys the company, or offers the service on the xbox.


    Except this company is demoing actual working technology. Phantom never got to that point.


    They addressed that at the GDC conference. The ISP’s just want to know that you are using all that bandwidth for something besides P2P.


    Seems like it could revolutionize that environment. All the servers will be on a lan with each other. If you’ve ever been to a large lan party, you know that with a lan you can scale the games up much much more. Also they address it in the GDC press conference.

  15. ECA says:

    Another way to disprove ownership.
    You cant lend, barrow, sell something that ISNT yours.
    Monthly payments so you can KEEP playing the games, and even SINGLE player games, if you quit paying, you quit PLAYING..

    Its almost the SAME with MS/PS3 consoles..Online distribution and LOCKED into MS/sony. Lock game makers into making GAMES for your console and NOT the others. CHARGE as if you were getting the WHOLE BOX with instructions, shipping and handling, and bought in a STORE. PURE PROFIT.

    THEN if you want to play resident EVIL, you have to buy ALL 3 it keeps jumping from each corp..

  16. GregA says:


    LOL dude, you just described my clothing situation. It seems I have neglected to go clothes shopping and now I have to buy all new clothes again.

    Its the same thing with food. I went to McDonalds and told them I bought breakfast there yesterday, and what do you know, the bastards insisted that I had to pay again!

    And my house… The damn government wants me to pay property taxes, and I have to pay to keep living here, even though I have settled my mortgage! The bastards! Its even worse in a condo! You have to pay condo association fees!

  17. ECA says:

    You had use of your clothes without being connected to the NET. You didnt pay a monthly fee to keep your shoes ON the correct feet.

    And if you want to NOT pay for your food ever again, you could eat your own excrement..

    Property in the USA can NEVER be owned. Or didnt you know that? but you can RENt access to it.

    The problem comes with PAYING 1 time and never needing to pay again. Pay the gov. $100,000 for your tax for the next 20 years, and you wont get a tax request.

  18. GregA says:


    I had to pay for the water network each and every time I wear my clothes, or else the clothing becomes janky and unwearable.

    I could grow all my own food but that has land network access fees as well. Doesnt it?

    Im sure I could go and offer to be an angel investor in OnLive with the stipulation that I get to access the service and never have to pay for games forever, and I bet they would give it to me.

    Also OnLive has already hited that it will be a rental pricing service. It is up to you and the rest of the market if it is worth it. Why are you so hung up on pretending you own things you don’t actually own?

  19. Poppa Boner says:

    #9 – Yeah, I knew that. 🙂

  20. Uncle Patso says:

    We have cheap ADSL that tops out at about 1.2 megabits, and I’m occasionally quite impressed at the detail and action my wife gets on Second Life at that speed. So with a minimum connection speed of 5 megabits, I can see how this could be a good gaming experience, as long as the company’s servers can keep up with demand. Any modern gaming machine (2GHz dual core or better, say) should be able to handle the compression/decompression algorithms and game play at the same time.

    Well, whaddya know? The browser _IS_ the new platform!

  21. Somebody_Else says:

    “Except this company is demoing actual working technology. Phantom never got to that point.”

    I’ll believe it when I see it in retail. The Phantom was “demoed” in public several times.

  22. GregA says:


    Um, But the Xbox, PS3 and Wii all do what the Phantom promised to do… And you have Steam, and D2D as an option as well…


    I guess I don’t get what you are trying to get at?

  23. steelcobra says:

    The Cloud concept is great… until you get to actual practical usage. The current “king” of it, Google Docs, while mostly holding good service, has already had multiple downtimes and security breaches forcing massive inconvenience to users that aren’t there for users of MS Office or OpenOffice.

    This is just an internet version of the “thin client” concept that keeps getting passed around but never really goes anywhere because, at some point, a computer has to do the calculations to perform the task, and you have to put the money for that somewhere. And full-fledged clients will always be faster and cheaper to repair/replace than a server.

    hard drives:
    SATA 3.5″, 500GB, 7200RPM: $65
    SAS 3.5″, 300GB, 15000RPM: $340


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