This past week at EuroGame Expo, Founder and CEO of OnLive Steve Perlman gave an interesting talk about the future of cloud-based video games and how the development and rollout of games on platforms such as OnLive may be the way all videogames are played in the future.
The OnLive service delivers over one hundred different video games to PCs, Macs, tablets and even to smartphones through high-powered custom servers that stream the video to your device. In other words, this is true cloud-powered video gaming. The input that the user makes during the game is registered on the device and fed back to the servers that control the gaming session.
The true test, of course, is the question of latency. This is critical for video games and with OnLive it was pre-tested on over ten million different Internet connections in order to refine a new video codec to create streaming of 720p video at 60FPS with latencies of 50-133 milliseconds. In other words, exactly what you would get if you were using an Xbox or PS3 at home for a video game.
Another side result of the game being a video stream and not local game play is that piracy will be close to impossible to do as the user will never actually own a game, but simply accesses the video stream from the site’s servers. In addition to game play, the site allows users to see a live feed of what other games are currently being played, creating an arena where fellow gamers can be spectators as well as players. Viewers of these live clips can even “cheer” or “jeer” players as the game is played live to encourage combatants.
OnLive and Facebook
Another social aspect of the game that is unique to a cloud-based platform such as OnLive is offering is the ability to create “Brag Clips”. These are short ten-second clips of game play that users can post on Facebook or in the OnLive network to show off a particularly smart bit of play or an achievement. The game site NowGamer.com calls these clips “the YouTube of gaming” and this could easily develop into one of the hot items for this company. Because these clips, as well as the live action, are always available on the site, players interested in a game can preview highlights before making a commitment to a game.
Cloud Technology Makes Pricing Affordable
Pricing is an interesting setup for the company as users can access social sections of the site (live games, brag shots) and guests can try out a thirty-minute demo of any game offered, both for free. Some games can be “purchased” in a range of time-for-use models. But the service most gamers will want is a monthly membership that allows a member unlimited access to all 100+ games. This “PlayPack” option gives users the true advantages of cloud video playing at any time from any of the supported consoles or devices they register with the site.
Although the company has some improvement to be made when it comes to video quality (mentioned in just about every review read) the concept is so powerful that many feel this may be a whole new model for online entertainment. While the die-hard PC gamers may not be ready to give up their higher quality video, a whole new generation of gamers may build around the fact that one can jump on any time, not pay for a single piece of hardware or software and not have to invest in a whole library of games. Just as music entertainment is seeing mainstream adoption with cloud-based streaming services like Pandora and Spotify, the next level of cloud-based gaming may not be far behind.
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