OnLive – Cloud Gaming for the Masses

As services in the cloud continue to proliferate it was only a matter of time before ground was broken with respect to gaming. OnLive has released its MicroConsole TV Adapter (a little box around the size of a thick smartphone) which provides wireless connectivity for up to four controllers as well as Bluetooth headsets, two USB ports (for keyboards, mice and other USB peripherals) in addition to HDMI, S/PDIF,component and regular analogue stereo ports. OnLive can also be used on smartphones and tablets including the iPhone and iPad.

OnLive has also signed up some big name publishers, including:

  • Atari,
  • Codemasters,
  • Eidos Interactive,
  • Electronic Arts,
  • Sega,
  • Take Two,
  • Ubisoft.

So how is such a tiny capable of being able to run a game such Assassin’s Creed 2?

Essentially, the bulk of the processing is done up in the cloud which consists of five data centres located in North America. This processing includes both CPU and graphics with the client device (either the MicroConsole or software on a computer or smartphone) receiving data and a video stream. It probably goes without saying at this point that a broadband connection is absolutely necessary and, unless you live in North America, games will be somewhat laggy for us down under. Some games require a dedicated GPU for graphics whilst others can be virtualised across a farm of computers.

There are plans to roll out the service to certain parts of Europe (such as the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg) but availability elsewhere in the world is yet unannounced.

From a personal perspective I think it is still very much early days for something as ambitious as cloud-based gaming. Bandwidth and quality of service will be put to the test whilst more people may find that their download quotas may be insufficient for their needs. If it ever was released in Australia I don’t think I could seriously use the service (putting aside the current range of games) apart from a passing curiosity to see how well it would work. Of course, that’s not to say it won’t be successful but it could well be ahead of its time and in need of broadband speeds to catch up to make it work its best.

You can check out OnLive here if you want to know more about the service.

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