I first heard about OnLive from a co-worker, before it was even in beta. He thought it was going to revolutionize gaming. So I kept an eye on it. I signed up for the mailing list. I was able to get in on the ground floor, and watch the service from the very start.
You’ve probably noticed that OnLive hasn’t completely revolutionized gaming yet. But it still might…
First, let’s talk about the service. OnLive is the name of the company, but it’s also a gaming service and a piece of hardware that plugs into your TV. You can choose to connect through their “micro-console,” but you can also get the exact same content from an internet connected PC or Mac.
What’s interesting and futuristic about OnLive is how you get your games. In short, you don’t. You have no discs. No game data is stored to the micro-console or the PC hard drive. It all lives on a server farm in another city. When you want to play your game, you connect to the server farm. The game starts up on one of those servers, and the OnLive system transmits the video output across the internet, to your TV or PC monitor. When you push a button on your keyboard or controller, that input goes across the internet to the server, where it has some effect on the game that’s running there.
If nothing else, this system is a significant paradigm shift. There are a few advantages and disadvantages to disentangle.