Next-generation “cloud” technology could change videogames forever

I don’t want to over-hype this, just read these links

“Before I dive into what OnLive is and how it works, let me start by saying that you should read every word of this article as this service has the potential to completely change the way games are played. If it works and gets proper support from both publishers and gamers, you may never need a high-end PC to play the latest games, or perhaps even ever buy a console again. That is not an exaggeration.” IGN

“You may never buy a new video card ever again. Actually, the only PC gaming hardware you might ever need will cost you less than a Wii, should OnLive’s potential live up to its promise.” Kotaku

“Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, look out. Your traditional video game console business model may be in danger.
It’s too early to tell how much danger, of course, but a start-up called OnLive announced a brand-new game distribution system Monday night that, if it works as planned, could change the games game forever.”

The concept of cloud computing isn’t new and has been in the news a lot lately. The astonishing news for me is that they’re bringing a gaming version of it out this year!! (end of 2009)……and they’ve addressed the lag issue!! They say a 1.5 mbps connection is required for standard-definition video (480p), while a 5.0 mbps connection is required for HD (720p). I have to say I’m still totally skeptical about that. Those speeds are low! The concept is brilliant and the fact that the technology is available NOW really surprises me. There is also the issue of data caps. The way it works with streaming video, I imagine 30GB per month limits would be chewed through pretty quickly!! However the internet is only going to get faster (even in NZ) and I really think this could be the future of gaming on the tech side of things. It would take care of all the hardware problems and could be the “one console” solution that publishers have been dreaming of. Nintendo make good money on their hardware so I’m not sure if they would be so keen to join in. In fact the main problem I see if it really takes off is that the big players would want a piece of the pie and start up their own cloud services. The console wars would just shift to a different space and you would have to subscribe to all of them if you wanted to play all the exclusive games. This would be the opposite scenario to the “one console” solution for consumers. If it was easy to set up, XboxLive and PSN could morph into cloud services and be joined by Steam and Impulse. But even if that happened it would still mean the end of endless PC upgrades and buying a new console every five years. The processing power in the clouds would be upgraded to produce better and better games instead. Exciting times!!

OnLive controller and MicroConsole

OnLive controller and MicroConsole

menu screen

menu screen


11 Responses to “Next-generation “cloud” technology could change videogames forever”

  1. Ha!! You bet me too it πŸ™‚ I don’t know if this will go anywhere except maybe in the PC gaming space? No more complicated installs or 6 monthly hardware upgrades or dodgy drivers to deal with. People are already pretty used to playing games in their browser etc on a PC but the console world is a whole different ball game. The publishers are saying they want to basically bypass Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft and just distribute their games directly?! Good luck with that, who builds the brands, community and market at the moment?

  2. phyzznick Says:

    Theres no doubt it will be the ‘future’. Far far future!! So far in the future ill be elderly (or dead) and probably either cant see the damn tv screen or my hands are so arthritic i couldnt even hold a bloody controller lol

    Everything will be streaming… (one day)

    But for now the future is all media download to hard-drives and played/watched etc. External media such as CD/DVD/Blu-ray will be done away with as a form of primary storage and distribution (still used as backup storage prehaps).
    The Ipod/Itunes is a perfect example of how the future will be (buy-download-play/listen/watch)….. just into all media – tv/movies and…. games. Obviously these are smaller downloads at present (mp3/podcast/tv episode etc) but will expand to full 720p/1080p movies/games in the nearer future. Theres no doubt.
    I mean the 360/PS3 are able to download and save data (xbox arcade/PSN games/TV episodes)… and played on the jumbo plasma in the lounge this will be the immediate future and expanded upon…
    However pure streaming gaming… now?… hmmm… theres only two words for that:
    ‘BETA AS!”
    Theres no way the internet speeds can handle this esp w HD, maybe if u lived in japan… u had a saterlite… and u did nothing but play 1 game it might work… but if ur little brother starts a game in his bedroom or surfs the net then expect ur gaming experience to be a fuckn hellish nightmare of LAAAGGGGGGY GOOODDNESS!!!
    If i played a streaming game on my TV with minimal lag (un-fuckin-likely lol) I could probably only handle 200p definition with my current internet connection lol SUPER!! lol Gears of War 3 may look like Super Mario 3 lol pixelled cartoony goodness

    But In a positive factor its all gotta start somewhere! Everything is beta at some point! So this is the beginning of the future as blair said…
    And when u look at the jump from the Commodore64/Amiga to where we are now 20years on with PS3s/360s and HD its pretty crazy and i bet back then if u showed me a HD game (ps3,360) i would have thought u were bullshiting me (coming from 8-color pixel games and text based adventures LMAO)

    The question for game streaming to work is: when will internet speed increase so it can handle HD imagery at say 100-200hz…. in a standardized/fluent connection or flow (non laggy – if i see the word “buffering” ill headbutt ur mum!!)…and be available to everyone? incl joe blow new zealanders like us?
    Only when these criteria come into play will it become a force!
    Till then i guess ill be spending money on upgrades, doesnt matter whether PC or console its all the same.

  3. I still say maybe but not because I don’t agree that streaming isn’t in the future but rather their ideal of everybody using OnLive or OnLive enabled TVs is a little naive. Consoles are more than just content delivery tools. They’re brand and community and the interface to the game world through innovative controllers. They’re Xbox Live and Home with gamer scores and trophies. Will OnLive attempt to provide all of this or do they just stream the games.

    They say you only need 5Mbps to stream an HD game and that’s pretty much a given in most countries and even NZ should have that in most places by 2010 (ADSL2+ is rolling out now and is capable of speeds up to 24Mbps, although we would certainly have to lift those caps probably into the hundreds of gigs range at the minimum). So it’s technically possible for sure but just being technically possible doesn’t get you into everybody’s homes. For that you need branding, marketing and distribution etc etc. and this is what the console makers do best. The console manufacturers have been taking steps to ensure they will live on into the next generation and they aren’t just gonna role over and let themselves be reduced to cheap commodities. They have been building brand for ever but are now building online communities like Live and Home that capture an audience and will try to carry that audience forward to the next generation. You can bet that Sony’s Home will be even more central to their next console and Live members subscriptions will surely roll over to the next generation allowing everyone to take their gamer scores and trophies with them. They are essentially trying to lock in their user base who will have so much invested in these online communities they will be reluctant to leave for something else. Their next consoles could very well use this type of streaming technology but they will still be branded hardware with innovative new controllers and online community at their centre, competing against one another for users. So the delivery method probably will change but it’s otherwise business as usual. Which is a good thing because competition drives innovation and gaming has always been about the cutting edge. Besides, when your network connection goes down do you really want to be left staring at a blank screen waiting for service to return?! πŸ˜€

  4. In this video interview the CEO lists some pretty cool community features:

    -Spectating. You can watch another player as he plays his game. Top players may have a million other spectators watch them as they play. (obviously wouldn’t happen but it is possible in theory) You can limit the people spectating you to just your friends or be completely private.

    -Brag clips. You can record 15 second clips of your best gameplay moments and save them on your profile for others to watch.

    -Voice over IP and Friends. Nothing is mentioned about achievements, trophies or avatars.

    The menu scrolled through some of the games:

    -Burnout Paradise: Ultimate Box
    -Company of Heroes
    -Crysis wars
    -F.E.A.R. 2
    -Mirrors Edge
    -Lego Batman
    -Prince of Persia
    -The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Athena
    -Tomb Raider: Underworld

    When a game is highlighted you have the options to Buy / Rent or play the Demo.

    They haven’t announced which games will be available yet but it seemed pretty clear all these ones would be. Future games would be available on OnLive at the same time as they hit retail shops. It does seem to be comparable to what the consoles have to offer and I think it will appeal most to the people with low spec PC’s. Playing Crysis with all the graphics maxed out (but in 720p) on a five/six year old PC, or even a netbook, is where the advantages of the system lie. They have an install base of hundreds of millions of computers out there capable of streaming the games (but way less high speed broadband connections). It all depends on how quickly it grows as to whether it will have much impact on the console platform holders. At the end of the day whether Onlive will survive as a brand is impossible to say, there are just too many unknowns about how it will perform in the real world.

  5. well microsoft and Sony before them showed that a new comer can be very succesful and Sega showed that an old master of the business can all but fade away so who knows, anything is possible?!? But I will say that Sony and microsoft had decades of experience in electronics, entertainment and software etc to bring to the table before they hit the console scene.

    One thing it’s gonna change forever, it will equalize the Mac gaming scene even further. Bootcamp meant you could dual boot Windows and run every PC game but you had to have a copy of Windows. Now you won’t even need to take that step.

    It’ll be interesting to see what happens but one things for sure, the current kings of gaming won’t go down without a bloody fight.

  6. That video was interesting but when the guy describes how it works It really doesn’t seem possible?! It’s amazing that it works at all when most games rely on split second responce times and the mearest hint of even the slightest slowdown is intolerable. Also it made it clear that while you may not be buying a traditional console someone has to still supply enough hardware to run enough instances of the game to cover every player out there. You must pay for this somehow? Is it through the cost of the game? Through advertising? A subscription?

  7. They must know that the whole thing will quickly wither and die if there is any hint of lag or slowdown. That makes me think that either they must have developed some smart new technology that actually works or the connection speeds they recommend are way too low?

    The problem I have with it is that my connection is rated at 3.5mbps and I can only just stream standard YouTube videos without lag!! (they’re lower res than 480p) So how can a 1.5mbps connection be all that is required for their 480p stream with all the game stuff going on as well!?! If 5mbs was recommended for a 480p stream I would be less skeptical. πŸ™‚ Having said that, if it does work well with a 5mbps connection that would be a win for the system as worldwide there would be a lot of people with those speeds. The other problem I forsee is when a big new game like GTA is released and 5 million people were playing it at once. I imagne the whole thing is scalable and they could add more processing power but would usual internet stuff like server overload come into play? They need some BIG pipes!

    I understand it will be a subscription model to join OnLive and you will have to pay for games on top of that. The price of games should be cheaper because of no manufacturing costs or retail distribution costs. No doubt any problems will be sorted out over time and if I was Microsoft I would simply buy OnLive, take it over, and adopt this method of distribution. They could update the 360’s firmware to handle the OnLive tech and 360 would be the last console they ever needed to produce. No need to pour more money into an Xbox 720. It would be so easy to integrate it into XboxLive and WindowsLive! They wouldn’t even need to change the name! πŸ˜‰ Sony should get in there and beat them to it! lol πŸ™‚

  8. Yeah, they even said that Xbox games were an easy port. Surprisingly PS3 titles can also be ported?? Though more work is required. I know they must be aware of the lag issue but somewhere in that video he did say “perceptually” you wont notice the time between your button press, that command going to the server, the server responding and the result being streamed back to your TV. Well all I can say is I can perceive if my locally running game isn’t 100% responsive so I don’t see how you couldn’t notice it when it’s going back to the server and back again. Hmm, I switch between being very excited about this innovation and being very much meh, I’ll believe it when it’s running on my Mac. Although I’m not a fan of subscriptions so I probably won’t go there unless they offer a free trial period.

  9. Everybody wants a bit of Cloud action it seems?! πŸ™‚
    Sony want some…
    David Perry wants some…
    Who’s next?

  10. The OnLive guy says “It will too fucking work you ignorant fools!” Or something along those lines πŸ˜€ Here’s the full actual quote/article…
    He was responding to this Eurogamer article which ripped OnLive to shreds and includes a video to try and simulate what the graphics would have to look like in order to have this working at 60fps. The funny thing is it took ages for that demo video to buffer?! πŸ˜€ He made the good point that these guys must have created the most astoundingly ground breaking video compression algorithms of all time and that would make for a much bigger story than OnLive itself. It would be like inventing time travel but releasing a press release about your amazing archaeological discoveries and completely neglecting to point out that YOU INVENTED TIME TRAVEL!? πŸ˜€ Well something like that πŸ˜‰

  11. Yeah, if the games have a lot of compression artifacts on screen count me out. Notable compression artifacts would be as much of a spoiler as lag for me. I couldn’t take a step backwards from the crystal clear hi-def visuals that we currently enjoy.

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