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OnLive Promises HD Game Streaming


OnLive Promises HD Game Streaming

Just as video killed the radio star - allegedly - OnLive might well be the death knell to console and PC-based gaming. Speaking at GDC, the company has announced its forthcoming on-demand game streaming service.

In case you missed that, let me to reiterate and clarify: OnLive removes the requirement for a games console or gaming-capable PC to play games. This, in case you couldn't guess, is a big deal.

The service works either via a browser plug-in on just about any PC or Mac or using a dedicated - and unerringly small - OnLive MicroConsole. The latter also comes with a gamepad. Either way, whether played via a computer or on a TV OnLive works basically the same way.

Games are hosted on, and run by, OnLive's servers, the resulting video output is compressed and streamed to the client which then decompresses and displays it. OnLive reckons its compression algorithm is such as a single millisecond of lag is added by the process - unnoticeable to all but mutant superhumans. Standard definition video requires a 1.5Mbit connection and moving to 5Mbit enables 720p. Latency is also important as, obviously, input commands at the client end are transmitted over the 'net to OnLive's servers.

Notable plus points of OnLive's service, aside from removing the need for gaming equipment at the client side, are the instant-on nature of the games. Because the servers are constantly running games are already ready to play once connected to by a client. As OnLive points out, it could prove a great way of trying out game demos. Integration with PSN or Xbox Live could be awesome.

There's a bunch of other cool stuff, but a video is a better description than text, so here one is:

Importantly OnLive has support from publishers such as EA, Ubisoft and Epic so the selection of titles available to purchase and play is decently comprehensive. A launch is expected by the end of this year.

All going well I'm predicting big things for OnLive.


Video via IGN


March 24, 2009, 5:12 pm

Well it was only a matter of time. And time is the factor here, however, it might be too soon for such a service to really take off. Major stumbling block being the infrastructure to handle such a service. Yes, we know that there are plans to upgrade the cable networks to street cabinets with optical cables, but this will take years to implement completely. Also, although Virgin optical broadband offers huge speeds for gaming they also have one of the most draconian attitudes towards bandwidth use. Even when you are simply using a wonderful service such as iPlayer. Seriously, I would love such a left-of-field approach to gaming, but pricing and fair usage policies already limit our respective use of current network infrastructures and these walls won't suddenly dissolve once this is released by the end of the year. That and the fact that there are 3 Big Boys who will have a say which way gaming should turn.


March 24, 2009, 5:24 pm

i dreamed of a service like this when netbooks came out - as a means of playing my high end pc games via my pc, streamed live to a netbook.

this, though, takes things to a whole new level... bye bye gaming laptop

Hamish Campbell

March 24, 2009, 5:40 pm

Did I miss something, or did the video promo show everything BUT actually playing a game.?


Still pretty amazing, I wouldn't have guess decent rates would be possible yet on current setups, but maybe citrix for work is not a good comparison :)


March 24, 2009, 5:51 pm

I'll accept that a smooth 720p framerate is possible with reasonable image quality over a 5 meg connection, and that - with sufficient processing horsepower - it may be possible to compress and decompress video with sufficiently little latency to make it playable (though 1 ms is, I suspect, total pie in the sky), but network latency alone is likely in my view to kill this. Anyone who has played an online game will be familiar with lag, but it is generally manageable because at least the inputs and graphics are being handled locally, so you have the perception that game controls are immediate. If the game is streamed over a normal broadband connection, that 100ms or whatever will make for nasty sluggish controls. As such, I really can't see this taking off unless a major overhaul of the domestic broadband infrastructure reduces network latency to a much lower, and reliably low, level.

Robert Elliot

March 24, 2009, 6:22 pm

Would be good for strategy games like Empire: Total War though - input responsiveness isn't so important there. Rubbish for a first person shooter or a flight sim though, network latency of 100ms or more would just render them too frustrating.


March 24, 2009, 6:38 pm

the biggest problem is going to be the subscription price or game purchase price, the publishers online stores are more expensive than buying from a store or play etc. went to download the latest total war off steam, what a rip off as compared to a store price when there is no packaging etc involved. you just know a publisher like EA is gonna screw you, also, how long will they support games like BF2 for instance which is hacked to death and needs patching/incremental update as per EA/Dice speak. the precedent is set with music as per Spotify in how to get an internet service right but even there the coporate greed of the music publishers hold it back. sorry, rant over - could be a brilliant thing if done at the right price, can see those server providers quaking already.


March 24, 2009, 7:45 pm


I suspect that all game processes will be done by the server, so if for example some people want to play burnout paradise, the server would calculate everything and all that's actually travelling between computers are audio and video feeds (and control commands), which we know can be transferred over our networks in real time.

Services like logmein prove that you can have realtime control, the trick is reducing the round trip to the server and back to acceptable levels for gaming. Although if you want this here and now, you could always play minesweeper via logmein. :)


March 24, 2009, 8:12 pm

upstream bandwidth is going to be a real bitch for this, especially in the UK where the advertised "up to 8Mbit" etc makes no mention of the fact that the upload rate is usually a fraction of that! I really do hope it's improved since last I knew of it specifically, but it used to be that 4MBit internet was 4Mbps maximum theoretical download, but 256Kbps upload!

As such, this service would theoretically be fine for USA etc, but the UK will have serious problems - not least because of the ISPs going mental about the bandwidth being used. What use is paying &#16350 a year, then &#16330 each for games, when you can play that game for about 30mins maximum before your ISP throttles you and you can't play the game anymore until the bandwidth is returned - or even worse, your ISP threatens to disconnect you and/or charge you an obscene and uncorrelated extra amount for an increased cap further adding to the costs of this service! So that's &#16350 a year for OnLive, &#16330 for each game (&#16335 for EA games it seems) and &#16330 per month for the "Ultimate" unthrottled maximum-capped broadband to allow you to play it whenever and for however long you want.

Basically, this proposed gaming service will require a complete change in the business model of ISPs, and a complete upgrade of the upstream infrastructure of the internet in the UK


March 24, 2009, 8:43 pm

One word: LAG


March 24, 2009, 9:02 pm

another word, now i think about it: BIG BROTHER


March 24, 2009, 10:47 pm

As well as the concerns over network capacity and response times, what about the computing power needed to drive all this? Look at the computing power needed to play one recent game on an Xbox 360, PS3 or half decent PC graphics card. Then think about the heat that each one generates, just for one player. Now multiply this by what is needed to cater for 100s or 1000s of gamers potentially on line at once with no slowdown and you are looking at one hell of a supercomputer which will probably use more power than Sheffield. Does the technology REALLY exist yet for this, and is anyone really going to risk the massive amounts of cash needed to build such a system, given that it'll live or die dependant on the networks & ISPs that serve it. Even if the infrastructure was up to the job, OnLive could easily be held over a barrel by the ISPs if they so wished, as without them the service doesn't work.


March 24, 2009, 11:15 pm

This company is obviously based on the Planet Utopia. If they can get it to work here on Planet Victoriana with our string and tin-cans infrastructure I think they're onto a winner.


March 24, 2009, 11:41 pm

Comment ilovethemonkeyhead said on 24th March 2009

i dreamed of a service like this when netbooks came out - as a means of playing my high end pc games via my pc, streamed live to a netbook.

this, though, takes things to a whole new level... bye bye gaming laptop

I've been using StreamMyGame for months to stream my games on my EeePC...so this is nothing new


March 25, 2009, 12:59 am

All this just won't work. If only they don't place their servers in each of their users' apartments.


March 25, 2009, 3:20 am

OnLive should be awesome. There are a ton of people that will be interested in this and they should be very successful. Check out OnLivefans.com, they already have a public discussion forum for this.


March 25, 2009, 3:21 am

Anyone who thinks this won't work, should check out QuakeLive. Believe this is very real.

Xenos, I experienced very little lag, certainly nothing like the HPB days of old, just the odd frame missing.

What I want to know is can cheats exploit it.


March 25, 2009, 12:26 pm


Sorry mate, Quakelive is just quake in a browser. Instead of running a program, it starts an activex control. Your PC is still running the game.

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