Sunday, March 14, 2010
Possible Console Killer Arriving Mid June
Traditional console manufacturers like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo could be endangered by an up and coming online videogame service called OnLive, which promises to shake up the contemporary business model. OnLive, which was started by WebTV founder Steve Perlman and former Eidos CEO Mike McGarvey, aims to launch a system over eight years in the works that will digitally distribute AAA games from publishers like Electronic Arts, Take-Two, Ubisoft, and Atari, at virtually the same time as those titles are released into retail. The system is designed to allow players to stream on-demand games at high frame rates and experience zero lag while on any Mac or PC regardless of how powerful, as long as they have the needed internet connection speed.
Rather than having consumers download the games directly, OnLive will host them all and stream them from a series of the high-end servers across the United States. Users will only need to download a 1 MB plug-in to have access. "The really hard problem," said Perlman "is how to get this to work reliably over consumer connections. [There are] packet drops, packets reordered, and other people using the connection." So, he explained, OnLive solves this issue by building error correction and error concealment directly into the data compression. "We don't have time to ask for a new packet, if the packet is lost or corrupted...We have to deal with what's coming in right then."
However, many have already criticized whether such a system can successfully operate under real-life conditions. The most obvious issue at hand is what if users are too far away from OnLive's servers? There would be no possible way that the performance would be as good as advertised. Perlman countered stating that the service is intended to work at full capacity as long as the customer is no more than 1,000 miles from a data center. And with data centers located in the San Francisco, Chicago, Washington D.C., Atlanta, and Dallas, OnLive hopes to alleviate that particular problem. In addition the company will need to have a significant budget for infrastructure upgrades if OnLive hopes to keep its servers up to the task of handling an increasing amount of subscribers as well next generation games.
Of course, if performance degrades due to distance, incoming traffic, or hardware, OnLive's potential user base will be much smaller than what is needed to seriously challenge the console maker giants, or any other company that looks to deliver quality games over the internet. The upside of this infrastructure model, Perlman said, is that OnLive is somewhat future-proof, meaning that players won't have to upgrade anything. Instead, the upgrades will happen on their end, with the company regularly boosting the performance of their servers it uses to host and stream these games. This means that users will be able keep on playing games on their system years into the future.
OnLive is expected to launch June 17, 2010 with partners like EA, Ubisoft, and 2K Games but is quite tentative about which games ill be available. OnLive said that they will officially announce the list of launch titles before E3, but also let leak that "anticipated" games include Borderlands, Dragon Age Origins, Mass Effect 2, Assassin's Creed II, Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands, and Metro 2033. The company also said that for their $14.95 a month fee, users will get a constantly expanding library of games and, in addition, the first 25,000 "qualified" gamers to sign up for the service will have this fee waived for the first three months. Right now, eyes are on OnLive to see if they will revolutionize the game industry.