OnLive Going Online June 17

With all the hullabaloo over Sony PlayStation’s Move announcement earlier this evening, it’s easy to overlook another fairly large announcement for the gaming industry: the launch date for OnLive. For the uninitiated, OnLive is a “Games On Demand” service that hopes to deliver instant gaming over the Internet for titles such as Crysis, Burnout Paradise, and much more. It hopes to take consoles and computer component requirements out of the equation by making the shift to cloud computing, meaning everything is computed on a remote OnLive server and pumped back to the user’s TV or monitor.

With even the slightest bit of experience on the Internet, you can probably guess that this already sounds pretty dubious, but OnLive refuses to yield to the skeptics and presses on with their potentially revolutionary product. They’ve pressed on so hard, in fact, that the OnLive service now has an official launch date of June 17, 2010. Well, June 17th for the continental United States and June Neverteenth for Alaska, Hawaii, and the rest of the world (most likely due to server location restrictions).

Though it will eventually expand to some sort of set top box of sorts, OnLive will initially be only available for PC and Mac with a monthly fee of $14.95. Unfortunately, this announced price doesn’t cover the costs of actually renting and purchasing games, a topic that OnLive CEO Steve Perlman and COO Mike McGarvey deftly dodged in the Q&A session following their keynote at GDC.

What they were willing to share, though, included the fact that OnLive will be launching with 10—20 moderately recent titles such as Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age: Origins and hopefully expand to something closer to 60 games by the end of 2010. Perlman also stated that he hoped to get OnLive service up to 1080p quality at a rock solid 60 frames per second as more bandwidth becomes available.

The skeptic in me says this is going to be a travesty of an experiment, though an amazing experiment to be sure. From what I’ve read about OnLive and can only assume based on my knowledge of how the Internet works, this sounds like a mostly blasphemous experience for any consumer living more than 100 miles from a server. The beta, for instance, was heavily restricted to those who signed up and stated their zip codes were within certain areas based on the servers they already had in place. I guess we’ll see how it all shakes out on June 17th.

The skeptic in me also has me questioning the PlayStation Move controller (“subcontroller?” You mean a Nunchuk?). While I feel like it can be more successful than the Wii in terms of what it can offer based on sheer processing power alone, I also fear it will be held back by the same restrictions inherent in motion control schemes, which is to say imprecision, effort exceeding the result, and counter intuitive control schemes that exist simply for lack of better alternatives, but I guess that’s why they call me a cynic.

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