OnLive officially launched June 17th for PCs and Macs after an extensive beta testing period. The service streams games, run on powerful servers, to user’s computers, with all the demanding CPU & GPU processing occurring on the server side. All users need is a fast internet connection and a computer built within the past few years to view the games at HD resolution. Currently, a wired ethernet connection is required to use OnLive. While wireless support is coming soon, you’ll still need a relatively fast connection — 5 Mbps minimum — for it to work.
Overall, image quality running at 720p is good, veering on great (OnLive plans to upgrade to 1080p once the network infrastructure supports it). There is a slight blurriness compared to playing the game locally on a hard drive, but everything onscreen is legible, and the servers running the games are powerful enough to not slow down when the action gets heavy. I never ran into lag when playing that made me realize I was streaming the game (lag is the delay between you pressing a button or keyboard key and the game responding).
OnLive users the streaming technology in innovative ways that bring the community together. You can record “Brag Clips” of particularly memorable game moments that will be shown to other users. Finally, if you’re tired of playing yourself, the Arena allows you to instantly spectate other gamers playing any of the service’s titles.
In closing: I’m excited about what OnLive could mean for gaming. If its selection grows, discounted games are offered, and already decent image quality is improved, then the service will be a very appealing options for gamers without top of the end gaming PCs that don’t want to make an expensive investment just to play one or two games. I could definitely see this technology becoming indistinguishable from playing locally in just a year or two, and rejuvenate PC gaming in the process.
OnLive is available now for Windows XP, Vista, 7, and Mac OSX Leopard & Snow Leopard. From now until July 15th, gamers can request a beta sign-up for free access to the service for a full year. The second year is $4.95/month. That membership gets you access to free 30 minute demos of most games. Sign-ups can be found at www.onlive.com