Music and movies are increasingly being downloaded or streamed online instead of purchased at a local store. OnLive seeks to use this model to provide an instant streaming service for video games.
Instead of using a disc, OnLive processes games remotely on its high-powered servers and streams the games over the internet to the new MicroConsole, which converts the streaming game to full 1080p HD glory on your TV or monitor.
So, what's the benefit? The MicroConsole is small, quiet and energy-efficient compared to traditional consoles, which are actually high-powered computers optimized for gaming. Also, since OnLive has more than 40 games accessible on its servers (with plans to build an even bigger library), you can instantly play, demo or share a game of your choice.
As for game performance, OnLive went to great lengths to ensure instantaneous response time, and they tout their system as being lag-free, which is critical to compete with Xbox and PS3. Also, they will continuously update and upgrade the system to maximize performance, which traditional consoles cannot do.
On the other hand, it's yet to be seen whether OnLive can match the smooth performance of other consoles. Some are concerned about how it will perform without a top-notch internet connection.
OnLive is already available for use on a PC or Mac, and the MicroConsole is scheduled to ship on Dec. 2 for $99. They offer a free membership to try out the system and play demos. Game prices vary for each title and are offered in plans varying from three- to five-day rentals, as well as a Full PlayPass.
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