Game in the Clouds, Kill Your Bandwidth

By Mike on 5:48 pm

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Imagine being able to play video games from any laptop, any TV, and desktop PC or Mac. Ok, you can already do that but imagine doing that without having to buy expensive gaming hardware. A new gaming service called OnLive was introduced today at GDC 09. The service is similar to Steam except the games are never stored locally on your computer but are rather played on a gaming server. Essentially, your computer acts as just a display and controller. A special box is also being made available to allow you to use the service through your TV. The box will have an HDMI port and USB ports. Major titles are expected to be available on the service and OnLive is promising they will be released simultaneously with their retail counterparts. The system interfaces with your broadband connection and the company promises those with 5mbps connections will be able to play the games at the full 720p resolution the system allows. You will be able to buy games but also rent them as well, similar to how rentals work through iTunes. There will be a monthly system access fee and games will be extra. Free content such as demos will be made available.

This really isn't anything new. Back in the 1990s, Sega had the Sega Channel for the Genesis, which was a similar service. It's an interesting concept but I'm skeptical. First and foremost, such a service is going to kill your bandwidth. Most ISPs have moved to enforcing download caps. For example, I'm limited to 60gb/mo. Streaming that kind of uncompressed HD video is going to eat those caps up. Secondly, I worry about a future in gaming where the gamer doesn't actually own anything. I've brought this up a lot before but I just feel more comfortable having something tangible. For example, if the service were to go bust, you'd loose all the games you bought. This would also potentially kill the game retail market, the resale market of used titles, and retro gaming. It's not as good an idea as it sounds.

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