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Cloud-gaming service OnLive opens up

September 2, 2009

OnLive, the “cloud-based” gaming service that generated plenty of interest when it was announced in May, is opening itself up.

The company is aiming to challenge game console makers Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony with a bold and ambitious service: on-demand, lag-free access to graphically rich games, which can be played on any TV and nearly any PC, even budget netbooks.

Analysts say such a product could fundamentally change the economics of the multibillion dollar video game industry. The only question is how well OnLive works, and some have expressed skepticism. Since its splashy introduction, little has been heard from the company, which was busy testing its service internally and installing servers in its data centers to handle traffic. OnLive delivers games run on servers in the cloud, rather than locally on a PC or a console.

The company is now opening the OnLive beta to testing from outside gamers, said Steve Perlman, the company’s founder and CEO, in a blog post. Perlman is a well-known Silicon Valley entrepreneur who helped launch WebTV, which Microsoft bought in 1997. You can sign up to test OnLive at http://www.onlive.com/beta_program.html.

“One of the key challenges that OnLive technology addresses is providing a high-quality, fast-response gaming experience over a wide range of situations: different speeds/locations/types of broadband services, a variety of different PC and Mac configurations, several kinds of input and display devices, etc. So, a major focus of OnLive Beta is to test as many of these different situations as we can,” Perlman said in his post.

OnLive has been in development for seven years. It already has deals in place with 10 publishers to provide new game titles, including Electronic Arts, Ubisoft and Take Two.  The company has said it expects to launch its service in the winter of 2009.

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