OnLive is an online streaming service which lets you play PC games on almost any machine with a monitor and a controller. A huge server full of choices runs the game you want from its own brain, and streams it to your computer almost instantly, bypassing the need to use any of your own hardware. It’s basically ‘cloud’ gaming, a craze that really seems to be catching on lately. What this means is the minimum system requirements to run a game like Crysis* is now simply a fast internet connection, and not a ridiculously expensive gaming rig. The service has been running in America for a while now, and is available in the UK at long last, so I had to try it out.
It’s a very interesting concept. Since forever, the world of PC gaming has required a regular upgrade of hardware in order to run the newest games, but services like this potentially eliminate that stage altogether. Any machine connected to the internet has the potential to play the latest blockbuster, even a sodding iPad. The games do not require any processing power from your end, as everything is handled by the central hub in OnLive’s lair – all you do is connect to it and control it remotely.
It means no installation, you just choose the game you want to play, and within minutes, you’ll be playing it. I signed up earlier today and did exactly that – at work, using a 4 year old macbook I was able to play Assassins Creed Brotherhood on a wi-fi connection. It was pretty impressive. Aside from the fact you can’t edit the graphics settings (possibly a limitation of it being a demo and not the full game, but equally possibly because it recognised I was on a less-than-reliable wi-fi connection, or maybe its just a limitation of the service) the game ran about as good as it would on my own PC. I only played it for 10 minutes, but it was a very good first impression.
The service isn’t free of course. You have to pay a subscription in order to access the huge library of games, and I don’t intend to invest in this just yet as I have enough of a backlog of unplayed Steam games lying around waiting for me. But I’m glad this service exists. It gives hope to people who can’t afford a decent gaming PC, and it offers a very novel solution to playing games where they might otherwise be unavailable. And who knows, maybe the more support cloud based services gain, the more widespread high-speed broadband will become. That’s gotta be a good thing.
* Crysis isn’t actually available it seems but you can understand the implications of this, right? If this catches on, nVidia could be out of a job. This makes me want to cry.