OnLive: Will it Beat Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii at Their Own Game?

Darren: Seriously. How many people really hit that magic data speed connection? Will it work wirelessly? At the local Starbucks? Yeah, I think I already know that answer, but that doesn't take away the fact that whether you buy the microbox, or just play through your PC / Mac, you're still getting a solid gaming experience usually reserved for high-end game rigs. (And at one point about two years ago -- and I ain't stretching the truth here -- I tried running Crysis at 1080p-equivalent resolution and barely cracked a 20 frame-per-second slide show. And that was on gaming computer that cost more than $5000 at the time.)

So the fact that I'm seeing 720p Crysis running on an HD set is fairly impressive.

Sid: Yeah, and see, that's exactly where OnLive can do some big damage. I bailed out of the hardcore PC gaming scene back '05, largely because I was sick digging around in my PC's guts to install new motherboards and video cards. The promise of something like OnLive is that you'd never need to upgrade your PC again to play the latest games. As long as your broadband connection is fast enough, OnLive's backend servers render all the graphics for you. And in time, those graphics will just get better as OnLive upgrades its server hardware. Smooth, playable Direct X 11 gaming on a $500 netbook? That's impressive any way you look at it.

Darren: no doubt, no doubt. I think the real tricks here -- besides the fat pipe hurdle -- will be getting the games and selling them at reasonable prices.

Sid: yeah, which is a bit of a sticking point. OnLive is charging a subscription fee just to access the free demos, right? Then it's another charge to buy or rent a game...

Darren: Hey, I'm not so sure I agree with you about that whole subscription fee issue. I mean, you look at Xbox 360's Live service and you're dropping 60 bones annually -- and that's on top of the price you're paying for the console. Plus the overpriced hard drive -- you dig where I'm going with this, sucka?

Now, the guys at Rearden Labs are talking a good game. They say how they'll time out releases with regular window of when titles hit store shelves. But what they aren't saying are 1) how much this system will cost, 2) how much the monthly / annual fee will be, and 3) how much the actual retail titles will sell for? I mean will I ever see savings on a digital downloaded game in my lifetime? It's not like someone is printing up a manual or burning a disc for me to play this.

Sid: All excellent points -- the proof will be in the pricing. The game library is of some concern as well. We saw versions of Crysis and Burnout playing during the OnLive demo. But without system-seller mascots like Master Chief or Kratos, OnLive might struggle to form an identity. Playing high-end PC games at maximum settings with great performance is all well and good, but I can't say it's something I'd jump at.

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