How cool is this – a cloud game system that enables real-time streaming play and storage of a vast catalogue of video games. If you’re thinking “Netflix for gamers”, you have the absolute correct idea.
OnLive has burst through the gate with a small-footprint, easy-install game system that can be hooked up to your HDTV like a Blu-ray player or game machine, and can also be played online when you’re on the go through an easy install of OnLive’s proprietary software. (There are also plans in the works to make OnLive available for smartphones, tablets and Blu-ray players).
Out of the box, the first thing I noted about the OnLive system ($99.99, which includes a free game) is its small footprint. Seriously, the unit is a pipsqueak, and the included wireless controller is comparable to what you’d get with an Xbox 360 or PlayStation3. (You can also connect the controller via the included cable if you’d like).
Setup is easy, virtually turnkey. OnLive recommends a wired connection – I know, that seems like heresy in this wireless age, but fortunately this old-school reviewer still uses the wired router at home. Hook up to your HDMI and Ethernet cables, and you’re ready to play.
Account setup is pretty simple. You can sign up for free and have access to demos and free games. The true “Netflix of gaming” plan is the “Playpack Bundle”. For $9.99 a month, you get unlimited play of the 50+ games currently in the “Playpack” (the company plans to expand the selection), which currently includes “Fear 2”, “NBA 2K10” and “Just Cause 2”. Naturally, you’ll have to put a credit card on file to buy this bundle or other premium offerings.
You can also buy premium games “a la carte” – for periods of three ($5.99) or five ($8.99) days, or “full” ($19.99), which enables endless play.
Fire It Up!
Once I’d signed on, it was smooth sailing to get to the gaming. OnLive runs fast – but you’re going to need some horsepower to run it. The company recommends you have a 5 Mbit/s or faster Internet connection to run it – 3 Mbit/s is the bare minimum – so dial-up users need not bother.
Operation was excellent. Games booted up promptly and play was consistent and clear at 720p quality, not noticeably different than the performance you’d get from your Xbox 360 or PS3. As with Netflix or any cloud service, there is always the possibility of hang-ups and delays, based on the quality of your hookup, but I was very pleased with the performance.
The game selection is good – not phenomenal, but I’m confident they’ll get there as the service grows in popularity. Now get your game on! EG