Streaming games look to make consoles, PC upgrades obsolete

A screenshot of the OnLive ‘Arena’ of games

A new technology service called OnLive claims to have developed a way to stream video games over the Internet, without any lag that humans can notice.

The on-demand service would allow users to play games on any TV and nearly any personal computer – even stripped-down netbooks and PCs without graphics processors, said founder and chief executive Steve Perlman.

“When you want to play a game, you just click a button and it plays instantly. It’s that simple,” said Perlman. “So the instant you press a button to shoot something on the screen, the gun goes off.”

This has not been possible before, because unlike with music and movies – which can be compressed for easy online transfers before being streamed – video games are interactive and require instant responses.

OnLive’s technology gets around that limitation with a new form of compression that lets its game servers communicate with players over broadband connections in real time.

Thus, the service can also work on older computers, even those without a graphics processing unit – an essential component of gaming.

For a standard definition TV, a broadband connection of at least 1.5 megabits per second (mbps) is required. And for HDTV resolution, a connection of at least 5 mbps is needed.

Through a “MicroConsole” gadget, OnLive’s service will also be available for television sets.

In a demonstration on Tuesday at the Game Developers Conference in San Diego, Perlman played Crysis – a game notorious for its demanding graphical processing needs – on a TV set and on a Mac laptop through OnLive.

Leading game publishers, such as Electronic Arts, Take-Two and Eidos, have already signed on. OnLive has also incorporated social networking elements for multiplayer gaming, such as letting users share ‘brag clips’, which save the last 10 seconds of your game.

Perlman has a lot of confidence in OnLive: “It’s the last console you’ll need.”

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