Wednesday, 25 March 2009

More on OnLive

Yes, I’m still pretty excited about OnLive (as I previously blogged). And since yesterday some more information has surfaced such as an hour long OnLive press conference video.

The video is quite exciting, showing a number of more in-depth demonstrations (such as Crysis running on a low-end laptop) and giving a bit of a better view at how using the system works. Additionally they give a fair bit more information on the service (such as the launch being US only, boooo, though they’re planning to go international pretty son after that). If you’ve got an hour and are interested in this at all then would be well worth the watch.

There’s also an article up at 1up and IGN has an article asking whether this’ll change the future of gaming (as well as some videos). OnLive’s website (which I linked to before) also went live in the meantime with some bits of information (and a chance to sign up for the beta if you’re in the US).

Reading the comments people post on these articles there’s a fair amount of excitement and hope, but also a fair bit of negativity (well, probably wouldn’t be the Internet otherwise). People seem to be concerned about pricing (a valid concern) or don’t believe that it can work and cause too much latency (another valid concern) as well as concerns about ownership (which I find less valid personally). Some are even saying that they’re convinced that it’ll never work or that they hope it doesn’t (which seems particularly silly).

But I think a lot of it comes from fear, fear of change. And I think that people don’t quite realize that this is (just) the start. It seems almost as if people fear that this time next year you won’t be able to play games the old way anymore and instead will have to play through OnLive.

I doubt it’ll go that fast. I’m certain that for many years to come the current model of gaming will continue to exist next to OnLive-type services (and there will be more, more on that in a bit). It’s quite possible that it’ll continue to exist indefinitely. After all, despite television people still buy DVDs (though interestingly OnLive has the potential to be the end of both of those in the long run). I suspect that it’ll be at least ten years before OnLive becomes the main method of gaming for people (though I was wrong about how soon something like this would be introduced too). This generation of consoles might be the last one, but I think we’ll see one more generation. And PC gaming will continue to exist if only as a development platform.

We’re at the dawn of a new chapter in gaming, but it will take time for it to rise to its peak.

I also suspect that it will take hardcore gamers longest of all to adopt to this, while those more inclined to more casual gaming and use of consoles might be sooner to adopt this. Those who already have their high-end systems and have no problem investing in their hobby, those who want to have full control, don’t really have much use for something like this and it would sound like less quality (lower resolution and crispness and possibly more latency issues as well as being dependent on an external party) for more money (the subscription fee, though people often seem to forget that they could save that in the cost of upgrading their systems).

For everyone else though this could be a blessing, allowing people to play the latest games at high quality (much higher than they otherwise could) whenever they want on hardware that doesn’t cost much at all (beyond perhaps a HDTV). Include services like game rental (after playing some single-player games for a week one likely gets tired of it anyway) this would allow people to play what they want when they want.

We’re moving to an always-online world where the whole concept of “local machine” fades away. Just look at the Internet; articles you read aren’t local either and yet using the Internet is nearly seamless. Or look at television, does it really matter if you’re playing from a local DVD or watching a broadcast (particularly if you can start/stop/pause/rewind/etc on demand)? The same will be true with games; you simply choose the game to play and you play it, whether it’s local or online or something else in the end doesn’t matter.

And OnLive isn’t the only one doing this. David Perry, creative officer at Acclaim, has come out and stated that he has a team working on the same kind of thing (independent of Acclaim). He was originally going to announce it at E3 this year, and he isn’t quite as far along in development, but OnLive’s announcement now stole his thunder and forced his hand. Others might be working on something similar too, that’s only natural. Such advancements usually happen by several unrelated projects at roughly the same time. And console developers like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo kind of have to go along with this (possibly creating their own versions of this) if they want to continue to survive (or they could become pure content developers, but then they lose control over the platform).

But all of this, as I said, is going to take time. For the next ten years, I suspect, people will still be able to play their games as they are now as people slowly start adopting these new services, get used to them, and eventually perhaps switch over completely. Then in ten years time perhaps we can have some discussion on the “death of consoles”.

Exciting times for gaming to say the least.

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