First, the basics of OnLive have been laid out this week at the Game Developer’s Conference, and it initially looks like a too-good-to-be-true model. The service works either through your computer or your TV. If you’re on your computer (Mac OSX, Windows XP, Vista), you’ll simply download a very small client browser plugin, use a mouse/keyboard, generic USB controller, or their proprietary wireless controllers (which look suspiciously like Xbox 360 controllers), and access any game from the OnLive library through the client. No advanced graphics card is needed, very little ram and processing speed is used on your own computer. All the heavy lifting is done through cloud computing on OnLive’s server farm.
That means if you have a MacBook, a high end Alienware desktop, or a $200 Dell, you can play the latest games in all their glory. This possibility is especially enticing to oft-plagued Mac gamers, who will be able to play new releases day-and-date with their PC counterparts.
The TV option requires OnLive’s “MicroConsole”, slightly larger than a USB hub, which then plugs into your TV via HDMI. It can also take keyboard, mouse, and generic USB controllers (two wired), or support four wireless controllers and wireless headsets simultaneously. Plug in to your router via the Ethernet port, and the same simple grid interface you access on your computer can be brought up on your TV.
So that’s it, with a downloaded plugin, or a device easy to plug in, you have access to any of the games on OnLive’s service. There’s nothing else to download or install, as the games run entirely on OnLive’s servers, and even in the current internal beta, games like HAWX and Prince of Persia (the December, 2008 release) are taking less than ten seconds to launch.
I'm amazed to say it, but this might actually work. Ease of use, low price, and games are all integral to success in the videogames industry, and OnLive has them all. My guess is that Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft have to be worried about this. It just makes too much sense.