The future of video games isn't in your home at all, it's in the clouds. At least that's what OnLive wants you to believe. The service actually launched over the summer with a little over 20 games, allowing gamers to stream full blown video games straight from their PC or Mac. As of now, OnLive offers about 40 games, but with the promise of more to come, specifically 100 more by the end of 2011. Speaking of more to come, OnLive is toying with the prospect of potential services like Netflix, an app store in the vein of Apple's, and 3D gaming capabilities. Also, the system currently only supports stereo audio over a 3.5mm minijack, optical S/PDIF or HDMI, but 5.1 sound is promised soon. The OnLive service works by large servers that do all of the power processing from far away, and sending rendered compressed images to your Microconsole which then upscales the images up to 1080p by way of a custom SOC. The result is an image rendered over 60fps over HDMI 1.3.
Games can be streamed through OnLive by purchasing 3-day, 5-day, and full play passes. With OnLive there is no need to download or install anything, as you can stream your purchases immediately after buying them. You can even watch other people playing OnLive video games through the "watch" feature, play demos, and check out the latest video game videos.
The OnLive Microconsole controller is the love child of the PS3 Dual Shock 3 and the Xbox 360 controller. The only new additions are the implementations of rewind, record, play, pause, and fast forward buttons at the bottom of the controller.
The OnLive Microconsole will begin shipping Dec. 2nd for a quite convincing $99. However, be prepared to shell out an extra $30 for component cables if you don't play with HDMI. Though, if you're still not sold on the idea of cloud based gaming and a low hardware price, OnLive comes with a $50 credit for a free game purchase, and the subscription fee similar to Xbox Live has been scrapped.
While this is definitely an innovative take on video games, I think it is highly unlikely that cloud gaming will become the future of gaming. While the system as the potential to be your sole source of video games, there are certain advantages to owning a game physically, such as being able to trade it in, and borrow games from friends. What happens if you lose your internet connection? Or if the main servers go down? Physical discs will always have a place in gaming, though gaming on a cloud is definitely an aspect of gaming that is sure to take off.