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GDC: OnLive Takes Gaming To The Cloud

A cloud-based online gaming service founded by a veteran of Apple and WebTV highlights the Game Developers Conference.

The video game industry, where the tradition of proprietary console hardware and high-margin physical media runs deep, is shifting toward the cloud.

The reasons are those advanced by Google and other proponents of cloud computing for businesses: cross-platform functionality, on-demand delivery, instant upgrades, ease of use, availability from any Web-connected location.

Steve Perlman, founder and CEO of OnLive, an on-demand cloud gaming company, made this argument at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

It's a partisan position, to be sure -- major console gaming companies might disagree that they're headed for extinction -- but it's one that's consistent with the broad migration toward cloud computing that's shaking up corporate computing.

While games, which often demand high-performance graphics processing and low-latency network connections, might seem ill-suited for the cloud, Perlman's demonstration of OnLive, currently in closed beta testing, reveals that assumption is ill-founded. The technical challenge of interactive video compression, necessary to make such a service work, is one that OnLive has overcome, insists Perlman.

The service is scheduled to be released on June 17, 2010 at the E3 Show. It provides multiplayer gaming across to users of PCs, Macs, and TVs, mass spectating, Brag Clips, and a variety of social interaction capabilities.

OnLive has managed to make high-end 3D shooters, one of the most computationally demanding game genres, almost immediately available to users without requiring the user to download hundreds of megabytes of game data. The service does require a hardware component for use on TVs, the OnLive MicroConsole, but the interface's price will be built into to service's monthly subscription fee.

The basic fee will be $14.95 per month, waved for three months for the first 25,000 users who sign up at

Games on the service will be available for sale and for rental. Specific pricing will be announced when the games are released.

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