Could OnLive be the death of hardware?

With Zeebo proposing that the future of gaming will bring about the end of disc-based media, an arguably even more exciting prospect dubbed OnLive threatens to end the gaming hardware race altogether.

The new on-demand service claims to do for gaming what the ‘cloud’ concept has done to computing – centralise all code and assets on a remote server, with games playable by users accessing the content across a high-speed internet connection.

All the computing and processing takes place remotely, and just as the video feed of the game is streamed to the user across the internet, so to is the user’s joypad or keyboard input.

Lag is the obvious stick in the cogs for the system – but IGN reports that the owners claim that lag has been reduced to just one millisecond. The only restriction will concern the resolution games will play at. A 1.5MB net connection will be ample for SD gaming, whilst those wishing for HD gaming (in 720p) will need a 5MB connection – and both options are said to work at 60fps.

There’s no need to download titles, and all content – be it games, demos or video – launches instantly.

OnLive will work with Windows PCs and Macs, and in theory even on low-spec netbooks and laptops, allowing for the prospect of previously ultra high-end games such as EA’s Crysis being playable on very basic hardware. There will also be an optional OnLive MicroConsole that will connect to an HD TV via HDMI.

Pricing details are still thin on the ground, but OnLive will most likely be a subscription-based service. Optional extras such as the OnLive MicroConsole are also expected to be cheap – potentially around 50.

Importantly, a number of leading publishers have reportedly signed up to the service – including EA, Take-Two, Ubisoft, Epic, Atari, Codemasters, Warner and Eidos. And going forwards OnLive is suggesting that titles could arrive on its service alongside their ‘proper’ retail release.

There’s no firm release date just yet, but late this year seems to be likely.

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