Just when we thought the console wars were pretty packed already, with Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony all vying for space in your living room, someone new blew into the room and is about to make things very interesting. The company's called OnLive (gee, that sounds vaguely familiar, like someone's else's online service) and has created a service that lets you stream games direct to your computer or TV. Sure, similar things have been tried before, but this one's been in the works for seven years, and uses a compression mechanism that abolishes lag time, something that always was the sore spot with other streaming offerings.
Their service supposedly works no matter how powerful (or not) your system is. There's minimum requirements of course, but the company says you don't have to be running the latest or greatest gaming machine. Any old PC will do. So far the company has 16 games ready, including such top-notch titles as Burnout Paradise and Fear 2: Project Origin.
With consoles going for about $249 these days, and high barriers of entry for game publishers to actually develop, market and get their boxed games into stores, this method looks to alleviate many of those problems. The games are all hosted on OnLive's servers, which means there's no boxed software. The games are streamed, which makes it easier to get them into user's hands, since distribution is taken care of. It's also cheaper for the game publisher, who hasn't had to worry about packaging or shipping. These savings may get passed onto the consumer.
Another plus: as soon as a game is released and put on their servers, it's available for play. No pre-registration or long midnight lines at the EB store. Just good streaming goodness.
We'll see how this plays out during the year. There should be some activity this summer and it should be fully available this winter.