I normally stray away from trending topics in the news because most people that see a blog with a popular theme may choose to just skip over it. But today I am going to talk about the news that seems to have captured the attention of a number of media outlets during the Game Development Conference (GDC) going on now in San Francisco.



Perhaps you've heard the news as well...this "console killer" crazy talk. Choose any of the mainstream media websites and you can certainly read all about it. Or, just read my summary below, courtesy of the BBC (Apologize for the length. It isn’t imperative to read the article; you can just skip down to my comments below if you want).


'Console killer' OnLive to launch June 17, 2010

By Maggie Shiels (Technology reporter, BBC News, San Francisco)


Around 13 big game publishers have signed up to the service. A gaming service that aims to kill off the traditional gaming console will begin streaming popular games over the internet in June this year. OnLive, which launched to much fanfare in 2009, announced details of its service at the GamesBeat conference.


Instead of games taking hours to download or buying them off the shelf, OnLive promises games on-demand. "OnLive breaks the console cycle. We don't need new hardware devices," said company founder Steve Perlman.


"We want to take your dollars from hardware and let you spend it on software. We are a new platform and we're building a network and infrastructure to last for the next 30 years of gaming, not the next five years," Mr McGarvey told reporters.


The company said it will deliver on-demand video games via the cloud to the PC, Mac or TV and that it could provide high quality gaming on low-end machines. OnLive relies on video compression technology, which instantly streams video via the internet so if feels like the game is playing locally. The reality is that all the heavy lifting is done by remote data centres that can be no more than a thousand miles away. Players use a PC or TV hooked up to a broadband connection to connect to the system.


OnLive said that it was reacting to a change in gamer's habits, as they increasingly migrate online. "There is this huge shift from download and use later to use it right now. The bytes coming in are not being stored. They are being consumed the moment they arrive," said Mr Perlman.


"It is going to be small at first. At the beginning it becomes one more great channel for the game companies to pursue. But at some point, yeah there is going to be a transition," he said.


OnLive will be available for a monthly rental fee of $14.95 (£9.99) for subscribers to then buy or rent games over the internet. No date was given for when OnLive will be available in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.


Before I disassemble the article, let me say that - yes, I think one day, this will be the face of gaming. But as Aragorn put it so eloquently...


Aragorn: “Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Sony, of Microsoft and Nintendo, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same doubt that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the devotion of men fails, when we forsake our consoles and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered joysticks, when the age of machines comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we play! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you stand, Men of the gaming community!”



Sure, I may be wrong and I may be going out on a limb, but speaking from my own personal perspective, even if OnLive turns out to be the greatest thing since side scrolling Mario games, I'm not so sure I'm ready to list my Xbox 360 on eBay, cancel my Live membership and run off to Gamestop to unload my collection of games. First of all, I have a lot of money invested in my current arrangement. Money that I will never be able to recoup. So, like I said, even if it is wonderful, and it would certainly have to be, I don't know that I would make the transition; and I definitely wouldn't be one of the OnLive plankowners.


There are more pieces in play here than there are in a game of Tri-Dimensional Chess.



So, let's take a look at this article.


Point 1. Of course game publishers (especially big ones) would be interested in this technology. Most are motivated by money, not quality of service to the end user or customer satisfaction. If the companies could find a way to divorce their relationships from the hardware/consoles and still make money (or more money) then of course they would support it. Surprised? Shouldn't be.


Point 2. Hours to download? Buying them off the shelf? Games on Demand? I may be alone in this matter but I don't like any of these points or think they are valid.


Downloading games or demos or whatever large files I want to download isn't a big issue. If it's going to take awhile, I do it while I'm busy doing something else...do other gamers really see this as a problem? I've never known a gamer to hover around their console ready to pull their hair out because the download is taking to long.



I actually enjoy going to the store to buy games off the shelf, and sometimes I go to the store with no intention of buying anything at all. I imagine that you and I (at least some of you) are similar in that, you have a "spot" where you buy most of your games from. With a Gamestop next to every Starbucks (my clever way of saying there are a lot of Gamestops) there is a good chance your “spot” is a Gamestop. It is for me, but I also visit the Best Buy just to window shop from time to time. I know the guys at my local Gamestop. I mean, I don't have them over for dinner or send them Christmas cards, but we talk shop when I go in about what we're playing and what we're waiting for. The OnLive marketing strategy of "you don't have to buy them off the shelf anymore" is not really a selling point for me. What about you?



Games on Demand? I have Net Flix on demand, and while I think it is delicious...it's not perfect. It hiccups from time to time. On very rare occurrences it may not be available or takes awhile to sync up. If every OnLive game we play relies on a robust and reliable Internet connection, whether it's to play Bejeweled or Assassin's Creed II, little hiccups are going to be seen as BIG problems.


Point 3. OnLive focuses on PC, Mac and TV...thereby eliminating the need for a console and it runs on low end machines. I don't know if my PC is low end or high end. Well, I know it's not a high end...probably somewhere in the middle. It runs every game out there right now that I've thrown at it, including Crysis. So, tell me why I would want to pay a monthly subscription fee to play games that I can already buy (or might already have) and play online now. OnLive has announced games like Assassin's Creed 2 and Mass Effect 2 will be available when the service comes online in June. Okay, how many people are going to pay for a service to play games they've already purchased?


Point 4. Delivered via the cloud. Ah. There is that cloud topic again. See yesterday's blog. Oh, but wait, it instantly streams (note the sarcasm). My friend, nothing is instant. Certainly nothing on the Internet.


Point 5. OnLive is reacting to a change in gamer’s habits, migrating toward online play. Yeah, that only happened years and years ago. Granted this project has been in the works for over 8 years, and probably would've been received with a lot more positive attention if it was ready when gamers did indeed start migrating towards online play. I guess showing up to the party late is better than getting lost and never finding it.


Point 6. Small at first. Eventually there will be a transition. Small at first is a show stopper, in my opinion. I can't speak for all people, but I have been a gamer for a number of years...and I'm not going to pay for a service that provides only a handful of games that have already been released on platforms I already have. I do agree there will be a transition, and it will be when Sony, Nintendo and/or Microsoft pushes the effort forward. Sony is purported to be pursuing their version of OnLive with the PS Cloud. Good. The “no date for when OnLive will be available in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world” point doesn't really help their effort.



While it might seem like I'm being fairly critical of OnLive, or perhaps like I'm one of those old dinosaurs that resists change and will eventually die off for refusing to do so, trust me, I'm not. I opened this debate with the statement that I think this will be the way it is one day.



But, I do think a project of this magnitude has to be big (world wide availability), have multiple exclusive titles of epic proportions (a title like Halo, God of War or Mario), provide equal or better capabilities then what gamers have available today (does this mean modding will die along with the consoles and that we’re going to see the amount of players supported per game capped?) and has to have major backing from the big three. If OnLive is truly a console killer, it has a few giants standing in its way that would beg to differ.



There is a right way to implement it, a wrong way to implement it and a "California or bust" way to do it. I guess we wait and see what happens in June to figure it all out. I think we'll know pretty quickly whether we need to make sure our eBay accounts and Gamestop Edge cards are current.


For now though…


It is not this day.