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OnLive sets date, price for launch in June

Instant gratification for gamers is just a couple of months away. Come June 17, OnLive is set to launch its online gaming service, the company announced Wednesday at the GamesBeat conference in San Francisco.

The promise of OnLive is simple: games on demand. Most video games are now sold as shrink-wrapped discs at retailers such as GameStop and Best Buy. With OnLive, players will be able to summon titles instantly and start playing. In theory anyway.

The San Francisco start-up triggered incredulous reactions last year when it announced its service. That's because downloading a typical video game over the Internet can take hours. Playing a first-person shooter in real time with another gamer sitting across the country is a separate matter altogether.

Now, players will be able to see for themselves. For a fee. OnLive said it would charge $14.95 a month and players would have to pay extra to buy or rent games. The company did not say how much games would cost to purchase, but the implication is that prices would be lower than retail. That's because game publishers would no longer incur the costs of printing and distributing shiny discs.

OnLive is set to launch with games from five publishers: Electronic Arts, Ubisoft Entertainment, 2K Games, THQ and Warner Bros. Interactive. Among the launch titles are Ubisoft's Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands and Assassin's Creed II, and EA's Mass Effect 2 and Dragon Age.

Will OnLive's toll booth prevent consumers from signing up? Not at first, said Billy Pidgeon, an independent game industry analyst.

"The OnLive audience at first will be the enthusiast gamer who will want to participate, because it's the newest, latest thing," Pidgeon said. "Later, subscriptions will likely be subsidized for the more casual player."

OnLive executives hinted strongly that it would run special offers on the monthly fees. Buying a certain number of games could, for example, yield a steep discount. Signing up for a full year could also yield a discount.

Why subscribe? "You'll never have to buy another console ever again," said Mike McGarvey, OnLive's chief operating officer.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: OnLive's console is about the size of a small paperback book. Credit: OnLive

Comments () | Archives (2)

Onlive will demonstrate the technology and the solid obsolescence of consoles. For this again Perlman deserves massive credit as a disintermediator. But… the pricing isn’t serious, they are charging the equivalent of an ISP fee and really not offering even what Game Fly does, they are trying to offer at a relative premium, which will never work here. If they were serious they would go after market share with slightly higher GameFly level monthly subcriptions prices but with unlimited access to Onlive’s comparatively much smaller library of games.

This is what ‘really serious’ looks like, and looks to be inevitable even in the short term :

1. All content/communication/services/access/platforms for one generic low price month to month subscription. Let this be based on cloud streaming, especially to inexpensive wireless devices that have more battery and less CPU/GPU/memory.

2. Devs/contributors are paid per instant of end user attention. Tools, hosting and non attachment of IP are exchanged in return for the service being able to host indefinitely but non exclusively.

3. Strong privacy and neutrality. Never any ads (search is ad free,) channels or 'premium' or any attempt at trying to direct or canalize end user attention. Never any unbundling.

4. Global redundancy of such services.

Such an amalgamated service would likely offer the expanded equivalent of: Onlive; Zune music; Netflix Instant; Audible; Google Print; Amazon Kindle; Azure with a full complement of apps; ad free Google; PCSMetro (unlimited mobile broadband & voice with bells and whistles month to month on an open phone.)… all of it in the not so distant future for something like $45 a month sold at Walmart with a no contract $99 phone. Point the phone at a screen and it will drive it, 3d or motion, its seamless.

$15/month is quite expensive especially since it doesnt include the price of games. Assuming a console lasts a conservative estimate of 5 years consumers are looking at paying $900 + the cost of games. The 1st generation Playstation 3 at $600 isn't looking so bad now.


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