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OnLive sets date, price for launch in June

March 10, 2010 |  3:16 pm

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