Broadband Gaming is On the Way
Every once in awhile I read a news article, blog post or press release that makes me think “this is a really big idea”. Turns out today was one of those days. While in a meeting I was forwarded a link to a new company called Onlive.com. You can read a great summary of their business at the Nerdworld blog at Time.comIn summary, their business is to deliver on-demand video games to PCs and TVs without the need for a dedicated console. This was interesting for a few reasons. First, the gaming industry has been on fire recently. While the rest of CE industry has followed the downward trajectory of the global economy, gaming has bucked the trend fueled by the rise of the staycation and the Wii’s popularity with casual gamers. Secondly, while music has been disrupted by broadband and video is in the process of being disrupted, gaming had largely escaped unscathed because of the processing power required to render the amazing graphics now available on consoles like the PS3 and Xbox 360.Personally I always thought the gaming industry was ripe for this type of disruption. It’s actually pretty amazing that the closed system approach that has dominated gaming for the past 30 years has persisted for so long. A large percentage of the people I know actually own multiple gaming systems and various game titles that only work on one of the systems. My hope had been that a service provider would jump at the chance to deliver these types of services to a set-top box, but it looks like Onlive got there first. Perhaps Onlive will prove the business case and the SPs will scale it to the mainstream.Onlive works with PCs and Macs. It also can be directly delivered to an HDTV. To play over big-screen HDTVs, a small microconsole unit (the size of a deck of cards) that connects to home broadband networks is used. Game controllers and headsets can connect to the microconsole using USB or wireless connections. They have been in stealth mode for 7 years largely because I suspect they needed datacenter and networking technology to catch-up with their business model. It also probably has to do with the fact that this probably isn’t very easy from a technical perspective. My hope is that the experience is comparable to a console. It has the potential to be another exciting example of how the network is delivering new types of visual networking experiences to consumers. Personally, I was motivated enough to sign up for their beta. Here’s hoping that I get picked and I can sell my Xbox and Wii on Ebay and reduce the clutter in my living room.