What if you could stream games, any game, over a decent broadband connection to your PC or Atom-based netbook at the same quality as the PS3? Would you walk away from your beloved console? That's the of hope of Palo Alto-based OnLive. But this is much more than empty rhetoric -- OnLive's been dropping jaws of the press who've seen it working this week. GameDaily dubbed the play "fantastic" after seeing Crysis streamed "smooth" off a server to a plain ol' MacBook laptop. See, OnLive claims to have perfected the interactive video compression technique so that latency is low enough to support on-line multi-player setups. Broadband connections of 1.5Mbps (71% of US homes have 2Mbps or greater) dials the image quality down to Wii levels while 4-5Mbps pipes are required for HD resolution. At the moment, OnLive is showing 16 high-end titles at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco and expects to be able to release new games within the same window as traditional retail launches. The games can be played on "any PC (Windows XP or Vista) or Mac" without the heavy cash-burden of a high-end graphics card, fast disk, quad-core proc, and truck-load of memory. Otherwise, OnLive plans to release what it calls a MicroConsole with Bluetooth (for voice chat) and optical audio-out that can be connected to your HDTV over HDMI -- pricing has not been announced but it will cost less than a $250 Wii. There's a community element too, of course, with OnLive reps boasting about it operating on an "unprecedented scale." This includes the ability to join live games at any point, the creation of "brag clips" that saves the last 10 seconds of game play for sharing, as well as leaderboards, rankings, and the rest. And if you think publishers will never buy in to the model, think again: Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, THQ, Epic Games, Eidos, Atari Interactive and Codemasters are already on-board. Expect OnLive to launch this Winter with monthly subscriptions available in "a variety of different pricing packages and tiers, competitively priced to retail." Damn.

Update: GameDaily's quote of 1-ms latency is in reference to encoding/decoding video, not Internet delay, obviously. Added a few more pics including one of the MicroConsole to the gallery.
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OnLive killed the game console star?

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[Via FT and Venture Beat]

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