OnLive Will Make a Hardcore Gaming Machine Out of Your MacBook

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The Game Developers Conference for 2009 is just underway, and already there’s some big news which has particular relevance for that rare and frustrated breed, the Mac gamer.

I’m a Mac gamer myself, and have pretty much given up the OS X side of things and just decided to do all my gaming in a Windows Boot Camp partition. My days of option-booting may be drawing to a close, however, thanks to a new venture that could make gaming a lot more democratic, much to the dismay of hardware manufacturers.

The service in question is called OnLive, and it will basically offer game streaming to whatever machine you happen to have. You can either get it via a very small set-top unit that attaches directly to your TV, or through a desktop software client. That’s when the magic happens. OnLive uses server farms to do all of the heavy lifting for your computer, so that your resources aren’t important. That means my Eee PC can handle Crysis, though I would never actually use that tiny machine for gaming. More importantly, my MacBook and my Mac mini can both handle Crysis without breaking a sweat. Which means I’m belatedly glad that I didn’t spring for that MacBook Pro or Mac Pro desktop.

I can hear your concerns, because mine were the same. This sounds too good to be true, right? Won’t it suffer by being only a marginal company, lacking support? No and no. Kotaku and Time have both actually tried out OnLive, and found it far from lacking. In fact, both reported impressive results. Apparently, OnLive avoids lag using patented video compression and compensation algorithms that result in a very smooth, extremely playable gaming experience, despite the fact that it’s actually content streaming from the cloud.

And do they have support? Oh boy, do they. Check out this quote from Kotaku’s coverage:

The best part? It already has serious buy-in from major publishers, including EA, THQ, Codemasters, Ubisoft, Atari, Warner Bros., Take-Two, and Epic Games. Oh, and 2D Boy.

So publishers are behind it, but considering the threat it represents to both console (the set-top peripheral costs less than a Wii) and PC gaming manufacturers, you can bet that a lot of hardware folks will be dead set against it. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of defense they can mount.

OnLive is set to launch late in the year, with an external beta planned for summer. It’ll probably be a subscription-based service when it does launch, so some might object to not actually owning any games, but considering the rate at which I grow bored of most, it seems like the perfect set up for me. I see a future where I’m playing Mass Effect 2 on the highest graphics setting without so much as a hiccup on my Mac mini. Please help make this a dream come true, OnLive.

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