What if OnLive Came to the iPhone?

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OnLive made a lot of noise when it first appeared on the scene way back in March at the Game Developer’s Conference of 2009. It’s a service that’s said to be able to make a gaming machine out of any computer that can run the latest browsers, which would effectively end the madness that is PC gaming hardware upgrades. And now, it looks like it might be able to work on the iPhone, too.

What OnLive does is bypass the normal hardware barriers involved in PC gaming by streaming the game live to a user’s browser window from a server farm located nearby. The server farm deals with the game’s performance demands, and all the end user needs is a good enough connection to stream the content smoothly.

It’s a setup that sounds too good to be true, and many remain skeptical about whether or not OnLive will be able to deliver what it has promised. There was supposed to be an external beta this past summer, but that’s been delayed, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Still, if the service works, it will revolutionize the way gaming is done. The system has strong support from game publishers, which makes sense because without the hardware barriers, they stand to broaden their audience considerably. If that audience were to also include iPhone users, you can imagine that even more game companies would fall in line behind OnLive.

The company recently demoed an iPhone app that allows users to play full games alongside users of the PC OnLive service, or players using the company’s MicroConsole, a standalone device which connects to a display or TV — yes, even without the modern convenience of buttons, joysticks and bumpers. Presumably, onscreen controls allow you to manipulate the in-game action, although a report at Engadget Mobile doesn’t go into detail about how exactly it works, nor does a blog post at OnLive. Needless to say, your PC gaming friend will probably be able to school you at Modern Warfare 2 unless you’re some kind of touch control prodigy.

When the app does see release, which won’t be for a while, OnLive CEO Steve Perlman says it won’t allow you to game right away. Initial versions will allow you to monitor gaming stats and spectate, so you can watch live gameplay without taking part. Interactivity is planned down the road, but control kinks and other issues have to be addressed before it goes live to the masses.

What do you think? Would you take advantage of full-version gaming on your iPhone if you had the ability to? I foresee a very limited catalog of titles that this sort of thing would work with, but if it does become a reality, and it becomes popular, developers might design custom gaming experiences for people who access games via OnLive on their iPhones.

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