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OnLive: "Do we need boxes anymore?"

Executive producer predicts end of consoles and talks of 300-person multiplayer for cloud gaming

OnLive's executive producer Tom Dubois has predicted the death of home consoles, believing that cloud gaming will ultimately replace them.

"It's been a long time since a major console shipped," he told GamesIndustry.biz. "They're all kind of refreshing now, with Kinect and Move and so on. But what are they going to do next?

"We're gonna get another box, but after that, do we need boxes anymore? The bandwidth at homes is gonna be there, the cost of computing continue to decrease..."

Explaining that OnLive's forthcoming Microconsole was fundamentally little more than a video decoder in a small box, he felt that such technology would eventually be built into televisions. "The TV and some sort of controller, and you're good to go."

The producer also disputed claims that most broadband connections were not sufficent for OnLive ľ going on to demonstrate a prototype of the service on iPad.

While he would not be drawn on a release date, he confirmed that the service could run on 3G.

DuBois also predicted games built specifically for cloud services, rather than the streaming of titles designed with console hardware in mind.

"Game designers have been constrained by the platform and the hardware; if you think about a game designed for the cloud, it's a different exercise.

"You could design a game that ran on multiple servers, used tons of memory, could be 500-person multiplayer... The constraints are removed."

The full interview with Tom DuBois, in which he also discussed the public and industry perception of OnLive and whether there is truth to reports that the company is worth $1.1 billion, is available here.

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Latest comments (23)

Dave Turner Director, PRM London8 years ago
OnLive is all well and good at the moment (and believe me I hope you guys can get it to run as well as you say you can) but until I see some user feedback when it has 1 million + concurrent users, im staying firmly on the fence.
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3G? With my 3G connection, it takes ages to just connect to and load a webpage - I can't possibly imagine using it for anything latency sensitive.

As long as they have to ship *any* box, their argument diminishes substantially. Might as well pay a few more $, and get a slightly larger box - the Wii - with no ongoing costs.

And what about controllers? Surely these games are not played with a TV remote?
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Richard Leadbetter Director, Digital Foundry8 years ago
I saw Burnout Paradise running on OnLive on what I presume was a 3G connection on iPhone at GDC. Truly awful picture quality and very low frame-rate. That is not the future of games, though I expect that some iteration of the cloud will eventually become workable.
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Show all comments (23)
Martyn Brown Managing Director, Insight For Hire8 years ago
Fair to say that it's maybe the future, but probably not the present :-)
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Shanker Manokaran Product Developer, Razer8 years ago
it starts from dreams to sketches on paper before it starts to build into a sky scraper reaching for the skies...
Right now its in between the paper sketch and the building foundation of a sky scraper...
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Kevin Clark-Patterson Lecturer in Games Development, Lancaster and Morecambe College8 years ago
Great on paper or in theory but at present/near future I cant see it replacing boxed products (of the Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft variety).

Mainly due to only 70% of UK households have a broadband connection with increasing demand on networks and current fair usage limits being the main limiting factors...not to mention subscription charges for what is essentially a rental not ownership
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Tomas Lidstr÷m Lighting Artist, Rebellion8 years ago
Shanker, well put. Everything starts somewhere and I, for one, am very interested to see this evolve.
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Jim Webb Executive Editor/Community Director, E-mpire Ltd. Co.8 years ago
We'll see at the minimum 2 more console cycles (long cycles such as this one) before clouds take over. Clouds depend on a consistently high bandwidth and that's just not going to happen for a very large portion of people any time soon. Alienating that many people by an industry that has catered to them for over 30 years is never a good idea.
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Tameem Antoniades Creative Director & Co-founder, Ninja Theory Ltd8 years ago
I agree that it is the future. However, hardware power is still on a steep logarithmic curve while bandwidth is on a linear one.

So hardware will still be making huge gains while getting cheaper while bandwidth continues to struggle with video for a long time. So I see more of a hybrid future where core functionality is performed locally (GPU rendering, core game logic, input processsing etc) while the cloud provides asset streaming, persistent world data and intensive game-world CPU processing.

But someone's gotta push the technology forward and hope that OnLive does just that.
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Justin Alderman News Editor, Brutal Gamer8 years ago
Personally, I like having the competition between different platforms. Once everything goes to one common system I fear that hardware innovations will go out the window.

Plus, and maybe it's just because I'm old and set in my ways, but I like being able to hold my games in my hands and line them up on the shelf.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Justin Alderman on 8th September 2010 3:07pm

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Andrew Clayton QA Weapons Tester, Electronic Arts8 years ago
I don't seriously see cloud gaming ever taking root. Even in the future when internet speeds increase and technology improves, the demand for bigger, better, and more complex games will increase as well. Games would have to stagnate before we could even think about having full quality streamed live over the internet.

My university's internet is pretty freakin' fast and even that couldn't handle cloud computing without some sort of lag. If I'm going to end up paying hundreds of dollars a year just to play games, I'm going to want to play them on a system that can handle them at as close to perfect as possible. OnLive never could and never will be able to do that.
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David Spender Lead Programmer 8 years ago
@Andrew I feel the same way. Even if someone introduced a revolutionary compression algorithm tomorrow, there would still be latency to deal with. If you don't control every hop, how can you guarantee sufficient latency for HD gaming?
I don't think that the day will never come, I just think that its way further off than Onlive is spinning it to be.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by David Spender on 8th September 2010 4:10pm

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Josef Brett Animator 8 years ago
"Do we need boxes anymore?"

Yes. Yes, we do.
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Kevin Clark-Patterson Lecturer in Games Development, Lancaster and Morecambe College8 years ago
"Do we need boxes anymore?"

Yes please!
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Georges Paz Programmer, technical director and CEO, Psychoz Interactive8 years ago
"Computers are getting cheaper" sure, i can now play Crysis with my laptop! :D
I can play any kind of game. I can even rent for a week (download them) and play locally without any internet conection. Cloud gaming is nothing more than a waist of time, sorry.
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Jeff Lindsey Senior Producer, Arkadium8 years ago
@Andrew
"bigger, better, and more complex games will increase as well. Games would have to stagnate before we could even think about having full quality streamed live over the internet. "

Seems to imply that games will need to get bigger and more complex to "get better" or remain desirable to players. While I think that is the case very short-term, for something a bit bleeding-edge like cloud gaming, I don't think the current trend of more fidelity/FMV/depth will continue to the point of preventing cloud gaming in the long-term. The whole point of cloud gaming is to make it significantly more accessible in a typical home (and then shared with your mobile devices), which I think will naturally erode that trend.
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Konstantin Weckerle Games/Level Designers 8 years ago
@Jeff Lindsey
Onlive works like that:
All calculations of the game, including rendering, are performed in realtime on the serverfarm, then the rendered frames are encoded(compressed) in realtime and send to the client as a Videostream. The frames of the game are rendered dependent of the state of the user input that the server knows about at a given moment. So except for the realtime encoding theres nothing special here, just a hd videostream. The client decodes the videostream and sends the decoded frame to a display device. The client also takes the input of the user and sends it to the server. Thats all. Whats important is how much time is needed for input data to reach the server, how long it takes the serverfarm to calculate and encode a new frame as a reaction to the input and how long it takes the frame to reach the user. So complexity of the software and media(except for resolution) is independent of client, thats important thing here. And resolution is fixed to Full HD for long long time to come. Its all done on the servers. If you have a reliable low latency connection to the servers(roundtriptime

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Konstantin Weckerle on 8th September 2010 10:32pm

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Luke McCarthy Indie Game Developer 8 years ago
It's really a question of where you do the processing, locally or far away in some server farm. Local processing is superior in many ways: no complex network infrastructure needs to be maintained, no latency issues, higher quality video (no compression), no internet connection required. The only possible advantage is running advanced PC-level games on mobile devices and not requiring and expensive lump payment for hardware. But this will be obsolete in 5-10 years as mobile CPU/GPU SoCs are getting to the point where they can run very advanced games.

I think OnLive is a solution looking for a problem, just another way for publishers to screw the consumer.
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Robert Douglas Studying B.A in Game Art and Design, Art Institute of Pittsburgh8 years ago
@Luke McCarthy: "I think OnLive is a solution looking for a problem, just another way for publishers to screw the consumer."

I completely agree. While piracy is a big problem, and the tech behind this is pretty innovative; this is just another face of the big old DRM monster being implemented in another way. This is taking away the freedom and liberties of choice. Say I want to play a game right now, and I'm not online-- I simply turn on my current "box" and I'm playing. Onlive requires faith in that it will always stay on; what if some of their servers go down, my internet goes down, etc? What if a licensing deal goes sour? Then I can't play the game I wanted/bought because it was removed from the library overnight *cough* Kindle *cough*: [link url=http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/17/some-e-books-are-more-equal-than-others/
]http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/1...[/link]
That's not acceptable. With the sheer revenue power of the current competition, there's no way that one more console cycle will be it, and then Sony/Big N/MSFT (with their independent IPs), will walk hand in hand to the house of Onlive. This technology will be disseminated into future products that the big 3 might pay to license the patents for their own cloud products several gens from now, but by no means is Onlive the "future."
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Private Industry 8 years ago
Replacing the hardware limitations with the limitations of bandwidth isn`t a good solution and the Digital Foundry article showed very well that OnLive does not work the way many people where hoping for when it comes to video quality. I think services like OnLive could be good, but for PC gaming where people don`t want to upgrade the PC`s frequently. For the console market I don`t see why any of the companies would want to stop making consoles and switch to OnLive and people can say what they want, but if OnLive and similar services would be only thing evolution of gaming would be halted. As it is now companies try to push gaming further for several reasons and one is of course money, so why would they do this if the cloud gaming companies buy hardware like new CPUs, Graphic Cards and so on. Not only would cut this into the profit of Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo but also AMD, Intel and Nvidia. Besides I think the internet speed develops slower at the moment compared to the amount of power and data games need at the moment. Don`t really have that much knowledge of cloud services, but I would assume the more complex from the graphical point of view as well as gameplay point of view a game is the more internet bandwidth is required. So streaming PacMan should not be any problem at all to remain the original quality while running something like Uncharted 2 would come with great sacrifices? And I don`t think the internet speed progresses as fast as the progress from one console generation to the next one. If I`m wrong in that way feel free to correct me.

The OnLive executive producer can predict what he wants, but how does he think the console manufacture companies would give up? As long as they don`t sign a contract the first and second party games will not be on OnLive and as for third party, well let`s say I`m sure Sony, MS and Nintendo have a lot more money compared to OnLive to keep the third parties to support the consoles if it would really come to it. 99% of the third party games come out on PC anyway and I can`t see them to switch and support services like OnLive only. The only thing that could happen is that each of the 3 companies produce their own cloud gaming service, but they will never give up on consoles and sign with a service like OnLive as long as they make even a slight amount of profit. Anyway better to have 2-3 companies battle to be the best and pushing each other further than having a cloud service.

I would really like OnLive to work as designed since I mainly use laptop and don`t want to upgrade PC and still enjoy the great PC games that often have high system requirements, but I would never go for a streaming service instead of a proper console that I buy every 5-7 years as long as the first and second party support is there. Of course I would really like to have data stored via cloud services like my save games, with the possibility of hardware failing it`s always nice to know all you data is stored online. :)

By the way MAG already has 256 players online and for the 500 multiplayer using several servers... ehm any MMO that is currently available? ;)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Private on 9th September 2010 4:31am

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Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany8 years ago
I still know a lot of people (me included) that although they love DLC they prefer the physical game instead of a downloadable version. Gives you the feel that you actually own it.

The diea is good, but not sure about the perception of the final users. Keeping marketing appart, be the PSPGo a example of this.
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Martyn Hughes Managing Director, Staggan Interactive Ltd8 years ago
I think others have made many valid points, but for us, already running an online fast twitch mmo game.. introducing additional latency is not going to work..

Our game deals with latency extremely well, but adding XXms to every frame will effectively slow a players response in a game to the point where they will lose the feeling of being really connected to the game and ruin the experience for them... without even taking into account the drop in visual quality depending on connections.. and Onlive can do nothing about this, it is purely an issue of physical distance from players to servers...
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Marty Greenwell Software Developer 8 years ago
"do we need boxes anymore?"

Answer: Yes - I like owning stuff.
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