Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On-demand video games will even work with slow PCs and TVs

A technology company owned by veteran entrepreneur Steve Perlman is starting a new on-demand service that it says will let users play fast-action games without having to buy game consoles or high-end PCs.

Rearden LLC said it has developed technology that allows advanced games to be run remotely on servers and played over the Internet. The technology can quickly compress and decompress large amounts of data for transmission over standard home broadband networks, helping entry-level personal computers and specially equipped televisions play the sophisticated software.

The technology is being applied first to a new video game service that is expected to launch in late 2009. The service, operated by a new company called OnLive Inc., says it has signed up nine software publishers -- including Electronic Arts, Take-Two Interactive Software and THQ -- which have agreed to offer their newest game titles through the service.

Game software now runs on PCs and game consoles, which have special graphics circuitry to create fast action and realistic settings. But games on OnLive will be run on high-end servers hosted by the company, Perlman said, so they can be played on home systems without much computational power.

Though video services like YouTube already allow users to access content that is stored elsewhere, OnLive says services that allow graphics-rich fast-action games to be played from a central server remotely are not currently possible -- in large part because current technology can't provide the instantaneous two-way response time they require. Perlman said his company has worked seven years on that problem, and has solved it.

"For the first time, you can get any game, any time, anywhere," said Perlman in an interview, where he demonstrated the technology with the game Crysis, published by EA. "Getting the latest games won't mean getting the latest PC or console."

For consumers, the advantage would be that they could play advanced games without having to buy consoles such as PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or a computer with a powerful graphics chip. Televisions are expected be able to access the service by connecting to a small Internet-capable device dubbed the OnLive MicroConsole.

Publishers could benefit because they would be spared the cost of distributing physical software and it could eliminate software piracy since users would access rather than own the games. It could also cut down on used game sales for the same reason.

Perlman is best known for the set-top box company WebTV Networks, which was acquired by Microsoft in the 1990s. He started Rearden with a small team of engineers.

Two years ago, the firm developed technology that can create digital reproductions of the human body that are as accurate as photographs. That technology was used in the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" about a man who ages in reverse.

Perlman declined to comment on specifics about the service such as pricing. Some of the features of the service include an ability for many people to remotely watch somebody else play a game. Players can also hit a button to record the last 15 seconds of game-play, so they can record memorable moments to share with friends. (info from The Wall Street Journal)

No comments: