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On Live’s Micro Console: A Terrifying Step Into The Future

Last week we discussed the new gaming service Onlive.  It’s an innovative way to let players with low end computers run high end games.  Basically, Onlive lets you play games  by hosting them on a powerful server, which streams live video of the game back to your computer.  You can control the game without any lag using your own computer’s mouse and keyboard.  We briefly mentioned that a “Micro Console” was on the way from Onlive that would let you do the same thing, but with your TV  and a console-style control pad.  Today Onlive announced that the Micro Console will be released in two weeks. 

It’s coming out on December 2nd, with a price of $99 dollars.  This includes the Micro Console itself, plus a special wireless controller (Which looks a lot like  Sony’s Dualshock), and a voucher for a free game, or “Full Play Pass” as they call it, because Onlive doesn’t actually use physical disks. Or even download content to you.
The Micro Console is indeed “Micro”, smaller than the controller itself!  It has an HDMI port that connects to your TV, and an Ethernet port which connects it to the internet.  You can then play any of Onlive’s library of games by choosing to rent the game for about five dollars for a 3-day rental, with various pricing plans which go up to fifty dollars to have unlimited play with a new release.  The prices are competitive with what you’d pay at retail to buy most of these games.  Like most digital distributors, Onlive has the occasional sale as well. 

The library of games can be expected to increase, and they’re planning on offering a subscription plan that would let you rent games for unlimited play if you pay a monthly fee.  Details aren’t available on that yet, but expect something quite similar to Netflix.

I must admit that the old school gamer in me finds all of this a bit frightening.  I have a mountain of CDs, DVDs, game disks, and a library full of books printed on actual paper.  Slowly these medium were replaced by the digital era, with my CD’s becoming MP3’s, by DVDs becoming avi files, books turning into PDFs, and my games increasingly being downloaded right into my hard drive.

First the industry did away with physical disks that I can resell, now I’m not even getting a digital copy on my own hard drive.  This is what concerns me the most with Onlive, if the company goes under at some point in the future, what happens to the games players bought?

Perhaps I’m just being an old man, clinging to my Dreamcast, and fighting the relentless march of innovation.  But, when you combine the sort of service Onlive offers with the new wave of controller-less gaming like the XBox Kinect, and I wonder if the gaming room of the future will be an empty cube.

Regardless of my personal fear of change, the On Live Micro Console certainly seems like a good deal at $99 dollars plus a free game, so Player Affinity will have a full review of it in the coming weeks.


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