OnLive: Gaming in the Cloud

Cloud computing is the “in thing” at the moment. Thin clients accessing services on servers that enable you to access your work anywhere. Cloud gaming hasn’t had as much hype as the rest of the cloud scene, but I reckon that’s all about to change.

OnLive is, quite simply, amazing. It’s a cloud gaming service, running games on servers in state of the art data centres. A thin client on your local computer relays control information to the data centre, and the resulting video output to your desktop. This is all done over the Internet at, according to the OnLife website, “blindingly fast speeds”. Since all the heavy computational stuff is handled by the data centre, all your computer has to be able to do is display the graphics and maintain a fast Internet¬†connection¬†(3mbps minimum, 5mbps recommended).

So, don’t have a 3D graphics card? Me neither – my laptop isn’t exactly a gaming powerhouse. Despite that, I’m able to play some of the latest 3D games via the OnLive client.

OnLive is not officially available in the UK yet, but it’s still possible to sign up and play. There’s even a PlayPack beta that will give you access to just over twenty games ranging from Unreal Tournament III to Lego Batman to World of Goo. The only downside is that the controls are a bit sluggish, making it hard to aim accurately in some of the First-Person Shooters, but I’m willing to put that down to the fact that I’m connecting to a data centre across the Atlantic. Hopefully the UK release, with its Welsh data centre, will alleviate that. And when will that be? Well, OnLive themselves haven’t given any dates, but a number of news sites are indicating a late-2011 launch.

If you’re not in the mood for actual playing, you can watch others play in the Arena, or watch Brag Clips, short videos users have recorded to show off their finest moments. Think of it as game TV, without the commentary or commercial breaks.

OnLive is a fascinating technology, and a real leap forward in terms of cloud gaming. I mean, I remember playing MUDs as a child and teenager but this is something altogether different. It lets you play games your computer has no hope of running on its own, and the concept of buying a game without having to download it is very clever. I’m very much looking forward to seeing this officially launched in the UK, whenever that happens.

If you want to try OnLive out, head on over to, sign up and download the client. Let us know what you think in the comments. And if you’re already a US user, why not tell us what the service is like when you’re in its home country?

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