SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) — Californian technology firm OnLive is poised to launch a service that streams videogames over the Internet, meaning players can avoid buying expensive consoles or packaged software.
OnLive ended seven years of "stealth" development late Tuesday by announcing the system should launch in the United States by the end of the year.
The firm is building a library of videogame software on servers that players reach over broadband Internet by using mini-programs in home computers or OnLive MicroConsoles connected to television sets.
"We've cleared the last remaining hurdle for the videogames industry: effective online distribution," said OnLive founder and chief executive Steve Perlman.
"By putting the value back into the games themselves and removing the reliance on expensive, short-lived hardware, we are dramatically shifting the economics of the industry."
Major videogame makers Ubisoft, Atari, Warner Brothers, and Electronic Arts are among the studios providing PC versions of hot titles for the OnLive service previewed at a major Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco.
"We will launch in the United States and move into other countries as fast as we can," OnLive engineer Ronn Brashear said as Carlos Lievano played Ubisoft's 'Prince of Persia' at GDC Wednesday using a MicroConsole.
Lievano, a graduate student from Columbia who is studying for a Masters degree in business at a California university, said OnLive promises to be a hit in developing countries.
"This will be huge for the distribution of videogames," Lievano said. "People that don't have the money for expensive equipment just have to get Internet service set up and can play any game they want."
The videogame world is currently dominated by consoles made by Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo.
Nintendo's popular Wii is priced at 250 dollars while beefier Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 consoles carry higher price tags.
Comparable in size to decks of cards, MicroConsole devices will be provided free with videogame services that let people pay monthly subscriptions to play online.
Pricing of subscriptions has yet to be finalized.
Graphics of game play are streamed to players while the interactive software remains secure on OnLive computers, eliminating piracy concerns, Brashear said.
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