With services like Gaikai and OnLive proving to gamers that high-quality gaming doesn't require an expensive PC or a dedicated console -- that these games don't even need to be installed locally on a hard disk -- it leads us to wonder if Nintendo's Wii U console should be the last dedicated platform. After all, it's not much of an improvement over the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on a graphical front.
Steve Perlman, CEO of OnLive, believes that the console form-factor that we've come to know and love over the years will soon be a thing of the past. "In my view, there probably will not be another high-end console," he told EDGE. "We don't know of any in the works, the developers have not received any prototypes and the Wii U is not that, it's a different kind of thing. I think that this (OnLive) is the next console."
But let's play devil's advocate here for a second. OnLive is an awesome service, there's no discounting that, especially for those who have a decent broadband connection and can't go out and purchase a desktop or laptop dedicated to PC gaming. But as we're currently experiencing with many PC games that require an Internet connection to actually work, this model isn't ideal. In fact, it sucks. Consumers really don't want to dump $40 to $60 into software they can't use offline. Unless it's StarCraft 2 or Diablo 3, of course.
Nevertheless, that's where the industry is heading. While OnLive provides excellent graphics, it's not on par with what high-end gaming rigs can spit out. The hardware behind the server-based rendering for churning out top-of-the-line it-can-play-Crysis graphics is there -- the broadband speeds required to push that kind of data across the nation's Internet highways is not.
"We'll start doing 4k resolution games," he claims. "We can do it in the lab [now], 4096 x 2048 in full 3D - that's the type of resolution Avatar would be projected in a theater. We can make that work...developers can go and do what they've been wanting to and go crazy with the kind of realism that can be achieved."
Wednesday saw the official launch of OnLive in the UK. The company also released a list of games that will be coming soon to the service including Batman: Arkham City, Bulletstorm, Call of Juarez: The Cartel, Driver: San Francisco, the original Fallout RPG, Might & Magic: Heroes IV, Orcs Must Die, Red Orchestra 2: Heroes of Stalingrad, Trine 2, and twenty other titles. New games already on the roster include Duke Nukem Forever, FEAR 3, Red Faction Armageddon, Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine and many others.
Technically speaking, OnLive could already be considered as the next-generation console, as the Nintendo DS-sized receiver connects to any HDMI-equipped HDTV. The device provides two USB ports on the front for connecting a mouse, keyboard or the included wireless gamepad (charges via USB), and the back merely plays host to the power, HDMI and Ethernet ports. According to the company, it plans to release a server-side web browser soon and eventually a full-blown video service. That said, the days of dedicated console hardware should end with the release of Nintendo's Wii U.