OnLive Readying Subscription-Free Cloud Gaming

BOOM widget 95481Though online game streaming service OnLive will initially only be available to those willing to pay a monthly subscription of $14.95, the company has revealed plans to launch a subscription-free service--dubbed OnLive Game Portal--before the year's end.

As OnLive CEO Steve Perlman explains:

The OnLive Game Portal is for gamers looking for direct access to OnLive games without being required to subscribe to the features of the full OnLive Game Service. Through the OnLive Game Portal, gamers will be able to play select games directly on a rental basis as well as game demos for free; subject to available OnLive service capacity and whatever usage limits are associated with each given demo. Rentals will be priced on a per-game basis. There is no service fee for the OnLive Game Portal.

OnLive will open its cloud-based game streaming service to PC and Mac subscribers in the continental United States on June 17. Somewhere between a dozen and twenty-five titles will be available on that day, though that monthly fee does not include the as-yet-undisclosed costs of renting or buying a game through the service.

Instead, that fee will cover various social networking features and functionality:

Included in your monthly service fee are OnLive-exclusive features such as instant-play free game demos; multiplayer across PC, Mac and TV platforms; massive spectating; viewing of Brag Clips video capture and posting; and cloud-saving of games you've purchased-pause, and instantly resume from anywhere, even on a different platform.

Also included in the monthly service fee are features you'd expect from standard online games services such as gamer tags, user profiles, friends, chat, but with a twist: everything is live video. You'll be friending through multiplay, Spectating, Brag Clips, or by flipping through video profiles of friends of friends of friends. OnLive is delivering the first instant video-based social network.

OnLive and other offerings like Gakai and OTOY represent cloud-based services that see game data processed externally by a remote server. The visuals are then streamed to players through a web browser plug-in, with their control inputs then piped back to the server. Users of such services can play anything on offer, regardless of how powerful their computer is or isn't, so long as they have a decent enough net connection.