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“Universal Console”. These two words have been thrown around for quite some time. In 2007, Silicon Knights president Denis Dyak gave a presentation at Game Convention entitled A One Console Future. Eat, Sleep, Play, Inc. co-founder David Jaffe has also put out the call for a “single standard” platform in his blog Criminal Crackdown.

The concept is gaining reinvigorated press today with an interview between CVG and David Reeves, Capcom COO. Reeves views the universal console, or ‘console agnosticism’, as something close to inevitable, and predicts that it will happen in the next 10 to 15 years. Gamers may not have to wait that long — OnLive is definitely throwing its hat in the ring as the console-to-end-all-other-consoles with the December 2 release of its $99 OnLive game system, touting that you can “[p]lay games instantly” with “[n]o high-end hardware required” and “[n]o patching or upgrading” needed.

When all is said and done, the OnLive game system may be more than that.

Can you imagine a console-less future? While OnLive is definitely not that (one does need what they call a MicroConsole), it is a step in that direction. Straight from its press release Thursday, OnLive takes a jab at the console concept: “[t]he sleek, pocket-sized OnLive MicroConsole TV adapter, backed by high-performance Internet-based (cloud) game servers, delivers an unprecedented gaming experience, launching top-tier games in seconds instead of the minutes they take to start on high-end consoles or PCs.”

The first step is to see OnLive as a bridge between console and PC/Mac gaming. It still allows you to play games the “console way” via a controller and TV, but it also caters to the PC and Mac crowd through its browser version. OnLive also gives the internet a larger role in the gameplay experience similar to another service that is PC and Mac exclusive.

Dare I say OnLive is the next progression after Steam? While some gamers may revolt at that statement, here is the credence and a short explanation for gamers unfamiliar with Valve‘s product — Steam is an online based system that allows you to purchase games like Call of Duty: Black Ops and Fallout: New Vegas and play them on your PC or Mac without a disc. You will be able to do this with OnLive’s browser version come December; but unlike Steam, you don’t have to download software to do so.

So, how did we get to PC and Mac gaming from the universal console issue? It’s that other pesky issue that no one is talking about, that no-console issue. In the CVG interview, Reeves noted that it takes millions upon millions of dollars to develop a new console. In the near future, Microsoft and Sony will most likely find it too expensive to continue console development in competition with one another. A universal console may be the answer, of course. More than the universal console, however, OnLive arguably gives way to another solution through digital distribution.

Regardless of whether OnLive is a hit, it has definitely introduced new technology into the market with its MicroConsole small enough to fit in your pocket. According to NPD, digital distribution is already a proven success making up $2.6 billion of the approximately $9 billion video game industry. What need is there for consoles when you can play the same games through the internet?

Imagine instead HDTVs (or 3DHDTVs if you like) that come complete with two controllers, and a universal gaming system built in. If OnLive can develop gaming hardware that small, most likely someone can find a way to put it into a TV. And if you’re not a console fan to begin with, you can always enjoy gaming on your PC or Mac as you always have. All of this without a console.

What do you think of the OnLive service? Are you on board with a universal gaming console, or do you like the choice that consoles bring? Where do you stand on the no console issue? Let us know by posting a comment below!

*All discussion about the future beyond cited source is the conjecture of the Gamer Limit author and is supplement to the news of the article.

  1. avatar Ant2206

    This is a genius idea. A whole system for the price of two controllers. Access to Steam, which has the most spectacularly cheap games around. And I’m guessing access to sites like GOG as well. It sticks everyone on an even playing field too, so when it comes to multiplayer skill is all that matters. Why wouldn’t you drop a spare US$99?

  2. Indeed …

    Well, I downloaded the PC browser version — it is up and running as we speak with a wifi beta — and all I can say is it works. I was wary about the system being able to transfer so much data (and video quality) seamlessly. Ultimately, I was extremely surprised.

    Now, just to play devils advocate here: the system OnLive has set up is cloud based. That means the $$$ you drop down on a game goes to access only, not ownership. The bigger question you must ask yourself is, are you willing to risk that much cash on a product OnLive can deny any time it wants?

    It’s going to the extreme, saying that OnLive will remove a game from its cloud host, but the user agreement definitely allows for that. Are you willing for a no-console future that replaces our ownership of the physical disc with access only?

  3. FYI, the PC browser version requires Windows 95 or better. Imagine that. Play Borderlands in great video quality on a Windows 95 PC!

  4. avatar max

    im a fan of multiple consoles more competition better games

  5. I am not sure Onlive will succeed but I have to be honest with a price tag of only 99 bucks it is extremely tempting to throw down and play with it. So far everything I read about it latency wise etc is also very positive, and I know one of their main servers is actually smack in the middle of the state I live in.

    Going to have to put serious thought on it.

  6. OnLive will never replace console gaming all together until the day that high speed internet connections are available everywhere. In the town I am currently living in there is only one broadband service available and with the $45 a month plan (not including home phone charges which is expensive through this company since the broadband is dsl) actual downloads max out at 200 kb/s. Some areas out here have no broadband options other than satelite access which charges for your upload and download usage. The amount of data needed for this service will break budgets on the first day of use. Will OnLive succeed maybe, but will it replace console gaming? No.

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