The OnLive MicroConsole doesn't take up a lot of shelf space, but still allows you to play many games from larger first-party consoles.
Cloud gaming service OnLive has been available on the PC and Mac for months, and now it can be played on your television too. OnLive has revealed the details of its new MicroConsole, a box that allows users to sit on the couch and play OnLive games through an included controller just like they would with an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3.
If you haven't heard of OnLive yet, it basically streams games through the internet, even on low-end computers that wouldn't be able to handle them otherwise. My impression of it is here, and since then OnLive dropped its monthly fee so all you have to pay for are game rentals or purchases. If you want to play OnLive games on your television, you'll have to buy the new MicroConsole too, which is now available for pre-order here and currently costs $99.99 with a limited-time holiday promotion throwing in a $49.99 game for free. The MicroConsole will ship on December 2, 2010.
The bundle includes the OnLive controller, an HDMI cable, and Ethernet cable. The console itself is around the size of a Nintendo DSi, so it requires significantly less room than current generation consoles. It has two USB ports in the front, which for now are used to plug in the OnLive controller when using the $19.99 rechargeable battery pack and recharge cable. The MicroConsole's back houses an HDMI port, Ethernet port, and optical audio out. OnLive is catering to the HD audience, so if your television doesn't have an HDMI port a component video adapter kit is available for $29.99.
The wireless OnLive controller feels just like an Xbox 360 controller, with nearly identical button placement, but the dual analog stick and D-pad positions of a PlayStation 3 controller. Using it to play OnLive games such as Borderlands feels just like it does on other systems, though it does also have non-intrusive buttons so that gameplay clips can be recorded.
OnLive has 35 titles available, but it plans to go above 50 by the end of 2010 and says 100 more are in the pipeline. The offerings currently include games you would find on consoles and PCs like Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assassin's Creed II, and Darksiders, so if you browse OnLive's selection and see plenty of games you want, the MicroConsole might be a good way to save a few hundred dollars and some shelf space. My advice is to check out OnLive on the PC, and see if you'd want it on your TV. Just make sure you understand that you only own these games while using OnLive as long as it is running.
OnLive also announced a future flat-rate, monthly price it intends to implement that will give users access to extra content that includes "back-catalog, indie, and classic games." These will be new games not currently available on the service, but the flat-rate won't include new releases which will still retain their a la carte pricing.
The OnLive MicroConsole works perfectly, but it's a tough machine for me to judge as someone that will always want Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo's consoles. On one hand, spending $99.99 could potentially net you a console that you use for various third-party games until the end of time, as you'll pretty much never need an upgrade thanks to OnLive's method of operation. On the other hand, you miss out on first-party titles and exclusive content like that found on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, and the first-party consoles currently provide access to the same games for a similar price at release.
OnLive itself has said that the service isn't for hardcore gamers that need the latest console and PC upgrades. Will it be able to reach the people that would feel more comfortable just buying one small box that mimics the plug-and-play TV game systems, albeit with individual purchases? OnLive and its MicroConsole have a lot of neat features, such as being able to continue a game played through the TV on a PC, but it has its disadvantages too, such as relying on the internet to be able to play. As OnLive increases its gaming offerings, and perhaps implements advantageous pricing, it'll become a more attractive deal, but it's still something with both pros and cons that need to be weighed. As a gaming service available on both the computer and in the living room, OnLive is at least breaking new ground and trying to see if there's a market for it.