Gamers who preorder the upcoming THQ shooter Homefront from OnLive will be offered a free OnLive Game System on the day the game launches.

When buying a game console, it’s not unusual to be given a free game as part of the purchase. It’s a little less common, however, to buy a game and be given a free console, yet that, with a catch or two and a bit of fine print, is the deal OnLive has put on the table: buy Homefront, get a (mostly) free OnLive MicroConsole.

Yes, “mostly.” OnLive will eat the regular $99 cost of the console but you, the purchaser, will still have to cover the cost of shipping plus any applicable taxes. On the upside, you’ll also get a free Full PlayPass for Metro 2033, last year’s post-apocalyptic Russian shooter, to keep you busy while you wait for Homefront to show up.

And how can OnLive afford to give away its consoles? To be blunt, it’s not exactly handing out PS3s here; the $99 cost of the MicroConsole isn’t that much more than the regular retail price of a major game release, a relative bargain if it brings in new sign-ups to the service, where the real money is made. What’s really interesting is the fact that it represents a tentative first step toward a fully service-oriented approach to gaming, similar to the mobile phone market, in which the hardware is heavily subsidized and almost irrelevant.

As usual, the other usual suspect limitations apply. Offer is only available to U.S. customers and supplies are limited. OnLive’s Homefront console giveaway offer is on now and runs until March 14. Full details can be found at

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