Imagine rather than owning and having to update the latest generation of xbox or playstation, that you had a small miniconsole, little larger than a router or a digital TV descrambler. This little machine connects to powerful servers belonging to the game companies and you play directly on their massive mainframes, with the highest quality graphics and most powerful rendering that all that hardware can provide. No more polygon limits, no more outdated graphics, no more upgrading to keep up with the curve. It’s all done remotely and all you need is the box, a game controller and (There’s the rub!) a sufficiently fast internet connection that can stream all that goodness on to your monitor or TV. No more patches and the promise of seamlessly updated and improved content too.
The advantages are obvious, and not so obvious ones also come to mind, such as portability (With good wifi and a small screen there’s nowhere you couldn’t be playing latest generation games). Also from the point of view of the companies, such a delivery system would deal a killing blow to game piracy, since to play you’d need to be able to log in, much like most multiplayer games manage to avoid piracy, this is harder than just making a copy of media. It also secures game assets such as 3d models and artwork behind the streaming barrier, no source content is put in the hands of the players to mod or exploit.
In that way, it could be a rebirth or a shot in the arm to amateur or small game producers if the big companies abandon the messy “total delivery” market leaving it in the hands of those who just aren’t that afraid of having their content circulate a little.
A final thought, just like there are pirate servers running various hacked versions of MMORPGs, you may live to see bootleg game servers running these games from alternate locations, after all computing power keeps getting cheaper and today’s super cutting edge cloud rendering array is tomorrow’s consumer level PC. But chances are the big companies with deep pockets will always have an edge in that area.
All in all, we live in interesting times!
Check out onlive, there is an open beta announced starting in the summer (for US citizens only)