At GDC in 2009, OnLive was originally unveiled with an incredible amount of entirely reasonable skepticism. The prospect of a service that removed the high-end gaming console and/or PC from the equation and instead did all the heavy lifting in a remote datacenter before streaming your game in HD via the internet was difficult to imagine at the time. Hell, when you stop and think about it, it's still hard to imagine today.

It's here though, and after a quick signup you can be on your way to effortlessly streaming a (as of this writing) collection of 100 different PC and console games. In fact, if you're still at all skeptical about OnLive, I highly encourage you to give it a spin. You'll be inside of a game in less than five minutes, and you can see for yourself just how well it works. The only real requirement is an internet connection that allows you to ping under 80ms to the OnLive servers and enough bandwidth to receive a HD stream. If you've got that, you're good to go.

Currently, only the OnLive Viewer is available for the iPad, but in the not too distant future we'll be able to play the entire OnLive catalog on the iPad. Players will be able to choose between a less-than-ideal set of virtual controls, or purchasing a bluetooth controller to pair with the iPad. I got a chance to fiddle with both today, and while the on-screen controls are functional, the controller is definitely the way to go.

Check out how it all works in the following video:

The folks are OnLive aren't ready to commit to release dates, controller cost, and other details, but it's said to be coming "soon" and the controller is going to be "reasonably priced." Since the whole OnLive Micro Console currently sells for $99, and has been given away for free with a few pre-order promotions, I'd find it hard to believe that the iPad-friendly controller would cost any more than $50-- But that's pure speculation on my part.

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier today, it feels like this changes everything. I couldn't believe how well the whole setup worked, and with Apple's new HDMI adapter, plugging your iOS device into your TV via HDMI to play a game in HD resolutions streamed from the internet just feels like the future. The iOS OnLive client even has support for touch and gesture-based controls, it's just up for developers to build games around them.

What an incredible time to be alive.

  • Anonymous

    "The prospect of a service that removed the high-end gaming console and/or PC from the equation and instead did all the heavy lifting in a remote datacenter before streaming your game in HD via the internet was difficult to imagine at the time. Hell, when you stop and think about it, it's still hard to imagine today."

    I think the major source of skepticism was with regard to the unavoidable lag, not whether such a service was vapour. (Well, and the fact that you don't really own any of the games.)

    I mean, remote access software has been around, working over networks, practically forever. That it's possible is nothing new. That the lag is unobtrusive on games people actually play, in settings people actually play in, always seems completely glossed over in any article mentioning them. That does not make people less wary.

    • Eli Hodapp

      Are you talking about OnLive lag? I'm not sure I'm following. Here in LA on Time Warner I can play OnLive in HD and it's virtually identical to playing the same game on my local Xbox 360.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, I was talking about the lag in their system. I'm sure their controller's is negligible, but your iPad has to talk to their server, the server has to process your commands (also probably negligible), and send HD video back to you, and then if you're sending it to a TV there's that connection as well.

        There just always seems to be frighteningly little talk about this absolutely vital part of performance, especially as they relate to environments outside of trade shows.

        Thanks for clarifying that you haven't had any trouble personally in CA. I still have doubts about other parts of the country. I'm guessing you can't really play your games if you're on a hotel's wi-fi? Or visiting another country?

        It is impressive that things (apparently) work as well as they do, but I'm just saying that there are reasons (or at least perceived reasons) why not everyone is heralding OnLive as a gift to gaming.

        (Maybe outside the scope of this preview, but you still have to pay for the service plus rental or "purchase" fees for games, right? Can you play multiplayer with those not on the service?)

      • spiffyone

        Apparently you have to be within 1000 miles of OnLive's servers (they have several across the US).  As long as you're within that range of their servers the experience is apparently really good.  There's a bunch of reviews of the service on other sites, even video reviews on youtube.

        Also, it is best that you have the connection be ethernet for obvious reasons, but it seems that they solved some issues with WiFi connections if they have this up and running so well on iDevices.

      • Llarsen024

        Also works perfect for me over in CT... Streams at better graphics than my XBOX 360 had, with no lag whatsoever. 

      • Anonymous

        Onlive was potentially the future of cloud gaming until bandwidth caps kicked in. I thought it was great with how I could play NBA2k11 with my friend how has no desire to own a console or gaming pc in the near future and then I remembered how much data streaming can consume. 
        A quick google search shows that someone consumed 71 gigs from just playing Splinter cell a couple of days from beating it and the less extreme gamer can consume 85 gigs from playing games on a regular basis. My isp allows up to 250 gigs a month and that's shared with 3 other people in my house who stream youtube and also download games from steam. 

      • Eli Hodapp

        OnLive has contingency plans ready to roll out if bandwidth caps become more of an issue for American customers. 

      • Anonymous

        whoops I meant to say that those 85 gigs was consumed in 2 weeks from gaming  a couple hours a day and more on the weekends. As for contingency plans, the only thing I heard from the creator of Onlive was that in an interview from a school he unconfidently answer a question about bandwith caps and said that the average gamer consumes plays about 40 hours month and said that there maybe hire tiers you can subscribe to. That's something I have no desire to do if playing Onlive regularly is the only thing that's consuming most of my bandwidth.

      • Eli Hodapp

        From the talks I had with them at E3, it sounds like what they might be doing is rolling out even more OnLive points of presence. So for instance, they could have an OnLive server farm inside of Comcast's network. Bandwidth that doesn't leave Comcast's network is (essentially) free for them and shouldn't be taken into account with that cap. So they could basically offer unlimited OnLive as sort of a mutually symbiotic value-add for both OnLive and Comcast.

        Furthermore, AT&T is a major investor in OnLive, and it just seems silly to think that if U-Verse caps start becoming an issue for OnLive customers that they wouldn't do something about it.

      • Anonymous

        If the first part actually happens then that's great news but people also need to take into consideration that once they buy a game there, they own the rights to play the game until Onlive takes them down but the guarantee to keep the games up is usually at least 2 years(the exact dated is listed before you purchase the game int he info tab). I guess that's fine for people who play sports and racing games, but I don't expect to be buying and replaying RPGS through them anytime soon.

        As for AT&T and U-verse, that only affects the 22 states they are located in right now and I almost guarantee you if AT&T starts sending you letters and you call and tell them about Onlive, the rep will have no idea what you are talking about based off experience (and working for) them. And knowing them, they could probably just charge you a flat rate for more bandwidth (like smartphone data plans) rather than giving you a free pass for using Onlive.

    • Anthony

      Well, that they've supposedly found away around the lag is pretty much what OnLive is trying to build a business on...

  • Dailyshow247

    it does indeed look cool. But in terms of using airplay or mirror imaging with the ipad with an hdtv-wouldnt that be an unnecessary middle man? If you had an hdtv wouldnt you just plug the on live mini console directly into that?

    • Adams Immersive

      It’s not an unnecessary middleman, but a necessary one: to game on TV you could either use an iPad or a mini-console, but not both. If you owned a mini-console and not an iPad, you’d just use the thing you have. But if what you have is an iPad, why pay for a mini-console too, instead of a cheaper app? An app which lets you game via OnLive anywhere in a pinch, on a device you already carry around.

      • Anonymous

        It's a good hack, but I agree with Dailyshow247, the microconsole would be preferable if you have one already. The microconsole is cheap, and Onlive gives them away all the time with the purchase of new games. Another reason to use an iPad (beyond "I already have one") would be that the microconsole requires a wired connection.

  • P Allen

    I think Onlive is fantastic myself and definitely seems like the future, it's incredible to be able to play any selected game instantly, I think all they need for success is a bigger games catalogue.

  • Lamar Taylor

    I like how OnLive worked in the video. Just the idea of having this option available is a reason to get excited. I have a friend who uses OnLive on his computer and it works great with no noticeable lag.

    Any idea that adds live sports, movies, or games to the iPad 2 is fine by me,

  • NeoTrunks

    We need a new controller to play? I am assuming the controller that comes with the Onlive miniconsole won't be compatible with the iPad?

  • Konnekt

    You should have shown more gameplay rather than 10 seconds of walking toward the end of video. I want to know if the lag is noticeable or not.

    • Eli Hodapp

      It's not.

  • Canada

    Very cool ... but I'm equally interested to know, when will other iPad game developers support the controller?  So those of us without a mega-internet connection can play certain iPad games (sports, fps, adventure, platforming) with a better input device than touchscreen.

  • Furtin

    Is it running smoothly on iPad 1?

  • psychout

    "What an incredible time to be alive"??? The writers here are getting a bit hyperbolic with their love of gaming.

    It's a video game system, not a cure for cancer!

    • Eli Hodapp

      This is a video game site what do you expect? This is incredibly impressive technology.

      • weee

        It is cool technology, but I'd bet almost anything you think so because you are a giant apple fan....  I could be wrong though...

      • Anthony

        Uh, why? This is available for a whole bunch of platforms and as far as I know it will even be tablet-exclusive to Android for a month or two..

      • Mike

        Haters gonna hate.

      • Anonymous

        I thought it was adorable.

    • Skavingere

      psychout ... you wanna know what's hyperbolic?  Your comment (and your cynicism).  Eli is right ... it's a video game site; so expect excitement about ... hmm, let's see ... video games.  Gamers get excited about disruptive gaming tech like this.  That goes without saying so much that it hurts for me to have to type it out on your behalf.  I have the OnLive microconsole at home, and I'm consistently impressed by the lag-free experience I'm seeing on my HDTV. 

      Swarmster, remote access software has been "around for years," yes, but OnLive is the first of its kind to do it well (in the strict context of gaming).  There is a big difference there.  Even if OnLive is not perfect right now, you can bet that it'll be ever-more calibrated later (or something like it).  Personally, I'm tired of heavy, expensive, loud super-consoles and truck-sized gaming rig-PCs (the latter of which you'd have to upgrade and update and/or replace every 1 to 2 years). 

  • Anonymous

    Eli, thanks for the great preview and first-hand report! Can't wait to see where this goes!! Indeed an exciting time!

  • weee

    So when you keep failing over and over to get games on apple devices,
    simply stream PC games.  Makes me want to vomit for some reason.  The
    stupidity of apple fanboys is just sickening.  No matter how many times
    you hurl bricks at them and explain they are being duped for slower,
    outdated hardware and higher prices, the dummies don't listen.  So now
    they get what they wanted.  Slower devices, made by a company that has
    little support for games, but instead they port them over a stream etc
    etc.  Totally weird.  It's like they must make it work on
    apple at all costs.  Now every person with apple stuff has spit drooling down their
    left cheek.  And what will they have in the end?  A higher cost, lower quality solution that probably skips due to network lag.  They will get to pay service fees like they do on their iphones and everything else.  And notice how they only show it on an apple product when it could have been shown on any other mobile device out there.  Sorry, but this in no way proves apple can do games.  It just shows apple needs pc games to be streamed to their junk in order to work.  It does show they can have some games, but under those circumstances it's just not that appealing.  I guess people who only buy apple will like it, but again, we get them...

    • Akira01

      "Makes me want to vomit for some reason.  The 
      stupidity of apple fanboys is just sickening.  No matter how many times 
      you hurl bricks at them and explain they are being duped for slower, 
      outdated hardware and higher prices, the dummies don't listen."
      Relax, enjoy, and share in the discussion. (see "Note")

      The iPAd, outdated hardware ? So are you saying that the Tegra 2 GPU is better than the A5 soc ?
      Is this a joke ?

      "dummies", "stupidity".  This isn't an appropriate language on this forum...
      Are you a children ?

    • dalurkersteve

      some people seem to despise others for truly liking apple products... not sure why.  If people enjoy things you don't just appreciate the fact that they enjoy it.  If people enjoy products than its worth the money for them.  end of story.  grow up man

  • Soggy

    Blasted New Zealand 256kbps Internet! Another service I won't be enjoying for another five years 🙁

    • KiwiDan

      I doubt it'll be available internationally, even if you have high speed internet like our Lithuanian friends. 

      "Within 1000 miles of their servers" -- This might be a catch.
      Also, I expect content providers to be xenophobic of us foreigners, just like Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, etc... outside the US, you often can't pay for content even if you try. 

  • weee

    Thought of something else too.  This would never work if you applied this method to say 50 million online gamers wanting to play the same game.  As the user base grows, the computing power required to render the current view of the player in 3D (or 2d), would grow.  You'd need the power to render 30 unique fps per user.  So 100 users means you need to create 3000 frames per second.  In the end you'd need a super computer to render everything.   Also for each user you need the bandwidth of an HD video stream coming down, but only bandwidth for coordinates, game controller going back.  All in all, it requires more than 1000 times the bandwidth per player vs a regular online game which only transfers the players coordinates and stats in a few small packets.  The end result would be that as the user base grows the quality of the experience would ultimately degrade.  It's still cool, but there will be limits to this.

    • Stephen Middlehurst

      Or, just a thought, you simply add more computers to the server farm... Yeah, sure, when you get to 50 Million gamers the bandwidth issues are a bit of a problem but as the server clusters would be distributed around the world to reduce lag (and therefore your 50 million users get split between those data centres) it's not actually that big a deal. Plus it's going to take a while to reach that point and technology isn't standing still, so you're really making FAR too big a deal of this.

      As for your previous comment, rein in the anti-Apple rage. This is a service that's been running for a while now and has its own dedicated hardware. They're bringing the player app to BOTH iOS and Android platforms and it's a wonderfuly compelling idea. Purchase a (relatively) low power device that's ridiculously light, portable, convenient and gives great battery life. You get all the benefits of that platform including native apps then, when you want to jump into current-gen console games, you simply fire up On-Live (or similar service) and rent what you want.

      As with all things, it won't be for everyone. But I can see this being very very attractive to those looking to have a way of putting modern titles into a more portable environment within the home. For a start that's one of the key selling points of the WiiU...

  • Akira01

     "I guess people who only buy apple will like it, but again, we get them..."

    Ipad : 6/8 millions / 3 months
    Iphone: 17/19 millions / 3 months
    Ipod touch: 5 millions / 3 months

    DS: 4 millions / 3 months
    PSP : 1,5 million / 3 months
    Wii: 4 million / 3 months
    PS3, 360 : 3 millions / 3 months

    iOS: 28/32 millions/ 3 month
    All the Others: 13 million

    And you say "people who only buy apple will like it " ?

    Who ONLY ?

    This is THE big market. There are more chance to have a guy with an iThing today than a guy with a PSP on his hand. THIS is reality.
    So, if you have an iPad or an IPod touch or an iPhone, these solutions are far better than buying again, and again some others Sony or Nintendo products. You have Casual gaming for the touch at a very low pricing, you have some big games at a very low pricing, and you can even have with OnLive some big Blockbusters with classical controllers. With ONE device and some peripherals. That's all, for the 200 millions guy who have an iOs device.
    THIS is the future of gaming: Hybridation, one device for rule them all...
    iCloud, iOs devices, Airplay, and some peripherals: the future, for gaming, for music and videos..
    One device for one thing: today, a total nonsense.

  • Anonymous

    I just want the bluetooth controller and other games to support it!

  • Mike

    I think this looks AWSM, guys. And by that, I mean awesome.

  • Antony K46

    Somebody slap that hater upside the head man seriously he doesnt like apple products oh boo hooo poor you!! Just get a grip @weee if you dont like it dont use it!!

  • FreeFrog

    This'll be epic!

  • spiffyone

    I know Eli's gonna hate me saying this, but:

    This is why Apple needs to open up Apple TV to the App Store.

    Apple TV would then function as the OnLive Microconsole does now.  No iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch needed.  And that would open up the market considerably for Apple in the living room as the barrier of entry wouldn't be those mobile and tablet iDevices (after all, there ARE folks who don't want those devices, but might just want an Apple TV open to the App Store). that I think of it...Apple should really just buy OnLive outright.  It would be an immense boost to the current cloud initiative of the company.  Stream music, movies and games.  Apple OnLive.  ...I like the sound of that.

    • Andrew Embler

      ICloud Arcade? I like it.

  • Loramarthalas

    It's a no-brainer that at some point in the near future, Apple TV is going to make use of the App Store and download apps. Then we will see the true potential of iPad and iPhone gaming come to life. Wii U will be competing with the iPad/ATV combo. Can't wait to see what they push each other towards.

  • L3gum4n

    " and with Apple's new HDMI adapter, plugging your iOS device into your TV via HDMI to play a game in HD resolutions streamed from the internet just feels like the future."

    Why would you need an iPad plugged to your TV for playing OnLive? I was there in 2009 and if my memory isn't fading, the initial pitch was that you do not need a device anymore, just a TV and OnLive. So adding an iPad in the middle doesn't feel like the future to me 🙂

    • Myzero247

      It removes the need for a microconsole adapter.

    • Anonymous

      "just a TV and OnLive"
      Well, what's providing the OnLive to your TV?

  • Ayanle Mohamed

    As an OnLive user, I feel the need to contribute. While the service is not perfect, it is damn near better than  what I could ever accomplish with my 360. If there ever is a problem, it is usually client-side, meaning it is YOUR computer leading to the issue. further, I feel that not enough people play online.

  • Mwhite67

    I tried a few demos on my PC and the picture looked fuzzy is this only demos that it looks like this or do all the games sort of look compressed? Also I have 20 meg cable  internet

  • Ley de Atracción

    thanks a lot for share this Great video Game on ipad...!!!
    all the BEst! !!