Does cloud gaming spell the end for consoles?

Do 'cloud gaming' services such as OnLive's streaming service and other new Game-on-Demand tech from the likes of Playcast spell the end of the console age?

This week 'cloud gaming' has hit the headlines in a massive way, and TechRadar has had the opportunity to test out one of the key wares - with PlayCast allowing you to play the likes of Fifa 08 over a set top box.

A number of potentially market-disrupting videogame distribution technologies have taken this year's Game Developers Conference in San Francisco by storm this month – with new tech from the likes of Israeli GoD (Games on Demand) Playcast and US company OnLive

TechRadar was treated to a hands-on demo of Playcast Media Systems set-top box solution this week, which – somewhat remarkably – does what it says on the tin and "allows high-end, next-generation video games to be played on standard digital set-top boxes over the VoD network."

Next gen, next gen

On its own website, Playcast notes that current Cable and IPTV video on demand networks "already reach over 360 million households worldwide" hence the company now wants to offer gamers the option "to play off-the-shelf, next-generation games directly through the cable system – no hardware changes to the set-top box or network required."

Playcast's claims that following "years of algorithmic research" it has solved the long-standing problems of "latency and quality issues," involved in providing next-gen quality games to cable TV subscribers from a remote TV headend station turn out to be pretty accurate.

TechRadar awaits further announcements from Playcast in the coming weeks regarding major UK TV operators that we are informed will be rolling out the new Games-on-Demand tech early in 2010.

OnLive unveils streaming tech

Elsewhere at GDC in San Fran this month, former Eidos man Mike McGarvey has been demoing some new 'OnLive' tech that will allow you to stream current games onto any PC or Mac running Windows, no matter how new or powerful your 'puter is.

OnLive will "also stream games directly to a TV via a small plug-in device, and players can use a custom wireless controller [a la PS3 and Xbox 360] as well as VoIP headsets in conjunction with it."

Apparently, OnLive users "will have only to download a 1MB plug-in to get the service up and running" according to the company's other director on hand at GDC, WebTV founder Steve Perlman.

Playcast's streaming tech is currently being tested by hundreds of gamers over in Israel, with the company planning to roll-out a major service in the UK in 2010.

Cloud gaming for all

Denis Dyack - the outspoken boss of developer Silicon Knights – summed up what could well be the next revolution in 'cloud gaming' pretty well writing on VentureBeat that:

"What hardware one runs behind the wall of the Cloud is unimportant; only what you are transmitting counts," and that, "the ultimate game console in the Cloud model is no console at all."

"In the Cloud, publishing and advertising become much easier," Dyack added.

The developer sings the praises of 'cloud gaming' because he also notes that it "eliminates piracy 100 percent, since the consumer does not have anything to copy and needs only to log into the Cloud to interact.

"Technology is commoditizing the value of hardware to zero and a unified platform will be the likely result," says Dyack.

"Following this logic to its end, the implication is that hardware could be removed altogether. What hardware one runs behind the wall of the Cloud is unimportant; only what you are transmitting counts.

"Thus, the ultimate game console in the Cloud model is no console at all."

OnLive news via: CNet.