OnLive news paves the way for streaming service to become the Netflix of games

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OnLive, a service that streams video games over the Internet, unleashed a barrage of news releases Thursday that, put together, points to a broad attempt by the San Francisco company to become the Netflix of games.

Among its many announcements, for example, is a universal game controller that can be used to play conventional video games on multiple devices, including Apple Inc.'s iPad and various digital television sets with the ability to communicate wirelessly with other devices using Bluetooth technology.


This theoretically turns any device into a game console -- eliminating the need for a disc-based device such as Nintendo Co.'s Wii, Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 and Sony Corp.'s PlayStation 3, at least for some types of games.

‘We’ve made OnLive games work on any device,’ said Steve Perlman, OnLive’s founder and chief executive. ‘You don’t have to worry about the hardware anymore.’

To further pave the way for OnLive to work with consumer electronics such as TVs or set-top boxes, the company is also annoucing that it has teamed up with Intel Corp., which has agreed to incorporate into some of its semiconductors technology that would allow devices to work more smoothly with OnLive’s streaming service.

Perlman envisions OnLive’s service to eventually become a ubiquitous option, available on numerous Internet-connected gadgets, much in the same way Netflix’s video instant streaming service can be fired up from dozens of devices, including TiVo video recorders, digital TVs, home theater systems, Blu-ray players and even mobile phones.

‘We’ve demonstrated the service on an HTC smartphone, which had an HDMI output so you can hook it up to a TV set,’ Perlman said. ‘Once it’s hooked up, boom. You just got yourself a game machine.’

The key to gaining greater consumer acceptance, however, is games, and OnLive needs to feature more games than the 100 titles it currently has. To help the company get there, the Walt Disney Co. also announced it will add its racing games, Split Second and Pure, to OnLive’s lineup. Perlman projected that the service should have nearly 200 titles by the end of the year.

The service lets users buy, rent or subscribe to games.

Launched a year ago, OnLive has not disclosed the number of people who use its on-demand products. Many, however, speculate that consumers have been slow to try out the novel service, which promises lightning-fast streaming of games, an important criterion for so-called ‘twitch’ games that rely on fast response times.

Perlman, whose company’s investors include deep-pocketed companies such as AT&T, Warner Bros., Autodesk, British Telecommunications and Maverick Capital, to name a few, said he’s prepared to wait for consumers to catch on, assuming that they will.

‘In the world of Netflix, are set-top boxes and Blu-ray players all going away? Is the whole world going to end? Maybe someday. But not today,’ said Perlman, who holds 100 technology patents and is best known for helping to create QuickTime and WebTV. ‘It takes a long time for things to switch over. At some point, that game console will look a little long in the tooth.’

-- Alex Pham