OnLive launches its much-anticipated beta test for video games on demand

OnLive stirred a lot of passion in March when it announced it would launch a video games on demand service in the fall. Today, the company said in a blog post it is opening its beta test for the potentially groundbreaking service.

The company is one of the most ambitious startups in the video game industry. So ambitious that some said there was no way it could deliver on its promises. Basically, OnLive said it would deliver high-end games via the Internet so that consumers could play them on ordinary computers. It sends the images down to your display or TV, you play the game, and the proper data is sent back to the server in split-second timing so it feels like you’re playing a disk-based game.

While most games require you to install or download a lot of data on your computer, or put a disk in a game machine, OnLive is proposing to let you play the best games with no special hardware. It requires only a minimal download to run.

With OnLive, game publishers can bypass retailers and post their games directly to OnLive’s network. Players can then simply log in and play for a subscription fee. So far, nine publishers have signed up to support OnLive and provide it with their games. The business has the potential to disrupt the retail-driven console industry.

Steve Perlman, chief executive of Palo Alto, Calif.-based OnLive, has said the company worked on the technology for seven years. In a blog post, he said OnLive has been installing lots of servers in data centers and has been running internal beta tests. Now it is opening up to gamers who have signed up to be testers.

The beta site asks gamers to tell it about the speed of their Internet connections and their Internet service providers. OnLive will accept the testers based on the test criteria they fit. Perlman’s own avatar image is above.

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