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Normally, you get free games when you buy a video game console. But with OnLive, the cloud gaming service, it’s going to be the other way around.

OnLive is announcing today that anyone who pre-orders the THQ video game Homefront from Feb. 25 to Mar. 14 will get a free version of the OnLive Game System — a $99 value. The customer will also get access to THQ’s Metro 2033 video game for free. It’s not a bad way for OnLive to get a wider reach for its game system, which allows users to play high-quality games on any PC or TV. And it’s the kind of deal that competitors won’t be able to match. Homefront will cost $49 on OnLive.

Homefront is one of THQ’s biggest games of the year. It’s a futuristic first-person shooter game where North Korea invades the U.S. and the war-ravaged citizenry fights back after the U.S. is occupied. The deal will last while supplies of the MicroConsole last. OnLive has created a server-based online gaming service that allows you to instantly play games that are stored and computed in OnLive’s data centers. The video and game actions are transmitted over a broadband connection to wherever you are playing. That allows you to play high-end games on low-end computers, while the MicroConsole lets you play high-end games on big-screen TVs.

“This is a watershed event: It’s the first time a game system has ever been given away with the purchase of a game,” said OnLive chief executive Steve Perlman. “Homefront is one of the biggest games coming out this quarter, and we wanted gamers to see just how incredible is to have the hottest title playable with the instant-play, massive spectating experience on their HDTV that is only possible through OnLive.”


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The MicroConsole TV adapter and a wireless controller allow gamers to play high-end computer games on flat-panel displays in 1080p high-definition running at 60 frames per second, or faster than a blink of the eye. OnLive started shipping the Onlive Game System in December, and at that time it offered a free game with purchase.

OnLive launched its instantly playable server games in June. If customers truly like it, the cheap MicroConsole hardware could potentially eliminate the need for players to keep buying more and more powerful and expensive game consoles. OnLive has more than 70 games in its online games library now. If the company can grow that number, then it will have a bigger impact on consumers.

OnLive has been working on its server-based technology for more than eight years and has a team of 200 people. It has raised a considerable amount of money for the task from investors such as Warner Bros. and British Telecom. Most recently, it raised $40 million from HTC in a deal that could possibly value OnLive at $1.8 billion.


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