The streaming-game service OnLive is announcing today that it has launched a cloud version of the online warfare game War Thunder that will run on a wide range of connected devices such as tablets.

War Thunder, a popular massively multiplayer online game for the PC with 6 million subscribers, is free-to-play and normally runs on hefty PCs because of its 3D graphics that simulate World War II combat. But OnLive will make it instantly playable on connected devices using cloud-gaming technology dubbed CloudLift.

The new offering reflects OnLive’s revamped strategy to use its cloud-gaming technology to extend the capabilities of existing games and to work within the habits of gaming fans, rather than forcing them to adopt something altogether new.

New and existing War Thunder players will be able to play their game wherever they choose, without needing to re-download the full game client, which can take hours. All progress and purchases are synced in the cloud so the player can move between devices seamlessly.

“We’re thrilled to partner with the talented team at Gaijin and provide the convenience of instant access to all the intense, richly detailed action of War Thunder to their users,” said Mark Jung, the executive chairman of OnLive, in a statement. “By expanding the CloudLift subscription to include a free-to-play MMO such as this one, we can now offer content in the subscription for our players to access right away, anywhere on a wide range of devices, even before they own any of the traditional download games.”

Playing War Thunder through CloudLift also lowers the recommended PC or Mac specification while still delivering smooth 3D graphics that can run at 60 frames per second in 720p resolution. You can play it on a Android tablet using a Bluetooth controller, making the game mobile for the first time.

War Thunder

Above: War Thunder

Image Credit: Gaijin Entertainment

As envisioned by OnLive, CloudLift will wield a wide range of hardcore games and expands their addressable market to people who would never otherwise buy a heavy-duty game, since their home machines can’t run it.

OnLive still requires a relatively fast connection of 2 megabits a second, and it works best with 5 megabits a second. That means you can access OnLive via Wi-Fi, cable modems, fiber, and DSL lines. But 4G wireless devices generally won’t work well. OnLive adapts the quality of what you see based on the moment-by-moment performance of your Internet connection.

Anton Yudintsev, the CEO of Gaijin Entertainment, said, “OnLive is making it possible for our millions of War Thunder fans to jump into combat quickly, wherever they are and on whatever device they’re carrying. We’re looking forward to engaging our current players more deeply and more often, while bringing new users into our game.”

Separately, OnLive offers its PlayPack subscription service, which has 250 games available for $10 a month. CloudLift links the player’s own PC game library with his or her account and syncs the saved games to the cloud. Players can access those saved games from multiple devices, allowing them to pick up a game they were playing on a PC and then start playing it on a tablet. They can access the full game experience, not just a dumbed-down version, on portable gear.

OnLive will also sell download codes. If you purchase a download code for game from OnLive, it will include a 7-day free trial of CloudLift, which makes OnLive the only digital download retailer that offers cloud play as an added benefit to a game purchase.

In the past, OnLive targeted gamers in homes who were playing games on their PCs. But those gamers often already had the games playable on Steam or on disks. They didn’t need OnLive in the home. That also encouraged the costly, bandwidth-intensive behavior where gamers played cloud games for hours at a time. That consumed a lot of processing power and bandwidth, adding to OnLive’s costs.

With CloudLift, the usage pattern should be different. People on the run may play games for a shorter time. They will still get the benefit of accessing their games from anywhere, but their usage is unlikely to drive OnLive’s costs through the roof, Jung said. That makes OnLive’s business model more efficient, since the company has a large capital outlay to make in running data centers. On top of that, the Internet is running faster for a lot more users. Akamai estimates that 34 percent of internet users in the U.S. have more than 10 megabits per second bandwidth.

War Thunder is the first free-to-play game for the OnLive Game service. CloudLift has 35 games, including Batman: Arkham Origins, The Lego Movie Videogame, Saints Row IV, the indie hit Type:Rider. Dozens more are coming such as Europa Universalis IV and F1 2013. About 40 games will be available by the end of May.

CloudLift and War Thunder will be available for instant trial for free for seven days. Players can download the OnLive client for the PC or Mac. Or they can download the OnLive Android app from the Google Play store. CloudLift subscriptions will cost $8 a month.

OnLive has also hired former Gaikai executive James Alan Cook as general counsel and senior vice president of business and legal affairs. He’ll be busy, as OnLive has more than 100 patents awarded and 200 pending and allowed.

CGR Trailers - WAR THUNDER Gamescom 2013 PS4 Gameplay Trailer

War Thunder

Above: War Thunder

Image Credit: Gaijin Entertainment