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Onlive aims to be gaming’s Netflix, unveils subscription plan

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Onlive's MicroConsole

Streaming
"cloud gaming" service Onlive offers consumers a way to play the latest
games, but it's always been hamstrung by its high price. Purchasing
games on the digital service can cost as much as buying regular versions
in stores.

But that's all set to change, the company revealed today, with a new
Netflix-style subscription plan dubbed "PlayPack" that'll allow Onlive
users to play a wide range of games for a single $9.99 monthly fee.

Currently, 11 games are confirmed as supported, including Prince of Persia, Tomb
Raider: Underworld
, and Warner's LEGO Batman. Onlive expects to expand
that selection to about 40 by the time the new service officially
launches on January 15, the company told us. Top tier (and, presumably,
newer) games will remain as rentals and purchases, but everything else
will be rolled into the flat-rate plan.

Onlive's founding members will get the chance to try PlayPass out as soon as
this week. The company is also beginning shipments of its "Microconsole"
set-top box to consumers today, and anyone receiving one of these
devices -- which allow subscribers to play Onlive games on their HDTVs
-- should be able to preview the subs plan for free.

Industy analyst Michael Pachter described the service as offering players
"maximum flexibility to try or buy video games...OnLive is effectively
offering the equivalent of an iTunes/Netflix combo for gaming."

The comparison's a good one. Onlive's subscription service will offer many
of the same pros and cons as Netflix's "Instant Watch" streaming movies:
you'll need a fast broadband connection, the selection is somewhat
limited, and heavy users will need to monitor their overall bandwidth
consumption to avoid the wrath of their Internet service provider.

It's almost the same price, too -- and having been living with one of the
company's Microconsole boxes for a few weeks, we're highly impressed
with the hardware, although its picture quality isn't as good as playing
the game on a "real" console. Much will depend on exactly how the
plan's game selection develops over time, but if gamers take to
subscription-based, streaming gaming as enthusiastically as movie fans
have adopted Netflix's similar offerings, it'll have a bright future.

Have you tried Onlive's service? What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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