OnLive Player App could turn your Android tablet and iPad into a budget-friendly Nintendo Wii U alternative

Connect your Android tablet or iPad (with the OnLive Player app) to your OnLive MicroConsole TV Adapter to enjoy some of the capabilities of the Nintendo Wii U -- this year.
Written by Gloria Sin, Inactive

Nintendo may be getting all the attention for its innovative touch-based tablet-like controller and system that won't be launched until 2012, but OnLive wants you to know you can play AAA titles directly on your Android tablet and iPad with its latest Player App. Pair your tablet with the MicroConsole TV Adapter from OnLive, and you can enjoy some of the capabilities of the Nintendo Wii U -- this year.

This is how OnLive works.

In data centers located across the U.S. and in Europe, OnLive's servers store and process all the latest games so you don't need to buy the newest console or titles, or miss out on games that are exclusive to a platform you don't have. Thanks to cloud gaming, you will be able to play the titles you want, on the device you want. The service started on the PC and is now porting over to Android tablets and iPads; the app will be released later this year.

Like its free online game streaming service for PCs, the OnLive Player App also gives you access to all the latest titles in the OnLive cloud-based library for demo, but will charge you when you want to rent (for 3 to 5 days), own particular titles to play anytime, or have unlimited access to a bundle of games (50+ for $9.99 per month).

If you prefer to play games on your HDTV, then you will need to buy a MicroConsole TV Adapter from OnLive, which will set you back about $100. The beauty of this box is that you won't need to worry about upgrading it in the future, as it does not have the hardware that renders your game -- that happens in the cloud. It connects your HDTV to OnLive through the Internet in your home and communicates with the peripherals you use to game.

With all your games existing only in the cloud, having a stable and fast Internet connection is essential. The service itself is "network agnostic", which means as long as your Internet connection has enough bandwidth (3 Mps or higher) to handle the stream, you will be able to play, even on your tablet. (Though I wouldn't risk incurring overage charges with this type of app.) Its data centers are sparcely located across the U.S. and in Europe so your experience with the system could vary depending on your proximity to these centers (see map here).

The app itself is actually more interesting than just as a connection for your tablet or iPad to the games in the cloud, it also offers capabilities that sound an awful lot like a controller for a particular console that won't be available until next year:

  • Allows the tablet to become a touch and motion controller combined with an HDTV (that is connected to the OnLive MicroConsole TV Adapter) or PC/Mac if preferred
  • Ability to use the tablet as a second screen, whether synchronized with what's on the HDTV or displaying different content on the tablet and HDTV screen, which means multiple players can play the same game or completely different ones at the same time.
  • Enables full voice chat both in-room and with other players located around the world.
  • Tap into any player's game that is running on OnLive at any given moment to watch and learn.
  • Facebook integration with Brag Clip videos, where OnLive players can record their games to share with others in the community.

Too good to be true? Watch OnLive CEO demo Unisoft's latest title, From Dust on an iPad here.

According to Engadget's hands-on demo of the OnLive app on a Motorola Xoom, OnLive has added a layer of basic gaming controls on-screen for touch-based devices so you will be able to navigate without any additional peripherals. Of course, some games are just too demanding to poke at your touchscreen non-stop, so OnLive will be selling an universal wireless controller (it's in front of the tablets in the above photo) that works across "tablets, blu ray players, TVs, and other CE devices" also coming later this year, according to OnLive rep Brian Jaquet.

For less than $220 ($99 for the TV adapter and one controller and $120 for a year of unlimited access to 50+ games), plus a HDTV and tablet of choice, you can basically experience Wii U-like use of your tablet and multi-screen multiplayer games without having to wait a year. Granted, there aren't any current games that take advantage of the multi-screen feature yet, and when Nintendo's own Wii U games become available they may very well not exist in OnLive's cloud. But third-party developers for the Wii U may not mind another platform for them to sell their work. Who knows, maybe OnLive and other cloud-based gaming services will replace our need for consoles in the future.

[Video Source: Engadget, OnLive]

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