We've been reasonably impressed to date with OnLive's cloud-based game service, which allows nearly any Internet-connected laptop or desktop to play a variety of high-end PC games via a unique streaming system. The company's long-awaited MicroConsole, which skips the computer altogether and streams games directly to your TV, finally has a release date and price.
The OnLive MicroConsole ships December 2, for $99, and includes a free game (games typically cost the same as retail boxed versions, around $49) and a wireless game controller.
If you're not familiar with the service, OnLive works by offloading the CPU and GPU-intensive tasks of actually running the game software to a remote render farm, then beaming the gameplay back to you as a streaming video. It sounds far-fetched, and we were highly skeptical of the service when it was announced in 2009, but in practice, it works surprisingly well.
While we haven't had a chance to examine the final hardware yet, the MicroConsole appears to be a small adapter with an Ethernet input and video outputs, hence the low price (as no CPU or GPU is needed). Besides the custom wireless controller, a keyboard and mouse can be used (which makes sense as these are all PC games). Additionally, we've been able to use a wired Microsoft Xbox 360 controller on the PC version of OnLive.
Games include a decent selection of current titles, such as Mafia II, Assassin's Creed II, and Borderlands. Titles can be rented for a few dollars for a few days, or purchased outright (although you're actually buying a license to play the game on OnLive's servers, "While it is available on the OnLive gamer service," which the company says will be until at least June 2013 for the games currently listed).