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A roundup of the latest high-tech news from The Associated Press:
- OnLive to stream games through "cloud" computing
NEW YORK – In an industry first, a new gaming service will start allowing people to "stream" popular high-end games such as "Assassin’s Creed II" over the Internet in June, using a mechanism similar to watching TV shows or listening to music online.
, unveiled a year ago with much fanfare, embraces "cloud computing," in which software runs on a computer elsewhere, not on the player’s own PC or game console.
That means players can buy or rent games with even older, less powerful computers and Macs and without owning such consoles as the Xbox 360 or the PlayStation 3.
Right now, players purchase discs to pop into such consoles. And increasingly, many game publishers are selling additional content, such as extra episodes for popular games, as Internet downloads. Services such as Direct2Drive, meanwhile, sell downloads of full games to PCs, though gamers need powerful, high-end machines.
Console makers have generally been skeptical about OnLive’s threat to their business. But if it works, the company’s foray into streaming could be another force nudging the industry beyond discs toward digitally consumed content.
OnLive Inc. said Wednesday it will start offering its service for personal computers on June 17 for $14.95 a month. Buying or renting games will cost extra, but the company did not disclose pricing.
In addition, OnLive will launch its "MicroConsole" – a cheap, cassette-sized adapter that plugs into a TV set to stream games – at a later date. Pricing was not announced. OnLive expects the tiny console to be more popular than its PC and Mac streaming service.
"We want to slow the impact of people jumping on to our servers just a little bit," said founder and CEO Steve Perlman.
One of the biggest questions for OnLive has been whether the company’s servers and players’ broadband connections would be able to handle streaming without a lag that would disrupt playing. Perlman said it’s working, and "assuming you have a decent Internet connection," gamers who’ve been testing the service are "playing normally."
Streaming video games is a bigger challenge than music and movies, because games cannot be easily compressed into smaller files before streaming over the Internet. That’s because video games are interactive, requiring instant responses from the game to players. When you shoot at an enemy, for example, the game must respond in a split second and show whether you’ve hit or missed.
OnLive says it has come up with a new form of compression that lets its game servers communicate with players over broadband connections in real time.
OnLive said its service will offer new games from publishers such as Electronic Arts Inc., Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Activision Blizzard Inc., publisher of the popular "Call of Duty" games, is noticeably absent from its list. OnLive says it is in "ongoing discussions" with Activision.
The service will be available only in the U.S., except for Alaska and Hawaii.
• Sony unveils its own motion controller
TOKYO – Sony has a new message for Nintendo Wii gamers: Come join us.
The Japanese maker of the PlayStation 3 unveiled Thursday its highly anticipated motion controlling system, as it takes aim at Nintendo’s dominance in the gaming sector. With the "PlayStation Move," Sony hopes to lure gamers who have outgrown Nintendo, which launched the Wii in 2006 and became the first to introduce motion-detecting controllers.
Peter Dille, senior vice president of marketing for Sony Computer Entertainment, credited Nintendo Co. for "introducing motion gaming to the masses."
Now it’s time for them to graduate to the PlayStation, which offers a new experience for both casual and hard-core gamers, he said at a press conference in San Francisco.
"The migration path from the Wii household to the PlayStation 3 household is a pretty natural path, partly because of the experience that you can get on the PlayStation Move but also because of the content that we find on PlayStation 3," Dille said.
Used with the existing PlayStation Eye camera, Sony’s new wireless motion controller can track players’ body movements. The controller, in turn, has on its end a light-emitting orb that is recognized by the camera.
"Nothing has ever been this precise," said Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony Computer Electronics Worldwide Studios.
The PlayStation Move will go on sale this fall. Complete details of prices have not been released, but a starter bundle including the PlayStation Eye, motion controller and one game will retail for under $100, Dille said.
Major game publishers such as Activision Blizzard Inc., Electronic Arts Inc. and Square Enix are developing Move-compatible games.
Microsoft is planning its own offensive this year as well with its "Project Natal."
• Video game sales likely declined in February
NEW YORK — U.S. video game sales could likely show a decline Thursday when the NPD Group releases its February sales figures after the market closes.
Software sales have declined for much of the past year when compared with 2008 and even early 2009, because of the economic downturn and fewer launches of hit games.
Analysts also blame a weakness in the music game genre, as new versions of "Guitar Hero" and "Rock Band" didn’t do as well as anticipated.
Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter said he expects game software sales to decline once again. He is forecasting sales of $665 million in the month, down 10 percent from last February’s $737 million.
He attributes the expected drop to "slightly below expected results" for big February game launches such as "BioShock 2" from Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., "Dante’s Inferno" from Electronic Arts Inc. and "Heavy Rain" from Sony Corp. A bigger reason, however, is a "precipitous decline in music genre sales to around $20 million compared to $75 million last February," he said.
Hardware sales will also likely show a drop, with Nintendo’s Wii showing the largest decline from a year earlier, to about 455,000 units, the analyst estimates. Nintendo has said supply constraints have hurt Wii sales.