This could could be a sign of bad times to come for hardware manufacturers and retailers.
Tuesday OnLive chief executive Steve Perlman said in an interview that the company was finally granted a patent last week covering the invention of cloud-based video games-- U.S. Patent No. 7,849,491.
Listed as the inventor, Perlman originally filed for the patent back in December 2002 just after he began working on what eventually became the current OnLive streaming service launched earlier this year. It covers a "breakthrough" technology that streams "high-twitch action" videogames from remote servers in data centers using a compression unit, and a transceiver to transmit compressed game video to players with broadband-connected HDTVs, PCs, Macs or mobile devices.
Although the new patent could be a big turning point for gamers, hardware manufacturers and retailers could see it as a major threat. Theoretically consumers would no longer need to purchase games in brick-and-mortar stores and online e-tailers like Steam and Gamer's Gate, as titles can be rented and purchased through the OnLive service.
The patent could also possibly eliminate the need for purchasing a new console or upgrading PC components to run the latest title. Instead, OnLive users would only need minimal hardware to play games that would normally require high-end hardware to run. Eventually OnLive will extend its streaming games to mobile applications like the iPad and Android-based devices.
"This is an industry-changing patent," Perlman told the Wall Street Journal. He added that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office didn't start examining his patent application until five years after it was first submitted because the agency is dealing with a massive backlog of patent applications.
So what does the new patent mean for rivals Gaikai and Otoy? OnLive may be in a position to sue the two networks for patent infringement. According to VentureBeat, Perlman declined to comment on the company's intentions, but seemed willing to work out an agreement. OnLive investors-- including Warner Bros, Autodesk, AT&T and more-- may choose differently.
Earlier this month OnLive launched a $99 dedicated "console" that receives the cloud-based gaming service for digital and analog TVs. As of this writing, an iPad "viewer" is available to download and install, allowing owners to spectate OnLive gaming sessions-- the android version is currently in beta.
OnLive is expected to launch a movie streaming service next year using the same cloud-based network it uses to deliver high-quality, high-performance games.