The popularity of "cloud gaming" is on the rise. In a nutshell, cloud gaming allows you to play online in a number of ways, such as through your PC, on a tablet or even streaming through an adapter hooked up to your TV. And soon, the service could be spreading to game consoles like the Xbox 360.
How does it work?
Cloud gaming saves you having to schlep to the store to buy discs. It also saves you from buying the latest, most powerful PCs or consoles. The games actually run on remote servers and stream to your device, allowing the servers to do the heaving lifting. That way, you can even run top-of-the-line games on devices like iPads, or on the TV using just a simple adapter instead of a console.
Mainly what you need to take part is a fast online connection — cable broadband or better — so the game streams smoothly. You might also need a subscription plan to particular services, such as OnLive's PlayPack, a $10 monthly bundle that offers various games to choose from.
What services are available?
In 2010, cloud gaming hit its stride when OnLive launched. Through this program, users can purchase and stream such games as "Saints Row: The Third," " NBA 2K12," and "Batman: Arkham City," with the option to "try before they buy," with 30 minutes of free play, before taking the option to purchase. (You're not getting a disc or download, but rather online access.) Most games are about the same price as a retail product.
Shortly after OnLive came Gaikai, which brings its own library of high-end PC and console titles for users to play through a streaming access subscription. The team has since garnered a fair amount of partnerships, including game makers Electronic Arts, Capcom and Warner Brothers.
In a matter of months, OnLive will bring its service to Apple and Android mobile devices, allowing users to play top-of-the-line console titles wherever they want through OnLive's streaming servers.
Microsoft is rumored to be dabbling with cloud services in the future as well, including possibly streaming OnLive games to the Xbox 360 – or their rumored upcoming "Xbox 8" system.
And Sony recently purchased Gaikai, making it likely that the PlayStation 3 – or possibly a new of Sony console – could access cloud games.
As cloud gaming keeps growing, it's definitely looking like clear skies ahead.