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Posted on February 16th, 2011 by
OnLive, one of the newer companies to make waves in the video game industry, just announced their plans to deliver content to mobile platforms. If you aren't familiar with OnLive technology, the basic premise is that you can play a high-end PC game on your low-end computer through the OnLive service, without even requiring the user to have the game installed on their own computer. All the player needs is a controller and a connection to the OnLive server, which will run the game on their servers and stream the video back to you. There is little or no processing power required on the user's end.
We've seen other entertainment solutions in the same vein as OnLive; while video streaming services like Netflix or SlingBox all vary in their distribution models and goals, they all offer an interesting incremental approach to entertainment experiences. Rather than construct a completely novel entertainment product, they offer fresh, alternative takes on delivering / repurposing existing media. The result is a service for the user, rather than a product, that is either more accessible, more portable, or has a less front-heavy setup experience than conventional mediums. While it is true that all of these services have the inevitable drop in media fidelity (lag, resolution, among other things), this is an unavoidable engineering problem and a trade-off for the convenience of being able to use these services wherever you please (well, almost).
How does this bode for the overall user experience? Well, if you can't fix the unavoidable engineering problems of streaming media, you can certainly put together your content in more usable packages, or make that media more accessible. Less clicks, easy navigation, more discoverable features - today's entertainment experience, perhaps inspired by the software-as-a-service model, is just as much about the seamlessness of opening the packaging as it is about enjoying the media within.
Usability again will be a key differentiator when engineering, efficiency and logistics are stretched to their natural limits. Digital distribution has taken similar approaches before to combating other problems, such as piracy. For example, to many customers it's much more convenient to just buy software through platforms such as Steam or iTunes; they would rather click a few times through a reputable, well-organized library of content, rather than hunting down a pirate site. As the importance of the overall user experience becomes greater in a more tech-aware society, it's important to properly provide value in this regard as these media markets mature.