LIANE HANSEN, Host:
Video game industry pros were in San Francisco this week for their biggest annual event, the Game Developers Conference. The buzz this year was about a technology that might change the business by making video game consoles obsolete. NPR's Laura Sydell attended the conference and has this report.
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LAURA SYDELL: A console is a must for most hardcore gamers. The most powerful computer in millions of homes isn't on a desk, it's in a PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 or even a Wii. They make it possible to display more detailed, colorful pictures than the average PC, but in the future gamers may not need a console to get satisfaction.
STEVE PERLMAN: You could see the level of realism here with the water and the trees, the mist around the mountains.
SYDELL: Steve Perlman is the founder and CEO of OnLive. He's playing "Crisis," your basic combat shoot-them-up game. "Crisis" looks best on a powerful computer or console, yet Perlman is playing it using a small, inexpensive box that hooks the television screen to the Internet.
PERLMAN: How could we do that? Well, that tricked out gamer PC really does exist, it's just 50 miles away.
SYDELL: At a server farm near San Jose. Perlman's company, OnLive, is about to introduce a completely online game service. That means no downloads, no going to the store to buy the game in a package. It will be stored on a computer far away. That means you can play fast-moving games on a notebook PC with a small hard drive and an Internet connection.
PERLMAN: And here you are running PC games that only run on ultra-high performance big towers with huge fans that extreme gamers play.
SYDELL: Unidentified Male: ...throws, swings at that fastball and misses, 0 and 1.
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PERLMAN: Then they literally have a million people spectating these games. I mean, it'd be as big as, you know, major sports, except it's virtual.
SYDELL: Perlman is here at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco introducing his technology. He's been working on it for seven years. There were many technical problems to conquer - a big one was lag. That's what happens in a video conference when you see someone talk, but you hear the words a second later.
PERLMAN: With video games, though, you can't have a half-second lag. You need almost instantaneous response in order to be able to play these games.
SYDELL: There was a lot of positive buzz at the developers conference about OnLive. Alan Tascan, who runs the Montreal office of game developer Electronic Arts, sees a lot of potential for creativity. Storing games on server farm computers means they will have access to more computing power than even a high- end game console.
ALAN TASCAN: And this is to do better images, better sound, better artificial intelligence. So the more powerful is the machine behind the game, the more sophisticated the game can be.
SYDELL: Laura Sydell, NPR News, San Francisco.
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HANSEN: Video games are hardly the only uses for Internet-based or cloud computing. You may have information in the clouds, so to speak, without even knowing it. Learn more about the benefits and potential pitfalls of cloud computing and get tips for managing your online information at NPR.org.
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