OnLive app brings full play to touchscreens

Tablets offer plenty of games from Apple and Android’s app stores, but the selection can leave hardcore gamers frustrated.

While there are some exceptions, most of these app-based games are seen as the equivalent of a midday snack — fun diversions designed for short bursts of play, but ultimately disposable. And though there are some familiar console franchises in the mobile space such as Activision’s “Call of Duty Black Ops Zombies,” the depth of gameplay on those titles doesn’t begin to compare with the offerings on the Xbox, PlayStation 3 or PC.

OnLive is hoping to bridge that gap with its own app enabling subscribers of the streaming video game service to play full versions of console and PC games on Apple and Android smartphones, tablets, as well as Amazon’s Kindle Fire — devices that require access to Wi-Fi, 3G and 4G LTE connections. The app became available in December.

Gamemakers are quickly jumping on board.

“Publishers are creating (new versions of) their games to run on OnLive,” Steve Perlman, company’s founder and CEO told Variety. “The best example is ‘L.A. Noire’. It’s a very sophisticated game that … fills three discs for the Xbox 360. Rockstar Games has made a specific version for OnLive that uses the touchscreen on tablets.”

OnLive has kept conversion costs low as an incentive to publishers. Making a title tablet-friendly (by integrating touch controls) can take just three days of development, though some conversions take longer.

The app provides an on-screen overlay that replicates the controls of analog sticks and buttons.

So far, more than 30 of the 150 tablet-friendly titles are available: “Defense Grid Gold,” “Darksiders” and “Lego Batman” are touch-enabled. “Batman: Arkham City,” “Saint’s Row The Third” and “Deus Ex: Human Revolution” require OnLive’s wireless controller that it developed and sells for $50.

Whether they’re touch-converted or not, games available on OnLive’s latest venture make them playable on a new platform without forcing publishers to slash the cost from $50 to $5 or $10. And it presents the titles to an audience that might normally never play them in the first place.

“What we’re doing is bringing games to audiences that have never been able to access them before,” Perlman said. “Take my parents, they love Noire games, but they’re never going to pick up a game controller, and they’re ever going to get a rip-roaring PC. But with an iPad, they finally have access to (‘L.A. Noire’).”

OnLive doesn’t discuss the exact size of its user base, citing confidentiality clauses with its publisher partners, but Perlman boasts a subscriber count “in the millions.”

Pricing includes renting titles for three to five days for $1.99 and/or buying titles for $50.

OnLive’s not stopping at games, either. Up next is business software, from Microsoft Office to video editing, set for later this year.

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