OnLive UK officially launches, gives away console

OnLive, the play-by-wire gaming company, has officially opened its doors to UK gamers, following a partnership with broadband provider BT and games retail giant Game Group.

As with the US launch, the OnLive service takes two forms: the first, and the one that most people will likely choose, is a play-by-wire service that allows gamers on modest hardware - including netbooks - play the latest games in the browser, with the heavy lifting of physics calculations and graphics rendering offloaded to OnLive's own systems.

When the service was announced, many gamers expressed concerned about lag: when the signal to shoot has to reach all the way to a remote server to be processed, and then back to the client system to be displayed, twitch-shooters are out of the question.

Since its successful launch in the US, however, OnLive has been warmly received by most. Although there are disadvantages - including increased lag and decreased graphical quality compared to running the games locally on a high-power system - it's proved popular with gamers sick of the annual upgrade cycle to support new games.

The second part of OnLive's offering is a dedicated console - and this is where Game Group comes in. The OnLive Game System - and bundled OnLive Universal Wireless Controller - connects to the user's TV and allows PC-free gaming of all the latest titles. Game is to offer the device through its web-based shopfront, before rolling it out to its 600-some bricks and mortar shops throughout the country.

OnLive has announced a few promotional deals to encourage interest, too: if you're a newcomer to the service, you'll get your first game for £1 instead of £39.99. BT Broadband customers also get a bundle of over a hundred 'PlayPass' games free for a period of three months. Finally, attendees at the Eurogamer Expo - where OnLive announced the UK launch - can get their hands on a free OnLive Game System console unit, which retails for £69.99. With reports of a queue over 800 deep at the stand, however, by the time you read this it's likely too late to take advantage of the offer.

The concept of the service is certainly impressive: the newest games - including popular first-person-stealther Deus Ex: Human Revolution - can be played on almost any Windows PC or Mac, even if the publishers haven't released a Mac-specific build. Android and iOS builds are expected to launch in the near future.

Sadly, there still one group of people left out in the cold: despite running in a browser, the OnLive service isn't available to Linux users. Thus far, the company hasn't indicated that Linux support will be coming soon, either - which, considering the Mac support, is a real shame.

More details are available on the OnLive UK website.