It's been years since I first visited the Palo Alto offices of Rearden Steel. Had to love the straight-outta-Atlas Shrugged title, and in Steve Perlman, you had one of the Silicon Valley's all-time serial entrepreneurs promising to alter the world.
Perlman's still at it, this time taking on the already successful (but ripe for change) video game industry. His latest game-changer, called OnLive, wants to take games away from the console, and put them onto the internet. Not only that, but democratize the gaming experience, to the point where you won't need a super powerful computer with a red-hot graphics chip to get the job done.
Can you imagine how disruptive this could eventually be to the tech industry as we know it? Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have made huge inroads with their video game consoles. What if you didn't need them to play top-flight games? And graphic chips from the likes of Nvidia? Not necessary? A world without the giant super-powerful gaming PCs from the likes of Voodoo (now owned by HP)? This is almost heresy, in an industry that has been one of the few spots to actually buck the recent recession.
But a bit of perspective. First, OnLive isn't quite ready for prime time yet. There are still computer issues to be worked out, and hard-core gamers to convince. But Perlman has been on target many times before, and he's promising to show off the latest version of OnLive this week at the Game Deverloper's Conference. The GDC expo floor opens wednesday , and I can't wait to see what's on tap (I'll also twitter live updates from the expo floor: @scottbudman).
From Perlman's idea of digital distribution, to all the new titles from the likes of EA and Nintendo, to new chips and hardware, the GDC promises to give hope not just to restless gamers, but to our economy as a whole. Just play a little more often, and we'll innovate our way out of this. With a look of intensity on our faces.