Some of the world’s greatest network and software engineers, has proved that cloud gaming is possible. Exact figures, as always, are hard to come by, but as of November 2011 OnLive apparently had “tens of millions” of users in the US and UK.
No one is ever going to claim that the OnLive experience is as good asglorious can’t-hear-yourself-think-over-the-GPU-fan desktop and console gaming, for many gamers it is good enough. For hardcore gamers, OnLive’s 150-250ms latency and 720p resolution is akin to gouging your eyes out, but for almost everyone else — i.e. most console gamers, and almost every social gamer — it is just fine. If you haven’t given cloud gaming a try, visit OnLive and sign up for a free trial; it still blows my mind that it takes just a split second to send your mouse movements to an Onlive data center, compute the next frame, render it, encode it, and send it back to you.
Bear in mind, too, that OnLive games are competitively priced — and because this is all cloud-based, you don’t have to download 15GB of data before you can play (a huge boon for casual gamers), and you can play OnLive (and access your game saves) from any internet-connected computer. If all that wasn’t enough, because OnLive is ultimately a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, it also has two more awesome offerings: For many games you can buy a 3- or 5-day pass for just a few dollars (which is often long enough to finish a game, if you’re a hardcore gamer); and for $10/month, you get unlimited access to some 200 games.