OnLive launches cloud gaming service – and it’s free

OnLive will this week launch its cloud gaming service, and is offering a year’s free play to those who sign up over the next month.

Through the Founder Member program, set up jointly with AT&T, customers will get free demos for the first year, paying $4.95 per month thereafter. Buying games will cost between $5 and $60. There will also be three and five day rentals for under $10.

Games will be stored in the cloud on three server clusters spread across the US – and part of the point of the free trial is to test out how responsive the system can be in real-life use.

In theory, gamers should be able to play even on low-end machines as long as they’ve got a good broadband connection.

“This launch is just the beginning for the OnLive platform. We’ll be rolling out new features, capabilities and performance improvements, continually adding new content along with the latest releases, and extending the service to more people,” says founder and CEO Steve Perlman.

“Today we’re taking the first step toward a future where video game content is increasingly free from the restrictions of device and location, while showcasing the ability to instantly play the latest, most advanced games at the touch of a button.”

There will be 23 games to start with, including Assassin’s Creed II, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Mass Effect 2 and Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell Conviction.

Otherss are promised soon, including Alpha Protocol, Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, FEAR 3 – and Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4.

“The incredible support we’ve received from our publishing partners has been instrumental in helping us get OnLive into people’s homes,” said Mike McGarvey, COO of OnLive. “These partnerships provide us with the great games we require to deliver the Just Play experience which introduces instant access and play functionality for the first time.”