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OnLive MicroConsole dated, priced

Hardware receives warm reviews in US.

The audacious OnLive MicroConsole - the box that sits by a television and enables PC games to be played via live stream - has a date. Shipments to US shops begin on Thursday 2nd December.

The box costs $99 and comes with a wireless controller and a voucher to spend on a game, as well as a long HDMI cable.

Joystiq played with the tech and came to a few exciting conclusions - the most pertinent being that "yes" it is worth $99.

What's more, not only did Joystiq not "notice" any input lag while playing games, but dropped frames were "infrequent" and said to be a result of the game itself. "The video streaming itself was entirely devoid of hitches or jumps in speed or quality."

The blog also reported Assassin's Creed II and DiRT 2 looking better on OnLive than they do on console. That remarkable claim stems from OnLive games being PC versions running on an astronomically high-specced server machines.

Batman: Arkham Asylum looked "razor sharp" from nine feet away, apparently, and compression niggles were only noticeable when up close. [Er, colour us sceptical to the point of feeling slightly antagonised. -Ed]

Digital Foundry put this to the test.

Joystiq's only beef seemed to be with the controller, which kept losing sync with the box. That pad is about the size of the 360 controller with the layout of a PS3 pad. It comes with a charge pack, has rumble and there are video playback options mapped to the analogue sticks.

Games from OnLive will be available to buy and to rent for three to five days. Prices aren't yet confirmed, although the existing PC model offers a good indication of what they'll be. There's also going to be a flat-rate pricing plan for older titles.

"We don't have everything together just yet, we want people to at least have this in the back of their mind when they decide whether or not to get the MicroConsole," OnLive CEO Steve Perlman said in an adjoining interview.

"In December we'll announce pricing and the line-up of games. It's literally just a matter of getting publishers to sign this that and the other thing."

"We have over 100 games in the pipeline," Perlman added. "[Publishers] legitimately have reasons to be sceptical, but what is happening now is they're saying, 'Wow, this isn't just an adjunct platform,' this is something they're going to design to."

In the future, Perlman reckons games will be designed exclusively for OnLive to offer experiences that "wouldn't be possible on the kind of hardware people currently have at home".

Digital Foundry put this to the test, take 2.

Games promised by OnLive so far include Duke Nukem Forever, Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Red Faction: Armageddon, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, F.E.A.R. 3 and the new Driver game.

There's even the possibility of OnLive spreading to iPad and Android devices in the future - although the tech isn't quite there yet.

So that's OnLive which, for now, remains an American dream. In the UK, charge-for-a-phoneline BT will be the exclusive OnLive partner.

OnLive expects to make its way to the UK late next year.

Can this really work? We asked blacksmith of the future Digital Foundry to investigate in July.