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OnLive gaming app comes to Google TV devices

Google has announced a partnership with "cloud" gaming service OnLive to bring console-quality games to the beleaguered platform.

OnLive cloud gaming came first to PCs, then to tablets like the iPad (pictured). This year it will come to Google TV devices.
Sarah Tew/CNET

LAS VEGAS--Finally, a unique and worthwhile "app" comes to Google TV.

Google announced today that its much-maligned connected TV platform would support the OnLive gaming service.

OnLive's "cloud" gaming allows users to play a variety of console-quality titles on devices like PCs, tablets, and now select Google TV hardware like TVs, streaming boxes, and Blu-ray players, without having to use an actual game console.

According to the press release:

As we do with most new platforms, OnLive is starting out with a Viewer on Google TV, so for now, you can just watch and use OnLive social features. But hang in there, OnLive is working closely with Google to enable full gameplay with OnLive gamers from around the world on Google TV. And more Google TV devices are coming, with OnLive built right in.
Update 1/11, 10:34 PM OnLive has confirmed that the service will be available for all Google TV devices, including the Logitech Revue set-top, Sony's NSX-GT1 series Google TVs, and LG Google TVs. A company rep would could not be specific about timing, however.

For its part Google's release named Vizio's VIA Plus devices, including the VAP430 streaming box (summer, $99) and VBR430 Blu-ray player (summer, $TBD), as among the first Google TV devices to receive the full-fledged service. The company's VIA Plus TVs (fall, $TBD) will also support OnLive; in fact both Rich Brown and I tried out the Vizio/OnLive TVs at CES 2011 (see Rich's video below) and came away impressed.

Like the older Google TV products these 2012 Vizios ship with a remote that can act as a controller, but gamers who want to get the most out of the system will pair it with the Universal OnLive Wireless Controller.

We spoke to Aaron Drew, product manager at Vizio, who told us that the remote that's shipping with the Vizio boxes is fine for casual gaming, but he wasn't sure that it would support every game. We also asked whether OnLive would be a launch-day feature of the company's Google TV products, but he couldn't confirm.

The OnLive news comes as Google announces work with Samsung and Sony to bring further Google TV models to market this year. Google also said it's switching its recommended chipset from Intel to Marvell.

The past year was a tough one for Google TV. It started poorly, with products pulled from CES 2011, and got worse with a no-show from Vizio, a lukewarm reaction to the long-overdue Honeycomb update, and Logitech blaming a huge financial loss on the Google TV Revue. However, Google executives told CNET late last year that Google TV is a "marathon, not a sprint" and said they are optimistic about its future.

Perhaps OnLive will be the "killer app" that makes Google TV relevant again. For a taste of its implementation, check out Rich Brown's video below from CES 2011.

Now playing: Watch this: OnLive on Vizio