Gaming! At the library! It’s the new thing! Many public and some academic libraries stock video games and have game nights. Wii and Rock Band are particularly fun and festive and bring people through the doors. I can’t help but think there’s a better way, though.
There are many problems with gaming at libraries. First is the cost. New games can cost $60 on the XBox360 and PS3 and $50 for the Wii. Cheaper games may not draw the same circulation and probably don’t have the kind of online community supported by marquee, expensive games. Hardware is also extremely expensive. The second issue is theft. Games are expensive, and attract a crowd. Of course there are going to be some problems with theft. So libraries have to shell out for those expensive security cases and be willing to absorb some of the cost of replacement.
OnLive can address both issues if properly managed and negotiated by savvy librarians. OnLive is a cloud based gaming services that streams PC and console games to anyone with the service. Processing is done on a remote server, and pictures are streamed to the user’s computer. This eliminates the need for multiple consoles or computer upgrades to play the latest games. It’s going through testing right now, but it could end up being a boon to libraries. OnLive users do not get a physical copy of any game they play. Rather, they set up an account and are granted access to a virtual library of games. This sounds a bit like an electronic database for games. And it should, cause that’s basically what it is. Same deal. Stop paying, lose access. But if you keep paying, you have a huge collection of games stored and hosted on someone else’s server. No more theft, no more incompatibilities, no more scratched disks, checking in or out, etc.
Librarians may actually have the upper hand in this negotiation if they move quickly. OnLive is directed at gamers, and probably never thought of libraries being their primary patron. Librarians, on the other hand, have knowledge of licensing issues and may be able to negotiate licenses with OnLive to gain access for patrons. It WILL be cheaper in the long run than the current model. It also has the advantage of making games on different consoles available to anyone with a high-speed internet connection, increasing the possible user demographic (except the Wii. Not sure that will translate well to OnLive).
This is the new frontier if you want to explore it.