OnLive Logo

…and five why it’ll fail

I read a very interesting quote about OnLive, the cloud based gaming service that went live in the UK a few weeks ago, it said something like “OnLive isn’t the future just yet, but it will be one day.”

This posed all kinds of questions. If OnLive is going to be the future at some point, doesn’t that currently make it the present? If then, it actually is the present, wouldn’t it have been the future sometime in the past?

It is with those most taxing queries that I present to you my initial non-sarcastic assessment of OnLive. Five reasons it’ll be the next great thing, and five why it’ll fall on it’s cloudy face.

OnLive – Silver Lining

Life of Luxury
Lazy Gamer

Bathing optional.

This is a personal one, but for me, the less work I have to do to play a game, the better. And when I say work, I mean any work at all. I don’t want to trek down to GAME on a rainy Saturday morning, I want don’t want to have to switch on my laptop and order the game from Play.com, I don’t even want to walk across the room to put the disc in the tray. (Potential for serious injury there).

With OnLive, all I need to do is log on, sit back and start playing. The more time on the couch, the better. Wait, I still need to turn on the MicroConsole? I want a refund!

Voyeurism

Not like that, you perv. One of OnLive’s best features is the Arena option that allows you to spy on other gamers shooting people in the kneecaps on MW3, scoring a later winner on FIFA 12 or continually running into walls on Assassin’s Creed. You can even rate their efforts, all with no seedy connotations whatsoever. Although I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some filthy developer releases the ‘OnLive Peepshow’. You heard it here first.

Play It Your Way

Demos, rentals, monthly subscriptions and traditional full purchases. Whatever way you want to play, there’s plenty of choice. You even get your first game for a measly £1 when you sign up. What more could you ask for? Well yes, free games would be nice, but we all know that’s never going to happen. Get over it.

Keeping Tabs

This is very interesting. You don’t actually need to purchase the MicroConsole to use the service. The games are being streamed don’t forget. So you can actually log on to OnLive from an iPad or PC while still using your pad to control the games. And if unlike me, you have mates, you can all play the same game with using the TV, with one on the laptop and yet another on the tablet. Finally, I can have LAN parties again. Well, once I find some friends. But that’s what Facebook stalking is for.

Brag About It 
Melvyn

Melvyn Bragg: Not included with the Onlive service.

Another very cool feature. Brag Clips let you show the world what a great player you are by recording the last ten seconds of game footage and playing it back for all to marvel at.

Think of it as a kind of visual version of Need For Speed‘s Autolog system. So now not only do all your friends know you laid down a sweet 150 point word in Scrabble HD, they can see it too. That might not be as exciting to look at as blowing up someone on Halo 4, but you get the idea.

OnLive – Showers on the way

Narrowband

It’s clear that the broadband infastructure in the UK hasn’t quite got the muscle to host something as complex as the OnLive service properly yet. So expect a few compromises in things such as graphical fidelity and occasionally having to wait for space to open up on game servers before playing.

There’s an irony in the fact that super-fast broadband hasn’t arrived on these shores yet, but once it does, OnLive will quickly become the future…or the current past. Or something.

To Pwn Or Not To Pwn?

With all this streaming and rivering and oceaning of games, one question remains: what happens to them if OnLive goes bust? How can I access my titles? Did they even exist in the first place? This could launch some serious existential debate, but for now I’ll keep it simple; despite the forward momentum of cloud based everything, there’s still a lot to be said for physically owning a game. The excitement of holding it in your hands for the first time, the frustration at trying to remove that annoying plastic wrapping, the glee as your servant inserts the disk into the tray. These are moments you’ll miss.

HD Me
Rad Racer Screen

Onlive Screenshot.

I didn’t spend fourteen grand (slight exaggeration) on that 52 inch monster HD TV that blocks out all natural light from my living room for nothing. The service is giving you your game as compressed video. Anyone who’s tried to access YouTube on their mobile with a spotty 3G connection knows what that means.

OnLive is an impressive feat of technology, but that all goes out the window when all I can see on my screen are visuals I would’ve marveled over six years ago. Don’t make my HDMI cry.

Dude, Where’s My Games?

The current selection of titles on the OnLive service is pretty slim. Obviously it’s early days for the platform (can you call it that? It’s more of a large body of water), but the absence of big publishers like Activision and EA is a letdown. If it doesn’t secure a wide breath of titles in the months to come, it could be a case of gone-before-it-started Live.

The Price Ain’t Right 

An in-shop full priced game is roughly £39.99. OnLive’s full purchase offerings are around the £34.99 mark. What’s wrong with this picture? You guessed it. When the visuals aren’t as sharp as a steak knife with an IQ of 130 and I’m getting controller lag at inopportune moments, I want more than a fiver off.