OnLive’s Evolution

OnLive continues to evolve. That is perhaps its defining characteristic, that it is never really finished. Of course, this latest generation of consoles has prepared gamers for a gradual evolution of their operating system software but OnLive takes that a step further.

The nature of a streaming service makes it possible to improve the gameplay experience on a much more fundamental level. Visual fidelity, DLC and even historical context, in the form of previous series instalments, can be easily added to the service for new and existing games. The hardware can evolve on a much greater scale than simple firmware additions. OnLive can move into the “next gen” without the end user – you and I – ever having to lift a finger.

[drop2]The service’s recently upgraded Android application (the iOS version is still coming, too) allows you to play the entire OnLive catalogue on your tablet or smartphone. This is particularly appealing when paired with the Xperia Play’s slide out buttons or an Android tablet’s ability to be paired with a traditional controller. OnLive’s ability to stream top quality games to a tablet not only increases the worth of the service to tablet owners, it makes owning a tablet a much more enticing prospect for gamers. The new universal wireless controller from OnLive pairs seamlessly with a multitude of devices and has the ability to turn a budget-range Android tablet into a viable gaming platform.

OnLive’s most recent push for awareness has been focussed around the addition of the first big name sports game (at least for Europe), PES 2012. It makes sense, too. OnLive has thus far been two things for its UK subscribers: a cheap way to get a limited selection of new games like Arkham City and Saints Row The Third and a way to revisit a range of older titles like Deus Ex, Just Cause 2 and Borderlands.  Adding flagship titles in various genres which have mass appeal to European gamers will raise awareness and sell the service to a whole different demographic.

PES 2012 plays well too, although the fact that what you see displayed on your television screen is a streaming video means that there is an occasional glimpse of blocky artefacting. Colours might also need some tweaking in your TV’s sliders in order to get the image quality as vivid as you might be used to. In terms of actual gameplay, it was flawless. The notion that I could play this fully featured version of a football game on an Xperia Play in Starbucks while I wait for my wife to finish shopping is a compelling one, and something that simply isn’t conceivable elsewhere (although we’ll see how the Vita’s sports games fare soon).

When OnLive launched last September, amid a whirlwind of promotional micro-consoles and £1 offers, I was immediately struck by how accessible the system was. Of course, internet infrastructure will play a big role in how viable it is for each individual user but there is no question that the service works perfectly, given the right conditions. With new ways to access it appearing on tablets and smartphones, it seems intent on fulfilling that desire to be available on anything with a screen.

New games constantly added to the catalogue, new ways to access the stream and an ever-growing package for subscribers make OnLive’s immediate future very interesting indeed. As the service gains a wider install base it will hopefully be able to achieve day-one parity with retail release dates much more often. PES 2012 appearing on OnLive is great news but if PES 2013 appears at the same time it hits store shelves, that could be add another huge selling point to the ever growing list.

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72 Comments

  1. Can we have a show of hands (or paws) as to who uses Onlive? Just curious.

    • Not me, PSN and PC all the way so far.

    • My internet’s not quick enough, so I lent my unit to a mate and he loves it.

    • Yup. I use it. Well, I HAVE it, dont use it too much yet but thats probably down to the selection of titles on there. For me whats wrong here is the pricing. They do have some great offers from time to time but £30 for PES 2012 when I dont get a physical disk and I am relying on a TP server AND my own internets to be up and running to play it – no thanks.

      I think Onlive would work far better by offering subscriptions to a game – say £5 for a months access to the game which can be renewed if you want to carry on playing. The current 3/5 day passes just arent enough for blokes like me who have other commitments and cant do a straight 3/5 day playthrough!

      • I tried DiRT 3 on my PC and my Xperia Play and whilst it looked fine the input lag was horrendous. Plus it eats my internet quota like it is going out of fashion. It remains a no go until an unlimited data package becomes available from my ISP (I live in Hull and only have one choice of ISP).

    • Only for trial use, demoing. I occasionally view other people, again just to see how a game plays. There is too much lag and to be honest the graphics are not crisp enough for me to realise that all the settings are on max. Nice idea for the future but the average user doesn’t have the bandwidth to make it truly work at the moment.

    • I signed up & used it when it launched, it was brilliant. My Internet quality has since dropped off a cliff & is frequently around 1meg down from a stable 3meg and as such OnLive is not usable so I sold my console & cancelled my package.

      I’d quite happily use OnLive or similar as my only gaming service if publishers got their games on to it around the launch period as a matter of course rather than it just being in specially negotiated cases. Publishers will of course be wary of giving too much power to one provider which dominates the market & can hold them to ransom like iTunes and the music market, so I just can’t see it happening.

      But yes OnLive was awesome & I’d use it again in a flash should my Internet return to it’s previous stability.

    • i’ll try a demo on it now and again, but i’m not going to buy something i’m never even gonna come close to owning.
      if they get some cards in stores for the sub package, i might consider that, that’s kind of like what i get with the ps plus sub.

    • I signed up and tried on my laptop which was a bit rubbish but I got the hardware cheap on ebay and it worked a treat. The only issue I have is the bandwidth use.

      I struggle to keep up to date with waht is on there and who is playing though, would be a good idea on here to have a round up each week or so of what is new and what is hot playing wise.

      • I don’t think it’s worth writing a round up article for 3 people is it? :P

    • I have it and use it. got a few games on there but I have to be very picky about when I play (4pm til 9pm evenings, lag is awful).

      FYI I have 30mb broadband.

      • Wah? I’ve got 50mb broadband and haven’t experienced any lag, even between those times. That’s strange.

    • I don’t have it as my net would divorce and then sue me if i tried to and i don’t intend to get it.

    • I use it occassionally. Ive cancelled my playpack subscription temporarily though due to the wealth of PS3 games released at back end of 2011. I will be re-activating later this year though.
      I know my brother uses it with hios xperia Play as well and enjoys it. We’ve both got good home connections too, so i guess that helps. I’d say its been at least 95% reliable for me, which probably on par with the reliability of PSN

    • The T’interweb in my area is slow. Cups on a string are a quicker for of communication that email in Stoke-on-Trent so I havnt bothered.

    • Not me either but i did try Eurogamers streaming version yesterday morning. Played The Darkness 2 demo and it ran and looked real sweet!

      • Yup, I’ve tried out Gaikai too, is sweeeet

        Perfect way to try stuff out too, no multi-gig downloads, just stream the game straight to you, control pad support is coming soon too which will be cool.

      • What? I’ve already used a 360 controller to stream via Gaikai (Bulletstorm demo). It was brilliant.

    • not interested in it.

    • The main thing that stops me using it is the fact that if your Internet connection is down you cannot play games. Although the telephone network in the area I live (out in the sticks) has got a lot better over the years, if there’s a storm/high winds or heavy snow it can still go down.

    • Yes, I do. Quite a lot, I’ve bought new releases via OnLive (AC: Revelations, Saints Row The Third and Arkham city I all got via OnLive, the latter 2 pre-ordered, and I intend to get War in the North when I have the cash).

      I’ve played it via my 50mb broadband and my girlfriend’s parents’ barely 5mb broadband (over wifi, no less) and it was and is exceptional. I’ve got a microconsole, too. When Apple get their arse in gear and release the OnLive Player for iPad I’ll be getting a universal Onlive controller.

      I’ve talked about my experiences with OnLive via TSA article before ;-)

    • I used it once, and got fed up that it demanded a cable connection to my router. Despite the fact that every other device I have gets about 20Mbitps over wifi of my 50Mbit connection.

      Haven’t gone back since.

  2. Actually, the end user does have to lift a finger if they want to play the game. ;)

    I flat out refuse to get Onlive as i don’t like the idea of playing a game only for the net to disconnect whilst it’s saving and just don’t like the generally idea of having to be connected to the net at all times just to play a game. Plus, i prefer the good old phyiscal disc based gaming.

    However i can see why a lot of people would like it. Although, i think the likes of BT will/have had a hissy fit when one of their customers tried to play Onlive. :)

    • BT bought a share in OnLive & actively offer OnLive packages when you sign up to their broadband.

      • That’s all well and good, but BT can’t even keep their own on demand service functioning at an acceptable level of service. I used to work for for BT Vision support a couple of years back, when it started taking off, and the amount of people who would call up complaining, and we would check the line and see an error basically stating the exchange in that area was unable to cope with demand so the streaming wasn’t working was pretty unreal. Of course this could of improved since I was there, but having worked for BT, I have very little faith in them :3

      • As does anyone that has had BT service in the past no doubt. My faith is non-existent with them now.

      • The best service I ever had in Ireland was from BT Ireland.
        That’s not saying much though. Mind you, I’d love to know how Vodafone (who bought out their Irish business) managed to make everything slower using the same lines and ‘upgrading’ their customers speed at the same time.

      • Now that is a feat to be proud of by anyones standards.

  3. I’m still waiting for OnLive to make an official appearance here in Germany. Currently my PC gaming is bound to my PC in the bedroom, which is rather uncomforatble for playing in longer sessions because the 32″ Full HD TV is mounted to the wall oposite of where I’d be sitting.
    The PC is too big for the living room, but OnLive would fit in quite nicely. I also like the fact that I wouldn’t have to upgrade my PC every now and then to play newer games.

  4. See, I love OnLive. I’ve been a big fan since it was launched, but this article has confused me a bit. Maybe it’s just because I’ve kept up to date with what’s gone on, but this sounds like a summing up of what OnLive does, has done for a fair while, and always set out to do…

    Have I missed the point?

    • not really, that’s kind of what I intended: To point out that it’s quietly and continuously improving. It’s only been released in the UK for four months and it’s consistently adding little things and growing.

  5. Never used it and not really interested. I prefer to have the hardware in my room.

    Does Onlive get all games released, like Bf3 and COD and Uncharted? or is just multi platform games?

    • No, it doesn’t yet have any of the AAA shooters. it has a few AAA releases like Batman:AC, Deus Ex:HR, PES2012, AC:Revelations (I think).
      I cant see it getting anything like Uncharted any time in the foreseeable future, not least becuase I think the versions that are loaded onto the Onlive Servers are the PC versions

      • Plus Uncharted is Sony exclusive last i heard. :)

  6. its pretty good when your nets working well, i use it with my transformer prime via an xbox controller and it works well although ive had issues with stability but i guess thats just android for you ;)

  7. i can see the whole onlive thing falling to pieces the first time they have a major outage and nobody can access their games for who knows how long.
    what if they get hacked?
    it’s not like the psn where people can still play offline if the service is shut down,

    that’s my feelings towards onlive.
    but then i’m kinda biased.
    i just don’t like it when something i’ve bought and paid for can be taken away from me without my say so on a moments notice.
    personally i consider that theft.

    yes i’m being a bit sensationalist, but this is how i feel about this.
    this is just the latest in the industry trend towards the idea that ownership is a concept that only applies to them and not us, the paying customers.

    we don’t own the consoles we buy, they can add and remove features on a whim it seems, but we can’t touch them.

    now they don’t even want us to own the games we buy.

    could you imagine any other industry run like that?

    • i agree with everything you said there 100% but

      “this is just the latest in the industry trend towards the idea that ownership is a concept that only applies to them and not us, the paying customers.”

      this isnt new though, ive got in my hand the licensing agreement for Thief, in legalese its the same as the games we have now, its just with the advent of digital distribution its become more of an issue.
      dont let that convince you im not with you though ;)

    • I asked the sales guy at Eurogamer about this and he couldn’t give me an exact answer, I have since discovered that any game loaded on the servers has a minimum availability time of 3 years, as long as 1 person plays that game in any 3 year period the game will stay on the service.
      I would say though, your gonna have to get usd to not having any physical media pretty sharpish, before this decade is out, I’d be very surprised if you can even buy a CD/DVD/VideoGame on the high street, not ideal but its the way everything is going
      As for the hacking, I doubt many people could give you answer as to how the service will fare following an outage. Just have to trust that OnLive have it well protected I guess.

      • even downloads are better than this though, at least the game is local, and isn’t dependent a whole host of factors working perfectly for you to be able to play them.
        like if your net goes down, no game.
        their server goes down, no game.
        they go out of business, no game.
        net congestion, barely playable game.
        if reports about the Olympics are true. what are onlive players going to play for those few weeks?

        downloads are almost infinitely preferable to this.
        though i would always go with hard copy given the choice.

        and recent actions by scee have put me off downloadable games quite a bit.

        and i don’t think we’ll see the death of physical media just yet, people said vinyl would die with the cd, yet here we are in the age of the mp3 and you can still get vinyl.
        not on most high streets true, but it’s still out there.
        i got a record just a couple of months ago with the bioshock 2 special edition.
        i just have to find a way to play it. o_O

        in fact there might even be a need for more secure permanent read only formats in future with more and more devices being always online, you’ll need your purchased stored in a way that they can’t be destroyed by some malicious hacker.
        as we all know, no security is perfect.

      • When it comes to demos I’d actually prefer streaming rather than downloading 1 GB before I can actually start playing.

        As for your point that you can’t play any games if your internet connection is down. Try looking at OnLive as an additional service that you can use to paly games. It doesn’t have to replace your PS3. Just because I have a PS3 doesn’t mean I don’t use my PC anymore every now and then. You can play the odd PC exclusive or FPS through OnLive and if there is an outage you can go back to playing Uncharted on your PS3. It’s not always black or white. Grey is actually be pretty cool. :)

        One more thing:

        “i just don’t like it when something i’ve bought and paid for can be taken away from me without my say so on a moments notice.
        personally i consider that theft.”

        If you only use the monthly fee option it’s actually not that different from let’s say a season pass for Six Flags. If they have trouble with their rides they will be closed off from the public until the issues are resolved. It’s basically a service and not being able to use it is not exclusive to digital media. I’m sure we’d get something from them if they had a serious outage.

      • well i was thinking more of games that are bought on a service like that.
        if you buy the disc, or even a download, you’re not reliant on so many factors to play it.
        well some games are, because the idiot, douchebag publishers put invasive and counter productive drm on their games.
        but most don’t have that, and i don’t buy those that do.
        so most disc and download games can be played even if the net goes down, or the servers crash or the company goes under.

        with a sub service, if the service goes, you stop paying.
        with a full game sale, you should get the game for as long as you want it.
        or as long as your machine keeps working.

      • i forgot to add, i agree with you on the demo front, onlive is great for demos.

    • You never own a game regardless of how you buy it anyway you only feel you do because you bought the disc it came on.

      Downloads are preferable to streamed in some uses, but what if all downloads came like Capcom’s recent efforts which require online verification to use? Pretty sure Final Fight was released like this although I may be wrong.

      It’s not hard to imagine the PS4/Xbox3 doing the same with even retail games coming with single use codes and requiring online verification to run at all.

      I agree with you & your sentiment, but I think you’re clinging to a concept that in this day & age is hanging by a thread.

      Speccie FTW!

      • I think the customer is king from what I can tell no one is remotely interested in a no disc format.

      • Tell that to Apple and the AppStore.
        Mind you, at least you can download those files.

      • What? There is a massive chunk of gamers who don’t use disks. They use Steam.

      • Put simply, i will always want discs. The second that they are retired, so will i.

      • the industry would like to think ownership is an outmoded concept, but most of their customers don’t.

        i may not own the rights to the content, so i couldn’t copy it and sell the copies, but i own that copy, if i want to transfer ownership of my copy, that’s my legal right.

        why should i not be allowed to resell a game i’ve bought?
        i’m talking single player, offline, with no ongoing service from the publisher.
        in a situation like that, should i be prevented from selling my property?

        does a builder get a cut if future owners of any house he built sell it?
        does ford get a cut if somebody buys a used car?
        does lady gaga get a cut if somebody buys a copy of her album at a car boot sale?
        does the writer get a cut when a charity shop sells their book?

        i don’t get where this notion that they should keep getting paid even though they’re not doing any more work comes from, people say it’s the gamers that have an inflated sense of entitlement, but it’s the industry that does as far as i can see.

        this isn’t directed at you CC, this is just my rant at the industry.

        as for that final fight thing, that’s as bad as onlive.
        downloads that can be played without needing online authentication are almost infinitely better than onlive.
        and a hard copy is almost infinitely preferable to a download.
        depending on the service of course.

      • @skibadee
        Digital is growth, everyone from my Dad (nearly 70) to my Daughter (9) buy digital games all the time on iOS

        Myself, I buy loads off the PSN, far more than I do retail boxed games… there’s just far more originality there and as a result for my tastes far better gaming experiences than the same old franchises which get wheeled out every October in retail.

        @hazelam
        I agree both; your points and your sentiment.

        I just think activation codes will be used in the next-gen of consoles, not just for multiplayer components but for the game as a whole + digital distribution will just grow & grow & grow

        And whilst streamed games might not compare favourably to this gen from an ‘ownership’ point of view I think next year or year after when the Xbox3 & PS4 are arriving in people’s homes then the added convenience of streamed games will outweigh its restrictions which will surely arrive in the next console gen anyway.

    • That would be theft, yes. Thankfully, there is no evidence to suggest and it has never been implied that OnLive will or have ever do/done that.

      • with steam you own it still if tomorrow MS said nextbox no discs & PS4 had discs which console would win PS4 hands down.

      • they have stated that they might retire games after two or three years.

        they said that was only a legal thing the publishers wanted but what’s to stop the publishers forcing them to remove the games, no matter how many people still play them?

        i have no doubt ea would do that, they shut down their servers pretty quick for some of their games, they’d love to be able to stop you playing them altogether.

        and all that is assuming i believed them when they said they’d never remove games if at least 1 person was playing it, which i don’t.

  8. I have it but don’t use it. At the moment, for me, it just isn’t smooth enough to replace HW consoles.

    However I do think it’s a glimpse into the future and I would be surprised if we ever see a 5th (possibly 4th?) generation of consoles.

  9. Most people that I know that have it can’t play it as they say their internet isn’t fast enough. Honestly can’t see Onlive or Gaikai being successful just yet.

    • What speeds are they on?

      • Ive got 20mb in Central London and Onlive is practically unusable.

      • 20mb? Gah. I’ve played OnLive just fine via a 2.5mb connection in the middle of Nowhere, Scotland. In fact, I’ve played games via OnLive on my phone via 3G.

        I can’t explain that, it doesn’t make any sense.

      • Something massively wrong with your net then Tuffcub

        Digital Foundry has gone through it in amazing detail and lag is similar to that of Killzone2 on a stable 5mbps connection which runs at 720p60fps.

        With tweaks to their codecs and delivery methods they should be able to get lag around that of Killzone3 by the time the next-gen of consoles are arriving.

      • It won’t be possible to have experiences like Unreal Tourney or CoD or driving games like GT or Forza, but it should cope with with pretty much everything else with not real perceived difference to playing locally stored games.

  10. Until the UK… as gotten itself good speeds then they’ll improve.

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