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.