OnLive Launches June 17th

By Jim Rossignol on March 10th, 2010 at 6:27 pm.


The OnLive “Games On Demand” service will launch in the US on June 17th for Mac and PC, and it will cost $15/month. Remind yourself why this is a big deal by revisiting last year’s announcement.

Launch titles for the streamed-games service include Assassin’s Creed II, Metro 2033 and Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands. Which kind of makes sense, because you really will have to be “always on” connected if you want to play the games. There’s a demo of it going on at GDC right now, and tweeters in the audience are saying it looks “amazing”. Apparently it needs 1.5mbps. What’s the latency like? We just won’t know, I suspect, until it goes live.

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120 Comments »

  1. Legionary says:

    What’s the latency like? Bets on for ‘horrific’.

  2. Vinraith says:

    This is, by far, the biggest threat to the open nature of the PC platform I can think of. No more mods, no more user generated content, no more offline play, and a commercial gateway through which all games must be accepted and certified before being available to play.

    Am I the only one that finds this thing downright frightening?

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      You and everyone else. Especially consumer hardware manufacturers.

    • Premium User Badge

      KindredPhantom says:

      That is if it widely adopted.

    • Clovis says:

      No. If this somehow works, it is a big step forward for gaming. It is not like every game has to use the service. The ability for people with modest computers to play the latest games at a very reasonable price has to be considered a good thing.

      I understand the fear though. I don’t really want games to only be offerred through the service, but if it works I guess that’s the way it will go. So we won’t be able to mod AAA games made by companies that don’t want to support modding. Is that really so bad that you don’t want a service like this to work?

      I’m assuming this can’t possibly work though.

    • Pantsman says:

      Calm down. Your computer isn’t going to dissolve in its case if this takes off, nor will modders and indie devs stop making games for it. The very worst that can happen is that most AAA titles won’t come out on PC anymore.

    • john says:

      This is only if publishers decide to exclusively release on it. There’s no reason why people can just buy their games elsewhere, and I assume that will continue for a very long time. What makes the PC so great is that no single distribution platform can ever completely dominate it.

    • Vinraith says:

      @ Those saying “calm down”

      Long view: Let’s say this works, if not OnLive now then something similar at some point in the future. At that point, your average PC game consumer is going to realize they don’t need to drop money on hardware upgrades anymore to play popular game X. After a little while of that, they’re going to have a computer that is no longer capable of playing “modern” games on anything other than OnLive. It’s a system that very effectively promotes longterm dependence on the part of those using it. If a large enough segment of the market is only playing games on OnLive, you’re going to see not only fewer (if any) AAA releases for non-OnLive PC, you’re going to start seeing a drop in everything else simply as a result of open PC gaming becoming a radically shrinking market.

      It’s hard for me to see how turning the PC into an online-dependent console can possible be a good thing.

    • jsutcliffe says:

      @Vinraith, and the “calm down” people

      My gut tells me that OnLive won’t be a success (I have concerns about publishers not getting involved and the game library being quite limited, and the Internet infrastructure not being able to support it yet), but could pave the way for future services that could lead to exactly what Vinraith is suggesting above.

    • Clovis says:

      @Vinraith: Yeah, that could happen, and some aspects of that will be different then what we have now. If this can really work, would you really want to stop it though?

      And why does it only have to be OnLive? They already have competitors before they’ve even launched like Gaikai or whatever.

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      Carra says:

      I’m not considering this a threat. In fact, it’s a great idea. €15/$15 a month and you can play those games. Buying assassins creed 2 alone would set me back $60.

      And if it works it’s the ideal way to stop piracy. If a game is only released through a server oriented architecture you can’t pirate it.

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      Carra says:

      Ok, the $15 only gives you access…

      So I guess it will depend on their prices. A rental system at reasonable prices for games I can finish in one week sounds good. But why do I have to pay a monthly payment then?

      Buying games through their system? That doesn’t look very appealing to me.

    • FhnuZoag says:

      Well, the appearance of an online dependent platform is pretty much inevitable. At least with OnLive, its success will be directly proportional to how well it works, so OnLive is only really going to be ubiquitous when the problems with connectivity etc go away.

    • Moorkh says:

      @Clovis: indeed this would be my absolute nightmare: just having access to games, but never really owning, controlling them. Leaving it all to a corporate entity that inherently doesn’t care about games.
      I have not played an unmodded game in years and I doubt I will continue playing anything besides a couple mmos (which can kind of counter said problem by allowing to “mod” the game from within by being a sandbox).

    • Clovis says:

      @Moorkh: Aren’t most of those games mod friendly though? if a game company makes mod friendly games now I’m sure they’ll release a “normal” PC version too. You won’t get to mod Super GraphX Shooter 9, but I’m Mount and Blade 3 won’t be a problem. The big game companies have already decided on not supporting mods and nothing will change that. Why let players make maps when you can sell them for $10 a pop?

      Ownership of games is getting to be a pretty niche area too, right? I buy (ie, rent) most games through Steam now. Sure, maybe I’ll lose access to them at some point and I can’t resell them. So what? I only paid $5 or $10 for them anyway.

      I doubt this system will work, but it’s hard to imagine a future where most people still buy home computers rather than using centralized ones.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Clovis

      if a game company makes mod friendly games now I’m sure they’ll release a “normal” PC version too.

      Why would they, if there’s no money in it?

    • Moorkh says:

      @Clovis:
      Heh, thirty years ago, some people also couldn’t imagine ppl would buy home computers instead of being hooked to a mainframe by terminal. ;)

      Anyway, there is a difference between “doesn’t support” and “makes utterly impossible” to mod a game. Modding a game is not in the interest of a game publisher unless it is a very cetral feature of it to the majority of customers (see the Sims). And even then, the publisher will want to have control over mods as much as possible (see the Sims exchange) making sure mods don’t modify the game in a way not intended or – beware – making them a threat to the sales of their own DLC.

      If this really takes of I doubt there will remain a PC market worth considering for anyone except the most niche of developers and of course the indies. They might come up with fun, creative and even artful stuff, but it won’t really be the things I crave from this here medium. What’s more, technical progress in the area would quickly become stunted as there’d simply not be any reasonable drive to improve decentral hardware both by customers or manufacturers.
      Sure, I like my rogue-like once in a while, but I like to play around with a Fallout or a Dragon Age much more often. But only if I can do it my way.

    • Clovis says:

      @Vinraith: I don’t know, why do they? Why do some companies make games moddable now? Why would this change that?

    • Vinraith says:

      @Clovis

      Sure, some indies do it out of the kindness of their hearts, but in most cases with mainstream games it’s a significant sales feature. The supremacy of OnLive or something similar would put an end to that.

    • DrGonzo says:

      @vinraith Do you actually know if it won’t allow mods or are you just assuming? I don’t see why they can’t host the mods on their servers. It’s just another free game to add to their service and what not.

    • Vinraith says:

      @DrGonzo

      While the notion of a corporate screen deciding which mods I can play is unpleasant, I’m not talking about those sorts of mods. I’m talking about things like a thousands of little mods for a Bethesda game, or those for a turn based strategy game. I don’t see any way to implement that kind of modding on a centralized, remote system. I suppose it could shock the hell out of me and manage such a thing, but being as OnLive is the very definition of a closed system I won’t be holding my breath. Plus, if no one owns a local copy of the game, there’s really no one to develop mods in the first place, now is there?

    • Pantsman says:

      @Vinraith
      The openness of the PC guarantees its continued existence as a platform. Creative people aren’t going to vanish. They’ll still want to make their own games and mods. They’ll keep doing it on PC since that’s by far the cheapest, easiest, and best place do so it, because it’s an open platform and because of all the tools already available.

      Worst case, PC gaming becomes the domain of the video game underground. It’ll be smaller in audience perhaps, but still lively and interesting.

      I think that’s pretty unlikely even if OnLive does work. Consoles have much lower piracy rates than the PC, and they haven’t killed mainstream PC gaming. Games will still be made on PCs, which means the hardware to run them on PCs will still be needed, and which also means that companies will still be able to port their games to PC with a fairly quick turn-around and make a few extra bucks on the platform.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Pantsman

      I think mine are a reasonable set of concerns, but I certainly hope you’re right.

    • Wulf says:

      Openness is hugely important to the PC as a platform, and I can simply buy games that play up to that. Food for thought: I don’t buy a lot of shitty console ports. Why? They’re just as closed as they were on the consoles, most of the time. To even get them to be modifiable one has to crack them. Case in point: GTA IV cannot even have a debugger running in the background unless one is using xliveless. This problem is right here, with us now, and all we can do is support people who believe in the true spirit of computer gaming.

      If anyone really believes in these virtues, then those creating cross-platform, open, modifiable projects with strong communities should be considered our paragons, those projects we should look to the most, and it’s projects like that we should be pointing others at and saying: Look, this is the kind of thing you want. You don’t want to embrace the culture of big publishers because they’re isolationist, they’ll try and make their game as unmodifiable as possible, they’ll make you jump through ludicrous hoops to play their games, and they sure as hell won’t make allowing you to talk with their developers a priority. This culture works for consoles, but not for computers.

      It’s all about what we do from here; we can foster the future of PC gaming, or we can foster the future of the Windows gaming console system, wherein Windows is still a bit open, but none of the games available for it are, and they’re not any different than their console counterparts. Imagine if Oblivion V didn’t support mods, and was exactly like the console versions, and they used some sort of encryption to ensure that no unofficial mods could be loaded in. That’s what we’re looking at, and that’s the real threat, that’s what we should be worried about. OnLive is a red herring by comparison.

      And I won’t be worried about OnLive until we all have Terabit pipes running into our houses.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Vinraith

      It’s definitely a threat to the /nature/ of the platform, but it will eliminate a lot of piracy, provide incredibly cheap new games (Modern Warfare for $15 instead of $60?) and, possibly, encourage a lot more PC games to come out in a fixed state.

      Who will play a bug ridden new game when they can play plenty of old fixed ones?

      Also, just as Steam is not the only content provider, I imagine the same will happen with OnLive. Just as multiple companies provide movies over the internet, so multiple companies can provide games over the internet. It also won’t take very long for someone like EA to realise that as a massive publisher, it should probably be streaming its own content from its own site. (And rewarding the best modders with contracts a la Valve.)

      A lot of Indie games will stick around, but they’ll follow the Neptune Pride model and work in flash, so that their games work across platforms.

      Really though, this isn’t just a game changer for the PC, but the PS3 and 360 too. Why would you need a console when you can hook a box to your TV that lets you access all the games on any platform (including any game you happen to be able to emulate)? That is what the guy said: that OnLive plays PC and 360 games, and there’s no reason to think that it couldn’t play other systems too.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Wulf

      The reason I’m worried about systems like OnLive is precisely because I’m afraid they’ll lead to situations like TES V being released without mod support. In essence this is one front in the overall “war” against open platform gaming, though, and you’re right that at present it’s not remotely the most pressing one.

    • Subject 706 says:

      Oh yes, being dependent on remote servers to be able to play your, ahem I mean their game is really really great. This system really puts gamers at the mercy of the content providers. Suppose you’d like to play that five-year old game you’ve only just heard of?

      Sorry, you can’t, it’s been taken off the servers, due to newer popular games demanding server space and power. Suppose you’d like to mod out that annoying FOV error the devs haven’t gotten around to fixing. Sorry, you can’t. Ever.

    • Optimaximal says:

      @Vinraith

      It’s hard for me to see how turning the PC into an online-dependent console can possible be a good thing.

      Your perception comes from them ‘trying to turn the PC into said online console’…

      OnLive have already stated their ultimate goal is the Guitar Hero model – a simple, cheap plastic box designed as a controller interface to allow you to play over the net on your TV.

      They’re just using PCs & Macs as the easiest platform to gain traction with – they’re all already largely internet connected and have a much larger ubiquitous user base than all the consoles together. Once that’s profitable, functional and the coffers start filling, then comes the bespoke high-margin hardware.

      At least, that’s how I expect their shareholders are seeing it.

    • Doctor Doc says:

      If it works and games were released exclusively on a service like this it would also stop piracy. Permanently.

  3. jsutcliffe says:

    Hmm, I could believe it working at 1.5Mbps (not millibytes, Jim!), but I too have concerns about latency. I also have no idea how widespread 1.5Mbps connections are, or how reliably they actually deliver 1.5Mbps.

    Also, could somebody review the controller? It’s the least ergonomic controller design I’ve seen in years.

    • Pantsman says:

      Will it not allow M&KB input?

    • Rich says:

      The most immediate offering will be a browser plug-in apparently, so presumably yes.

      There isn’t any release date on their site for the mini console and controller that you plug in to your TV. That’s the one I’d probably be more interested in. Unless you actually have to buy access to games on top of the $15p/m, or whatever it’ll be in pounds.

    • Rich says:

      Further reading says that the monthly ~$15 buys you access to “game demos, video profiles and community features” but not “playing full versions of games, which are to be purchased or rented separately”.

      Well. Fuck that then.

    • Psychopomp says:

      Wow, really? Are they fucking mad? Destined to fail, already.

    • Clovis says:

      @Psycho: Not a great deal to a PC gamer who maybe builds his own system, but I think the average person assumes a gaming PC costs like $2000 and $500/year to maintain or something. If this works technically, I don’t think the price will be a problem for a very large group of consumers. Especially if the initial setup cost is very low.

      You would think the thing would launch with free access to a big title though, just to suck people in.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Wow. That is incredibly dumb. I was thinking this would be a great service to turn a naff netbook into a second gaming rig for multiplayer fun. I wouldn’t even mind paying 20 or 30 dollars if the games are free.

    • Howl says:

      Not sure how they can possibly support first person shooters with a mouse with the latency inherent in this system. It would feel awful. We’d be back to the days of Quake1 where your gun fired about a second after you clicked the mouse, only it would be like that for your mouselook as well.

      I had to reduce settings on Dirt2 because I couldn’t steer properly with my controller at anything less than 60fps. This thing is so going to fail.

  4. jsutcliffe says:

    Prediction: When it has service outages (and it will), comedic people will call it OffLive.

  5. Mike Arthur says:

    The latency and graphics on this will never be as good as using a desktop system yourself. I also agree with those above saying this is a bit scary. We had mainframes once, we’re not going to go back to them.

    • Premium User Badge

      Maltose says:

      Latency, no. But graphics? I odn’t see how OnLive couldn’t match the graphics of a top-of-the line gaming computer. There’s nothing physically stopping them from having high quality graphics, other than the size of their server farm.

    • +--JAK--+ says:

      They would need something pretty revolutionary to be able to render a game at 1080p and simaltaneously encode it into a HD video stream to send down your broadband cable, then your pc needs to be man enough to decode this stream in full HD. There must be an enormous latency between all these things happening, and thats before you consider that you will have to send your controller input to the server before any of this happens. I remain skeptical.

    • Seol says:

      @Maltose:

      You’ll get worse graphics due to three factors:

      1- Resolution dependent on bandwidth: 1.5 Mbps are required for 480p, 4-5 Mbps for 720p. Most pc users don’t have that kind of reliable bandwidth, and any decent home rig can do more than 1080p nowadays.

      2-Video compression artifacts: Realtime encoding is going to be of lower quality than a multipass encoding that takes 5 hours for every 30 mins of video, so you’ll get blockiness and limited color ranges.

      3-Server cost amortization: They are going to try to cram as many virtualized game sessions per server as they can, so most likely they won’t be using maximum graphic settings. In addition it might not be in their best interest to upgrade their hardware to the latest GPU/CPU all the time, for cost effectiveness.

    • Mike Arthur says:

      What Seol said, basically. Even h264 (which they won’t be able to do in realtime and is fairly processor intensive to decode) is noticeably compressed compared to the source. You’ll have nasty artifacts on your beautiful game, something that I don’t think many people will want to put up with.

  6. Pantsman says:

    Two posts about implausible tech that will free us from the tyranny of the GPU Men in as many days? The future must nearly be here!

  7. Clovis says:

    What does the $15 get you? Just access, or is that a subscription to play any game?

    (Sorry, work filters are stopping me from figuring this out on my own)

    • Premium User Badge

      Maltose says:

      Acess only. You will get a discount for subscribing for longer periods of time at once, but the 15$ doesn’t get you any access to full games (you do get access to demos). From the looks of it you’ll have to keep paying the monthly fee to get access to your games; I highlt doubt they’ll give you a retail copy of the game as well.

    • Clovis says:

      I’m guessing they’ll handle it like MS and Sony then. IE, they get a cut on the sale of the game, which means the games will cost $10 – $20 more than they really should. If it becomes popular then the price of the games will only drop after a year or more. I’m guessing it would be cheaper to maintain a gaming system yourself and get cheaper games.

  8. Wolfox says:

    No need to be afraid – it will not work.

  9. Tei says:

    It seems a good system to watch porn at Youtube quality (withouth the benefict of buffering) and play strategy and card games.

    IF (big IF) a client of this is released for both the PC and the consoles, It could also be ….interesting.. to see how PC-people compare to Console-people in a normal FPS.

    I don’t see Apple interested much in a system that will able people to skip the App store, oh.. no iphone client.

    There can will be some good comedy, wen the auth server of the auth server of the auth server of one of the 4 DRM systems is down or ban the other DRM system.
    How would you implement this with OnLive? Imagine a game like L4D that has “accounts”, you don’t want to log in a generic “L4D player” account with a million “friends”. What will OnLive do with existing DRM systems like XBox Live or Steam? Systems that are competitors… that have the power and would love to see OnLive do mediocre.

    Ultimatelly, I want this to success… but It still smell to snake oil to promote this for FPS’s, that is the worst use for something with high latency and low framerate. Maybe this people is wasting his time promoting this to the wround audience. It could be that this could be sell to people that don’t already own 2000$ computers … Or I am wrong?

    • Clovis says:

      I assumed that OnLive would have special arrangements with the game publisher so that the game doesn’t bother with DRM. This is a pretty ultimate form of DRM here, you don’t need more. I don’t think you will be playing the retail version of the game on their servers, but rather an OnLive version of the game that deals with things like accounts.

    • Rich says:

      $2000 computers?
      Bushwa!

      I could get a spanking new overclocked PC for £4-600 from overclockers.co.uk. It would last me 3-6years. If I bought one closer to £400 than £600 I would probably have to upgrade something sooner rather than later, but I’m only likely to be putting down an extra £100. All the while, I’m playing pretty much anything I fancy at anything from medium to high settings, maybe even ultra for games I’ll want to revisit. The price I’ll be paying is either the same or less in the long run, but the big plus will be, it’s mine! I can do what I want to it. Including but not limited to, playing with the internet switched off.

    • Rich says:

      Now if only I could find £4-600.

    • Premium User Badge

      Carra says:

      ~700 euros will get you a good gaming system these days.

      I bought one two years ago and it’s still running everything I throw at it at my native 1650 x 1080 resolution. just have to lower a few details here and there.

    • Fumarole says:

      “IF (big IF) a client of this is released for both the PC and the consoles, It could also be ….interesting.. to see how PC-people compare to Console-people in a normal FPS.”

      This was decided long ago, with the release of Halo on the PC. The PCGamer (US) staff challenged their sister publication, Xbox somethingorother to a few rounds of Halo on the PC, with the Xbox team using Xbox controllers and the PC team using keyboards and mice. Even having never played Halo before, the PC team wiped the floor with the Xbox team.

      OnLive doesn’t sound like anything to be afraid of. PC games won’t go away if this succeeds.

    • Starky says:

      @Rich, if you buy from overclockers.co.uk then I pity you – because if anything goes wrong, and you need to return something they will cheat you, they will lie to you, they will accuse you of lying – they will insult you try to rip you off.

      I speak from personal experience – them refusing to accept a return a dead component (telling me to go to the manufacturer), then refusing to pay for return shipping – then refusing to refund me (because I was damned after that if I was giving them my money)… I literally had to report them to my bank for fraud, and get a refund on my credit card that way.

      Then 2 days later they phoned me and threatened me with court action for reporting the transaction as fraudulent. Upon which I happily informed them that they broke almost every distance selling/sale of goods law, and would welcome their attempt.
      I’m guessing my bank demanded they pay them back for the refund they provided me, but I’m not sure what action the bank took, if any.

      Thankfully that was the end of it, my credit card game me a full refund no the goods and the return shipping (which they would also not refund, but are legally required too).

      It’s worth paying the extra pennies and £2-3 pound shipping from someone like ebuyer, because they have bloody brilliant customer service when something goes wrong.

  10. Heliosicle says:

    Hmm, it may be worth subscribing to this if it survives a few years, and once the internet around here is upto scratch, a good way to check out games where latency doesn’t matter so much and where I’m not really going to want to own it anyway

    edit: only get acess to demos and videos for subscribing? whats the point in that then, FU onlive! I’ll stick to upgrading my stuff, because its mine.

    Also, if they charge full price for games that is ridiculous

  11. Premium User Badge

    Carra says:

    I’m surprised at their launch titles. Some real blockbusters which otherwise need a great PC.

    I just hope that our Belgian ISPs will drop our bloody download limits so we can actually use it.

  12. Radiant says:

    How this works is that there is a call centre in india.
    Everytime you press X the well mannered young man claiming to be ‘Alice’ from Newcastle will shoot a missile/bullet/shot of sperm at what ever target you/heshe was aiming at.

  13. Radiant says:

    I suppose this would be pretty cool if we could buy a copy to play at ‘home’ and then keep on playing our mega games on the move on our netbooks.

    Quinns travelling/game reviewing escapades just went nuclear.

  14. ZeeKat says:

    Oh, this might be interesting. I’m pretty convinced it will be impossible to control typical action game this way, how the hell they’ll compensate latencies and synchronize everything with decent video stream while providing decent responsiveness?

  15. M says:

    Oh good. That’s three days before I lose my 25meg connection.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    Was keen to find out how possible this actually would be, but now I’ve found out the pricing I don’t care.

    $15 only allowing you to have access?! As there is so much skepticism over whether anything on the service will actually be playable by anyone not on some industrial Internet connection located right next to the OnLive servers, I would have thought they would be giving away the demos for free.

    I can’t see anyone willing to put down that money for something that, in all likelihood, won’t work.

    Edit: I type this as Spotify keeps cutting out. Can’t even stream music, let alone a game.

    • Chesterton says:

      Agreed – don’t see why they expect PC gamers to drop $15/month right now just to try demos of games. Perhaps in a couple years if you haven’t updated your computer at all this makes sense….but as others have mentioned the $180/year this costs….you could upgrade your PC slowly with that.

      Those who don’t have very good gaming PC’s…I can definitely see the appeal. As it stands now though, the early adopters – those already into PC gaming – don’t need to pay this to access these games. Price point should be much lower for early adopters.

  17. bwion says:

    Right now, it sounds like a sure-fire way to separate credulous early adopters from their money. (Which is a pretty sound business model for the tech industry, I suppose.)

    An actually functional OnLive which delivers what it promises at a reasonable price point (which $15/month for the right to buy games at, presumably, full price is not) would certainly be a significant competitor to traditional PC gaming. But I don’t really see it as its death knell, any more than consoles were.

    • Clovis says:

      I think they are actually competing against the consoles here. That pricing would look pretty good to a console player. You get a system that gives you better graphics than the XBox or PS3 and will always be able to play games at the highest settings in the future. They are even making a box to let you hook it up to a TV. XBox Live Gold already costs you $5 a month, so it is only $120 a year more. A usuable XBox costs like $300.

      This only makes sense if this magically works though.

    • bwion says:

      @Clovis

      That’s a good point. And particularly if you can (in a magical dreamworld where this is possible) play games on basically any machine you have access to which can connect to the internet, and doubly particularly if it works on mobile devices, then it certainly becomes a little more appealing. Maybe not to me in particular (but I don’t own any consoles either), but yeah, I do see an audience who’d be interested in it.

      But, again, so much is dependent on whether the thing works even a little. My guess is that that’s exactly what it’ll do: work a little. But in a couple years’ time, the technology and infrastructure could be very different, and this could be something credible.

  18. Tacroy says:

    The economics of this are simply nonsensical. $15/month is $180/year; for that much you can upgrade your computer piecemeal once a year to keep up with current games.

    It’s also $900 over five years; for that much right now you can buy an excellent gaming computer that will last you five years, and as a bonus make the rest of your computer experience that much better – and quite frequently, you can get away with paying for that $900 computer in monthly installments that won’t be much more than $15.

    And that’s not even including however much it costs to actually access real games!

  19. karthik says:

    $15 for subscription, and full price for games? Let’s assume that there are no latency or server load problems or other issues, and playing through OnLive is visually equivalent to playing on a gaming PC. Games cost the same anyway, so we can take that out of the equation.

    A decent PC costs about $450, a decent gaming PC costs about $800.
    The difference comes to $350, which is about two years in subscription fees. Considering that the above gaming PC will be viable for gaming for about four years, you’re effectively paying $350 more ($7 per month over four years) for the conveniences of:

    1. Being able to cancel your subscription for the months you don’t need it. No sunk costs like with buying hardware. YMMV, depending on how often you play.
    2. Being able to play your games from any number of PCs, even on someone else’s run-of-the-mill laptop. Kind of like with Steam, but without the hardware requirements. YMMV, depending on how much travelling you do.

    While having to live with the problems of:

    1. Not having a local copy, or the ability to share games with friends. (That’s OK, we’re used to this now because of Steam.)

    Again, this is assuming that you have a stable Internet connection, that everything goes smooth, and OnLive doesn’t pull a Ubisoft and screw up their servers.

    The figure of four years for the gaming viability of a PC is kind of stretching it. I doubt if a $1000 PC from 2006 can play a run of the mill UE3 game, Mass Effect 2, say, on the highest settings.

    I’m sure I’ve missed a few factors, but I think it might work. If I didn’t have a gaming PC already, I would be willing to give it a try.

  20. jsutcliffe says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    The figure of four years for the gaming viability of a PC is kind of stretching it. I doubt if a $1000 PC from 2006 can play a run of the mill UE3 game, Mass Effect 2, say, on the highest settings.

    Tiny fact check: I have a $1000 PC from 2006 and an ATI 2900 XT that I put in later (the PC didn’t come with a dedicated video card and I’d just plugged my old 9800 Pro into it when I got it). It plays pretty much every game I’ve thrown at it on max detail at at least 30fps (usually much higher), including UE3 games and new stuff like Just Cause 2. Admittedly, my monitor’s max resolution is only 1280×1024, but that’s good enough for me.

    • skinlo says:

      Same, as you say, at 1440×900, it runs everything fine!

    • Shalrath says:

      My girlfriend got a 600 dollar computer 3 years ago that can play Fallout 3, Mass Effect, TF2, Left 4 Dead, World of Warcraft, etc, at medium->high settings. For that 180 dollars I could get her a BADASS video card, or a processor, and just upgrade once a year. And it doesn’t need an internet connection all the time, isn’t reliant on their servers, etc

  21. the wiseass says:

    So, these $15/month will only grant you access to their platform, but you still have to pay for every game? Well fuck that, seriously, fuck it!

    I dunno, but why would I want to pay for this? I mean with 600€ I can buy myself a decent computer that lasts for several years. Considering the fact that I can even upgrade my graphics card for far less than that and keep on playing even longer, why would I event want to sign up for that service?

    Simply buying your own gaming rig would cost roughly the same with the added benefit of not depending on an external service, actually owning the game, playing without input lag and being master of your own system.

    I may have accepted this if you’d been able to play any game from their library. But this is just ridiculous. I’m not going to pay 15 bucks a month only to play game demos, I can do that for free already!

  22. Grunt says:

    Tweeters are dumb.

  23. Shalrath says:

    Hey, this might be the one place where Ubisofts DRM actually works, hahahaha.. ahh…

    :(

  24. blagh says:

    I was with you right up until this point:
    “The figure of four years for the gaming viability of a PC is kind of stretching it. I doubt if a $1000 PC from 2006 can play a run of the mill UE3 game, Mass Effect 2, say, on the highest settings.”

    My E6600 + X1900XT combo can definitely manage UE3 games on highest settings at 720/800p, or higher resolution with some reduced detail.
    PC hardware now lasts much more than it ever used to considering most development is completely based on consoles which holds progress back. And even before this was the case, I never really had to upgrade except one or two components every 2-3 years or so.

    Anyway, I will never support this OnLive thing. I’ll stick to real hardware, TYVM.

    • karthik says:

      blagh says: My E6600 + X1900XT combo can definitely manage UE3 games on highest settings at 720/800p, or higher resolution with some reduced detail.

      True, I was just being generous, trying to look at OnLive in the best possible light. A $800 PC today can play every PC game ever at 1920×1080 on the highest settings, with the possible exception of Crysis. If you already have a monitor and peripherals, you can bring that down to $680. When I said “at the highest settings”, this is what I was talking about. I’ve played far too much on 800×600 on old Pentium 3s, so I understand what you mean by games looking pretty good at 720p on high.

      When the next generation of consoles comes out in a few years, the scalability we’ve come to enjoy will disappear, of course.

  25. Bjorgenstein says:

    I’ve actually used OnLive and I can’t figure out who it’s really targeted to.

    Anyone with a computer capable of running games at medium settings would be better off doing that. Considering that consoles have kept sys reqs fairly low, I’d say most PCs with discrete graphics are capable of that.

    However, let’s say you’ve got a netbook or something you want to game on. OnLive might be ideal for you, but you need a really solid internet connection to get it to work. On my 1000 KB/s connection, OnLive used about 700-800 KB/s. I don’t think many can pull that off without their ISPs stabbing them.

    That said, the games were surprisingly playable. There was slight lag, but games like Mass Effect (1) were pretty decent. I was actually quite surprised by this. The playability was beyond what I was expecting. Mass Effect’s not the twitchiest game around, but still, a good showing.

    The visual quality was basically like playing a 720p YouTube video of the game. It’s alright, but not great. Games seem to be running at medium settings, so this plus video compression makes for a pretty blurry time. It might be better on a living room TV.

    By having video cards, we’re basically not OnLive’s target market. It would work better in a living room, where the distance from the TV might make up for the lack of detail. However, the bandwidth requirement is probably too high. I believe the visual quality scales to however fast your ISP is, and OnLive tries to nearly max out your connection. That’s bound to piss off everyone else in the house, your ISP, or both.

    I think most ~$100 video cards can pull off running today’s games on medium (at lower resolutions). People would be better served by those and a GameTap-like service. Still, there’s an appeal to being able to pull up a big list of movies and games and have them play instantly. If it were $15 per month with full access to all their games, it might appeal to some. However, having to pay extra for the games basically kills this.

    It might find some success in hotels or on planes. They could host all the content, pay-per-view style, on a local network so there’d be far less lag and far greater bandwidth. That seems like a very small market though. I dunno.

    • TheSombreroKid says:

      people without a graphics solutoin can’t decode 720p footage fast enough to run it, if you can decode a 720p video you can play mass effect on medium settings so who is this targeted at?

      this wont fail because it’s closed nature, it’ll fail because of this:
      regular game cost:
      decent pc – £300
      boxed/dlc game £25

      onlive game cost:
      decent pc – £300
      boxed/dlc game £25
      onlive subscription -£15 a month

      for that you get a blurovision lag-o-matic version of the same game on medium settings.

    • Premium User Badge

      luminosity says:

      Have these people never heard of bandwidth caps? Even assuming I could deal with lower visual quality, subscription costs, the inevitable latency problems, especially since I doubt their server coverage will be great… at least here in Australia, you won’t last long through a month if you’re using that kind of bandwidth a few hours every day.

  26. Bowlby says:

    It’s weird how almost everyone here seems to be saying how this will affect the PC, when I always assumed it was the console market being targeted, not the PC. The PC market will continue to thrive regardless of OnLive, because PCs allow users to create and share content. OnLive doesn’t do this. And because for all the other uses PCs have, they’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

    As far as cloud gaming goes, I can see this as the direction Microsoft or Sony might be taking in the next generation, and I’m actually quite into that. As far as OnLive goes, personally, I don’t find the pricing structure that appealing. Fifteen dollars a month just for access to very small range of titles, which you would then have to pay for on top, does nothing for me.

    • Vinraith says:

      The PC market will continue to thrive regardless of OnLive, because PCs allow users to create and share content.

      I sincerely wish I had that kind of faith in my fellow man.

  27. Kryopsis says:

    @Vinraith:
    How much revenue do you think the publisher and the developer can expect to get from OnLive, you reckon? Are you sure it is truly in the interests of companies such as EA, Ubisoft, Activision to have you pay $15 per month to play all their games rather than spend $60 on every new release? As long as the publishers are making money via direct sales, be it retail or digital distribution, you can rest assured services such as OnLive are not going to have exclusivity, assuming they work as planned to begin with.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Kryopsis

      As I’ve said, I’m less concerned about OnLive in particular than I am the general acceptance of an online-online only, closed content delivery system for PC games. Eventually one will come along that can do what it says it can do and is priced reasonably. At that point the very real question is CAN the publishers (the big ones, anyway) continue to make enough money via direct sales to consider the open PC platform worth their while.

    • Pantsman says:

      @Kryopsis
      OnLive does not give you access to the full catalog for $15/month. That’s just the entry fee. You still have to pay for the games individually, though I don’t think the specific pricing structure has yet been announced.

    • Kryopsis says:

      @Vinraith
      Hm, fair enough. I can definitely agree with your opposition to the idea of a closed platform. Looks like my information on OnLive was inaccurate, as Pantsman noticed. I assumed the list of games was not exclusive to PC titles and that the service had a single fee. Since the opposite seems to be true, I do not see myself (or anyone I know for that matter) using OnLive. Even if the latency is acceptable, not everyone has access to a reliable, high speed internet connection with high/unlimited bandwidth. Streaming HD videos for several hours per day won’t be cheap in the long run. That plus subscription fees and then rental fees could add up to a pretty sum.

  28. rocketman71 says:

    This is DivX all over again, but for gaming.

    They should crash and burn fairly quickly, but then again Assassin’s Creed 2 and Modern Warfare 2 are third and fourth in last week’s top 10 sales chart, so with so many idiots out there, who knows, perhaps this will really kill PC gaming.

    Yeah, right.

  29. Mac says:

    Just think how reliable Ubisoft servers have been … this will be even worse.

    And a fee without any games – yeah right !

  30. Huh says:

    F…k this sh..t.

    That is all.

  31. Medina says:

    Let’s think about how popular Steam, Impulse, GamersGate, D2D, etc. would be today if they charged a monthly fee just to be able to purchase games from them. I know I would never pay money just for the “priviledge” of using an online store.

  32. mbp says:

    It says you need a 1.5 Mb broadband but it doesn’t say how much of your download allowance a typical gaming session consumes. I imagine it will be somewhat more intensive than watching movies so you could be talking several Gbytes per day.

  33. tycho says:

    Is it just me, or do Europeans get uniformly jipped by online distribution services – they always seem to charge a 1-1 ratio for games from US Dollars to Euros – this service, for example seems to be $15/€15.

    €15 works out to be about US$20 – if I were spending Euros i’d be a bit miffed by this seemingly ‘here-to-stay’ system.

    In this age of instant worldwide exchange networks it should at least reflect the exchange rate of the day.

  34. FlyingSquirrel says:

    I think what kills this for me is the “Give us $15 for the privilege of connecting to our servers” thing. I’d be willing to at least give it a shot if they had a free demo or something you could try – same as any potentially/questionably good game. Oh well, hope their Venture Capitalists like giving their money away.

  35. ZIGS says:

    PC Gaming Alliance? This farce of a company is still alive?

    • ZIGS says:

      Humm, I should probably pay more attention to which article I’m replying to >_>

  36. Some Guy says:

    Hello all, have a screenshot of what Crysis Warhead looks like over OnLive:
    http://i55.photobucket.com/albums/g142/SurferRosa0/lololololololol.jpg?t=1268190200
    (100+ms input lag not pictured)

    In a word: shit.

  37. Tom Camfield says:

    I think you can pretty much ignore the pricing arguments, a lot of people don’t care about the price and prices can always fall.

    OnLive is like a console, so look at console pricing; a new PS3 once cost $499-599, and lots of people bought it despite knowing that the price would drop a year down the line. It’s now $299, that’s $200-300 less. OnLive carries a $15 a month subscription, but this could also fall.

    Also, satellite subscriptions in the UK cost anything up to £60 a month ($90) and a lot of people have satellite TV and I assume many pay at least £40 ($60) a month. However, this doesn’t cover everything, you still need to pay extra to get specific boxing fights, or the big WWE events, or even new films as rentals, or games. So in the UK at least, they’ve established a market for high monthly subscriptions with additional payments on top.

    That’s not to say I recommend OnLive or even think it will succeed, but I imagine that the price will be less off-putting to some.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Tom Camfield

      It’s not the $15 subscription fee so much as the fact that you have to pay for the games themselves on TOP of that fee that prompts the price complaints. Frankly, I think that pricing structure is insane, and am reasonably certain that if they don’t change it that alone should be sufficient to kill this incarnation of this god-awful idea.

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Vinraith

      There’s a big OnLive forum, and I read that as well as selling games, the system would let you rent them. So that’s, what, £4 a week at Blockbusters last time I went, so something like $6 a week for one game? So $15 + 6 + 6 + 6 + 6 = $39 to play four new games a month, that’s less than UK satellite TV.

      Blockbusters also do a discount so that if you rent then buy it costs less, plus, with no distribution or packaging costs, OnLive games should have the potential to be cheaper than those at retail.

      This is all speculation, but it doesn’t sound hugely expensive for those who shelled out $599 on a PS3 :)

    • Insectecutor says:

      So I pay my $15 monthly and then I buy a, say, $30 game. Do I have to continue to pay $15/month for the privilege of playing the game I “bought”? What a ridiculous system. If I decide to cancel my subscription I also lose all my games that I apparently purchased. Bullshit. That is the most bare faced scam ever.

  38. 12kill4 says:

    And thus begins the age of incredibly visceral, though unintentionally turn based games.

  39. neolith says:

    I don’t see this working well because of the lag. But even given that they might magically manage to have zero lag and perfect ping I still don’t believe that games will be playable through this as there is no such thing as realtime encoding of videos. Sure, you can encode a video in less time than it takes to play. But you still cannot get realtime due to the fact that every modern (and good looking) codec makes use of GoPs in one way or another. So the lag always has to be at least the distance to the next i-frame which usually is half a second or more.

  40. Jockel says:

    Just to clarify, to play Assassin’s Creed II you will need a constant connection to the OnLive servers which will need a constant connection to Ubisoft’s servers? That surely sounds like DRM heaven for someone.

    But still interested if this really works – the gaming, not the DRM.

    • Rich says:

      I’d be very surprised if they keep the usual DRM for the OnLive version of the game. It’s not like it’s at all possible to pirate a game from a subscription service.

      Don’t worry though. There are a whole load of other reasons why this is stupid.

    • 12kill4 says:

      DRM is irrelevent when the files and processes of a game take place on a server system with which the consumer only has minimal, pre-defined interaction. Large western corporations tend to adhere to licencing agreement and copywrite, because a systemic adherence to intellectual property law is (at current) in their best interest.

  41. Irish Al says:

    I could see a LAN version of this being fantastic for gaming cafes but on the internet? In 10 years maybe.

  42. wazups2x says:

    INPUT LAG!

  43. Insectecutor says:

    I think the threat of this system is somewhat overplayed. It’s simply an alternative, Last.fm allows you to stream music, Netflix allows you to stream movies. Has this stopped people from buying music or movies? No. This is the alternative that gives you a lower quality service than owning your own system at perhaps greater expense in the long term.

    OnLive is only as reliable as your net connection, so less reliable than a console or PC. It’s costly, so uninteresting to a more casual audience. It removes sense of ownership which is extremely important to people. While the technology is amazing the business behind it needs to be incredibly smart and agile to avoid bullying by Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony who all have first party developers and strong relationships with publishers.

    It’s probably before its time. I don’t expect a huge amount of developer interest and I don’t anticipate a massive upheaval in the games industry because of it. This is not the one console future you’re looking for, chill out.

  44. Styrium says:

    I’m a bit miffed by this – even if it works, as a business plan, it seems fundamentally flawed, as they appear to be marketing it primarily to gamers.

    However, surely gamers already have the system to play the games they want to play. Therefore, we have no need to pay a subscription for getting an inferior experience.

  45. Jockel says:

    Guys, this was a joke, obviously. I guess I somehow wanted to point out how many technical difficulties they have to overcome to get this up and running. If Ubisoft is unable to provide stable servers just for DRM how is this going to work for full games?

  46. Dave L. says:

    It’s not like they’ve been running it in closed beta for months or anything…

    @Optimaximal: They’ve said multiple times that the micro-console is going to be super dirt cheap (cheap enough to give it away free with some of the subscription plans). It’s basically just an ethernet card with a blue tooth receiver, HDMI out, and an internal web-browser that only goes to the OnLive page.

    But you still cannot get realtime due to the fact that every modern (and good looking) codec makes use of GoPs in one way or another. So the lag always has to be at least the distance to the next i-frame which usually is half a second or more.

    I don’t have a link handy, but the CEO gave a talk a couple months ago where he focused on the codec (and the hardware encoder) they developed, and it doesn’t use GoPs.

    I still see this as largely a good thing, mostly because the OnLive data centers all run on regular PC hardware. A game developed for OnLive doesn’t have to do anything to their renderer or engine, they just have to plug in the OnLive APIs to replace their multiplayer code and add in support for their social networking stuff. The benefit being, once a publisher or developer has made their OnLive version, why would they not proceed to release a boxed retail, or Steam, or D2D or whatever version as well? They’ve got the game running on PC already, so it’s not going to cost them anything extra. It kills console exclusivity for third party games.

    The thing that’s going to kill it is the pricing for rentals and purchases. $14.99 doesn’t seem horrendous for the service itself, but if they expect $50 or more for a full game purchase, nobody’s going to use it. $15 or $20 for buying a game (and 2 or 3 a week for rentals)? They could probably get away with that.

  47. RedFred says:

    I’m just going to agree with everyone saying the fee per month is a joke. $15 \ per month for basically things you can get for FREE on the internet (demos, community content etc.).

    OnLive can:

    Get Fucked.

  48. Dave L. says:

    things you can get for FREE on the internet (demos,

    I think you’re misinterpreting what they mean by ‘demos.’ Demos on OnLive aren’t like regular demos. It’s going to be something like: You select a game, you select ‘Play Demo,’ it loads up the full game, and then kicks you out to the OnLive menu system after a level, or a set amount of time or something. So you can play a demo of a game that doesn’t have a ‘demo’ (i.e. Mirror’s Edge).

  49. jsutcliffe says:

    … but Mirror’s Edge had a demo. Admittedly the PC version didn’t, but is OnLive really aimed at PC gamers?