By Graham Smith on March 5th, 2014 at 5:30 pm.
Remember OnLive? The service aimed to provide streaming videogames to the world, but fell foul of confusing pricing, slow internet connections and the apparent mismanagement. The company never really shut down, avoiding bankruptcy by being bought and re-created under a new company with new management and the same name. That means it’s continued to quietly work away, providing the same service to its remaining subscribers while working on something new.
I went and saw that something new last Friday, and I’ve been messing around with its beta this week. I’ll have proper impressions later in the week, but the news: OnLive is still a subscription based streaming service for games, but it’s now pitching itself in part as a partner service to Steam. You can link your OnLive and Steam accounts, and if you own a game on Steam and that game is available through OnLive, you’ll have instant access to it within OnLive. That means you can play your Steam games while travelling without an install process or a powerful computer in your travel bag.
Previously if you wanted to play a game through OnLive, you needed to pay a small fee to buy the game. If you already owned the game elsewhere – combined with the sense that you never really own the games on a streaming service anyway – it wasn’t a great proposition.
Linking your account to Steam therefore makes perfect sense. If a game has Steam Cloud functionality, it’ll even pull down your Steam saves and allow you to continue playing while you left off.
The previous problem with OnLive was never its basic streaming tech, which was quick and functional, albeit dependent on the speed of your internet connection. The problem was that it wasn’t clear where it fit into your – or at least my – life. It was a service pitched at gamers, but most gamers already have PCs capable of running their games fine. Having a separate set of owned games trapped within a secondary service just for those occasions where you’re away from that machine doesn’t exactly make sense. By hooking it up with your existing game collection, OnLive should fit more readily into your – or again maybe just my – gaming life.
Assuming that there’s some games on the service that you want to play. So far, OnLive have struck deals and announced twenty games, which are: Batman: Arkham Asylum GOTY, Batman: Arkham City GOTY, Batman: Arkham Origins, Darksiders II, Dead Island GOTY, Dead Island: Riptide, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, Metro 2033, Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition, MX vs. ATV Reflex, Painkiller: Hell and Damnation, Red Faction: Armageddon, Saints Row IV, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Strike Suit Zero, The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles, The LEGO Movie Videogame, The Raven: Legacy of a Master Thief, Truck Racer, Type: Rider.
I hope you like Batman.
That list obviously misses games from major publishers like EA, Activision, Ubisoft, though OnLive are keen to stress there are more partnerships in the works. One of those is with Gaijin Entertainment, developers of the MMOish War Thunder, and other makers of large-download multiplayer games. The idea is that instead of having to download a 20GB MMO before you can try the game, you can start playing instantly without a huge download, or while the huge download rumbles on in the background.
Of course, this all requires a monthly subscription fee. A PlayPack subscription, which includes 250 games, costs $9.99/£6.99 a month. Only you know if you travel enough, or value PC gaming on your couch enough, to make that worthwhile to you.
I’m messing around with OnLive now, trying it on both my main PC and on a tiny nettop (goodness I hate that word) hooked up to my TV. I’ll write something impression-y about its Steam integration and (supposedly improved) streaming later in the week.