I was surprised to hear that OnLive is shutting shut down, mostly because I’d forgotten it was still running. The cloud gaming service launched in June 2010 to a chorus of people asking “Wait, so I’d pay to have PC games look and control worse than they would on my PC?” It was a solution looking for a problem, and decided its problem was that folks who like big fancy PC games wouldn’t have PCs that could run them.
OnLive have announced that they’ll close the service on April 30th, taking all users’ streaming games and data with them.
OnLive support’s FAQ about the shutdown explains:
“After April 30, 2015, our data centers will shut down and the service will be offline. All accounts will be closed, and all data deleted including game save data, achievements, and credit card data will be deleted. If you purchased a Steam game from OnLive, that game will still be available on Steam. No refunds will be available for any game purchases, hardware purchases, or subscriptions.”
Cloud gaming, to briefly explain, runs games on remote servers. Player control inputs are fed to that system over the Internet, and they watch a video stream of the game being played sent back from that system. It means that you could play demanding games on PCs and tablets capable of watching HD video, but games looked worse and felt laggier than if they were played on a PC. OnLive had an audience, but a small one, and it stumbled out the gate with subscription fees and an unexciting library of games.
“Overcoming the perception of being dead has been one of the unanticipated challenges of the turnaround,” OnLive say in the official announcement. The service almost went under in 2012, and its comeback was unspectacular. “In fact many of the recent articles that mention OnLive refer to it as ‘defunct’ or something similar.”
OnLive had hoped they’d find a buyer who wanted to continue the service, but couldn’t. “Most of the companies that declined to acquire us did so due to the perception that they did not know how far off in the future cloud gaming would be. Predictions that cloud gaming will only be far off in the future are self-fulfilling prophesies.”
Instead, they’re selling an unspecified chunk of their assets to Sony, probably tech and patents, and shutting down. Sony already dabble in streaming games by letting folks play PS4 games through Vita handhelds and other devices, and have plans for more OnLive-y cloud gaming.