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The Life and Death of OnLive

View Nelson Schneider's Profile

By Nelson Schneider - 08/19/12 at 03:14 PM CT

OnLive, the video-of-a-videogame streaming service that launched in 2010 died this week. I can’t say I will mourn the loss, nor do I think the entire videogame industry will even notice such an insignificant passing. Only those who think The Cloud is the universal solution for everything computer-and-data-related should have even cared about OnLive and its wacky plan to turn videogames into software-as-a-service.

When OnLive first launched, I remember breathless coverage in the gaming media about how it would revolutionize PC gaming. Gamers would no longer need to own a $2000+ gaming PC to experience “AAA” PC games. Gamers would instead be able to “purchase” licenses of these games that would dwell on OnLive’s servers. These servers would then run the games remotely, streaming a video of the on-screen action to the player via an OnLive app or OnLive “console” (really a dumb terminal) and uploading inputs from the player’s controller/mouse/keyboard. It sounds brilliant in its simplicity, doesn’t it? But OnLive’s problem was never a lack of simplicity, but a lack of perspective with regards to Internet infrastructure and the PC gamer mindset.

OnLive was a product marketed primarily toward users located in the United States. The United States has, for the better part of a decade, struggled behind other first-world nations in getting its Internet ship in shape. The United States is dominated by teleco monopolies and duopolies, price-fixing, and unconstitutional legislation preventing municipalities from creating their own Internet services where the Corporatocracy has failed to provide a compelling product. We have God-awful Internet service in most parts of this great (size-wise) nation. When Bill Clinton gave the telecos big bags of money to build Internet infrastructure, they spent a token amount on running fiber, did nothing with that fiber, and gave the rest of the cash to their CEOs. My house, which gets awesome 1.5Mbps “best effort” DSL, sits less than 100 yards from a fiber line that was built with that Clinton money. That fiber line is DARK. There is nothing running through it, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the local teleco didn’t even know this line exists.

Anecdotes aside, the United States just doesn’t have the Internet capability for the majority of the population to do something in The Cloud as intense as playing a twitch-action FPS or other action game. Lesser games might work fine as streamed data… but those lesser games also don’t require the expensive PC hardware that might drive someone to subscribe to OnLive in the first place. Sure, there are some places and some people in the United States that have spectacular Internet access… but those tech-savvy, well-monied (good Internet is not cheap) individuals are the ones more likely to enjoy the act of building and tinkering with a high-end gaming PC. Thus OnLive created a product with no real market: Those who have access to and can afford good Internet would not want or need a streaming videogame service, and those who would need a streaming videogame service don’t have access to or the means to pay for the requisite Internet connection.

With its mere 2-year lifespan, OnLive has shamefully provided some fierce competition to the Sega Dreamcast for the fastest failure of a gaming platform. Of course, the Dreamcast is remembered fondly by fans, who are still able to play functioning (or pirated, err… privateered) game discs on the original hardware. What will OnLive fans (all 1600 of them) have to show for their support of the doomed platform? Well, since their game licenses were only for games on the OnLive servers and the OnLive console doesn’t actually do anything, it looks like they have NOTHING.

OnLive: You were a failed attempt at taking games out of the hands of gamers. You were a failed attempt at turning a purchase into a service. You were blindly optimistic and ignored the real-world conditions that made (and continue to make) your ideas impossible.

OnLive is dead, long live gaming. None shall mourn OnLive’s passing, for it was for the greater good.

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View Jonzor's Profile

Jonzor

Wrote on09/17/12 at 12:11 AM CT

Technically it was directed at Anonymous.

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View Nelson Schneider's Profile

Nelson Schneider

Wrote on09/06/12 at 07:59 PM CT

@Jonzor: Who are you griping at, me or Anonymous?

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View Nelson Schneider's Profile

Nelson Schneider

Wrote on09/03/12 at 10:15 PM CT

@Chris: The thing about Ouya is that it's still vaporware. Sure, it's vaporware sitting on top of a big pile of cash, but until I see Ouya consoles on store shelves or on Amazon, I won't be convinced to buy one.

However, I do kind of want one. It's only $100. I have spent nearly that much on crappy peripherals for my other consoles. Square Enix seems interested in making old school Final Fantasy games for smartphones, so they'll be available for Ouya as well.

If Ouya isn't stillborn, I predict it will actually make quite a splash, especially compared to the Durango and Orbis, which will probably cost LOTs of money.

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View Chris's Profile

Chris

Wrote on08/27/12 at 10:13 PM CT

So, who is going to be the first to predict the success or demise of the Ouya? It did raise nearly $8.6 million on Kickstarter with a goal of $950,000, so I would say a good start - but is it enough? I know Nelson already wrote a blog on this, but I'm opening this up again - success or failure - lets take the bets now, people.

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Jonzor

Wrote on08/27/12 at 06:15 PM CT

I think we may want to resist the urge to pat yourself on the back for calling your shot on the OnLive issue.

The product flopped. There are literally millions of people out there who heard about it, and didn't buy it. I don't see all of them making sure the world hears they knew it wouldn't work.

It would be one thing to predict the demise of an established company ("The Wii U will be the end of Nintendo as a hardware company!"), or something that got really hot and then crashed like Zynga ("See, I told you not to buy that stock!"), but predicting the death of something this small, easily-missed, and experimental doesn't make a person Nostradamus.

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View Matt's Profile

Matt

Wrote on08/26/12 at 03:39 PM CT

This is also an auspicious view into a potential future for anyone who buys a product or service that relies on a companies existence to function. Games, music, videos, etc. that have DRM which relies on a server will eventually be doomed and your product will no longer work.

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View Nelson Schneider's Profile

Nelson Schneider

Wrote on08/26/12 at 02:58 PM CT

@ Nick: OnLive changing hands is merely a life-support move to prolong its horrible, painful death. It will not recover.

@ Anonymous: I enjoyed reading your articles. You should sign up for MeltedJoystick and help us stimulate some thoughtful discussion in the forums.

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Anonymous MeltedJoystick user

Anonymous

Wrote on 08/25/12 at 02:07 PM CT

Its funny how, now that OnLive is dead, all of a sudden people are comign out of the woodwork to agree with what I've been saying 9and blogging) for years...

http://worldwizards.blogspot.com/2009/04/high-in-clouds.html
http://worldwizards.blogspot.com/2011/02/high-in-clouds.html
http://worldwizards.blogspot.com/2012/07/only-market-for-cloud-gaming.html
http://worldwizards.blogspot.com/2012/07/why-everyone-is-wrong-about-sony-and.html

So, while I could see someone buying out the technology, buying the business team is truly a non-sensical move.

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View Nick's Profile

Nick

Wrote on08/21/12 at 03:56 PM CT

sounds like OnLive simply changed hands, and is still running. This article claims customers will not be affected?

http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-19329690

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View Nick's Profile

Nick

Wrote on08/19/12 at 11:42 PM CT

So they won't give you a useable license for your games? That's cheap, they should give them a steam code!

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