March 06, 2014, 6:00 AM —
Remember OnLive, the streaming game service? I used to write about it a lot on this blog. It was almost magical; you could play a PC game with great graphics on a cheap laptop or OnLive's microconsole. And it worked, at least well enough for casual gaming.
But the company didn't do so well and I think the last time I wrote about them was in August of 2012.
But they're back, with a seemingly new business plan. They have two new products out. The first is called CloudLift and it blends cloud and local gaming. As I understand it, you sign up for CloudLift ($15/month) and feed it your Steam credentials. OnLive then does a 'match' between your games and the games they support, and you get streaming access to the results. So you can play locally on your PC or stream to an OnLive client on a cheap laptop, a tablet, or to the OnLive Microconsole. CloudLift syncs save files for you so you don't lose progress as you move between streaming and playing locally. CloudLift is available now but only supports 20 games, though of course more are promised soon. More information can be found on the site.
The second new product is OnLive Go. If you've played MMOs that offer streaming downloadable clients, well that's one of the things OnLive Go offers. If you want to play an online game, you can start playing it immediately via streaming and the game downloads in the background. OnLive Go will also offer mobile interfaces to games like Second Life. In fact Second Life Go will be their first product.
So those are the products and well, I'm not so sure about them. CloudLift requires a $15 subscription fee plus you have to buy the games which seems like a lot considering Steam is going to offer In-Home Streaming for free (the beta is here already). Granted to go the Steam route you need a PC (Windows, Mac or Linux) or (when they become available) a Steam Machine to act as a client. Using CloudLift you could in theory play on a tablet instead, but then we go back to the thorny issue of controls.
If you want WiFi access to your gaming library while you're out and about (it doesn't sound like 4G is going to give a good experience) and you're willing to pay $15/month for the privilege then maybe CloudLift is right for you. If you just want to stream games to a PC connected to the big screen in the living room, I suggest signing up for Steam's In-Home Streaming beta.
The other issue is that OnLive originally struggled because players who are serious enough about games to shell out for something like this are also serious enough to not want to deal with the input lag that comes from streaming games. OnLive, back in the day, worked pretty well for me but I couldn't sell many of my friends on it. Maybe Valve's In-Home Streaming and PS Vita Remote Play for the PS4 will be enough to get PC gamers interesting in trying other streaming solutions; I guess time will tell.
As for OnLive Go, as I mentioned a lot of MMO developers already offer some kind of streaming client to let you get into the game faster. Plus there's the already established Happy Cloud that offers a similar service. Maybe OnLive can create mobile apps that draw players in but again, I'm skeptical.
OnLive still offers PlayPack which costs $10/month and gives you access to a library of about 250 games. That still seems like the best service the company has to offer gamers.
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.