An Introduction to OnLive
If you’ve listened to an episode of WarpZone, you’ve probably heard me make mention of a service known as OnLive. As an unbiased member of the media, I would tell you that OnLive is simply a cloud gaming service, featuring download-free play on any PC, Mac, or via their home gaming console. As a completely biased and self-proclaimed fanboy, however, I feel inclined to inform you that OnLive is fantastic.
OnLive is just what it claims to be: the future of gaming. “The Cloud” is a term that we hear thrown around the technosphere quite a bit more often nowadays (and when Apple puts an “i” in front of it, you know it’s going somewhere). Streaming music and videos have had their way around the block, but OnLive is bringing video games into the mix. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll certainly inform you of the drawbacks to the service as well. Bottom line remains though: OnLive is the beginning of something us gamers should stand behind
I could tell you about all of the selling points that OnLive boasts: no downloads or hard copies, free trials of all available titles; pretty much what you expect to see in a promotional video. But I’m not going to do that!
Instead, what sells me about OnLive is their approach to business thus far. I’ve made mention in the past of general lack of mainstream advertising for the service – and this remains the case. I’ll see a banner ad here or there while surfing through various gaming media, but never so much as a billboard or a television commercial otherwise. Disputers may claim: “So? Steam never did any mainstream advertising either, and look how well it’s doing!” Yes, true – but Steam was created by an already well-established company in Valve, who needed nothing but to post a press release and a tweet. OnLive was a completely new IP, but in spite of this, they’re slowly and steadily seeing an increase in their user base.
As I studied this, I noticed the method in the madness. While a national ad campaign may have helped to establish a minor footing, OnLive succeeded in building a concrete slab via subtle press and direct interaction with the consumer. The social aspect of OnLive is unrivaled in major gaming networks. Support is direct and helpful, and Facebook/Twitter interaction is spot on. OnLive has succeeded in a sort of guerilla mass marketing strategy that has not only given them the consumer base to fall back on, but saved them a hell of a lot of money in the process.
So why support them, you might wonder? Simply put, because they listen. Big suits like EA and Activision have lost the personal touch that OnLive still holds, which is what is currently enabling them to stay on the path to economical black. Each support email is received and handled personally, not just coated over with blanket links and answers. The staff members interact with the users via multiplayer sessions and social media. Most importantly, though, OnLive is in pursuit of what will likely be the norm within the next decade: purely digital distribution. Services like Steam and Origin are on the right track, but OnLive provides a completely untethered gaming experience, free of the worry of physical copies, large downloads (which continue to get larger), and the literal stench of midnight releases.
That, however, leads to the grey cloud within the silver lining. OnLive’s cloud gaming service suffers from a unique problem. Latency. Lag. Utter frustration as you try to time your crawl past a moving laser grid exactly right only to have a half-second delay lead to you being riddled with bullets. Not just for multiplayer, mind you, but in solo play as well. Where typically in online play a host is chosen from participating players, OnLive servers act as the host for each unique connection. For as much as OnLive is succeeding, this issue is going to take a long time to straighten out. Servers can only do so much; our own internet connection speeds aren’t doing much to help the cause either – which is no fault of the subscriber. As we struggle to keep up with the likes of Chinese and Korean connection speeds, we are left with these latency issues.
However, if you can overcome the visual delay, OnLive is well worth it. Sales are abundant, including a current offer allowing you to get your first game for a dollar. Additionally, the optional Playpack bundle features unlimited access to a plethora of AAA titles for a flat monthly subscription fee. Value can easily be found here.
FINAL WORD: While suffering from latency issues, OnLive’s service, community and value make it more than worth a look. Most games offer multiple subscription options (3-day, 5-day, or unlimited PlayPass), as well as a free demo. You download nothing but the software itself – everything else is housed on their end. At the end of the day, OnLive is looking like a strong competitor in the future of digital gaming.