While it pains me to write this, I feel as though I must speak up.
OnLive used to fill me with optimistic glee for the future of gaming. They revolutionized the gaming world with their services back in 2010, and since September of that year, I’ve been using OnLive every other day, almost religiously. (would have been a member on launch day, but they weren’t available in Canada)
I’ve proudly referred dozens of people to use OnLive, and have preached the value of the cloud so much, I’ve managed to lose friends over it. Seriously, I’ve actually lost a friend or two by constantly talking about OnLive. In fact, if you’re one of my friends, I’d like to apologize for being so obsessive over it. I was a gigantic fan, and tried to convert everyone I knew to take part in the cloud gaming revolution.
As someone that understands business, having been operating my own since 2012, as well as someone who understands the inner workings of the video game industry, being a video game developer, I can’t help but to question the motive behind OnLive’s recent reintroduction. It is clear that this new service is not intended to be a gaming platform, but more of a high end cloud computer for rent. Honestly, this new reliance on Steam is going to be OnLive’s downfall, and shows that the new management is disconnected from the gaming world. They simply don’t know what they’re doing, and while it may make sense on a business front to partner with the largest computer game marketplace in the world, they’re really misunderstanding the mentality of your average Steam user.
Basically, the Steam community, and the PC community in general, has absolutely no interest in using a cloud gaming service to render their games at maximum graphical settings. See, most PC gamers that are serious enough to keep an updated Steam library already have computers more than capable of playing their games at max settings, making a service such as OnLive essentially useless for the majority of PC gamers. Couple that with the absolutely ridiculous $15 monthly subscription fee, which doesn’t even include the cost of the games, and you’ve got a failure of a system that shouldn’t even have made it past the drawing board, let alone approved for real world production.
The new OnLive is more of a logical business than the old, but they’re making even bigger mistakes. For instance, the new Onlive appears to be relying on the partnership with Steam, via their CloudLift service, in hopes that this new service will drive in more customers. This is by far their largest mistake, and is what will ultimately drive OnLive into the ground.
As already mentioned above, your average PC gamer has absolutely no interest in using the cloud to render their library of games, and the rare few that do show an interest in this type of technology, will decide against using it, given the $15 recurring price. However, OnLive also had the potential to let gamers play their games anywhere, and on any device. That’s the reason I bought games through OnLive, rather than through Steam.
The new OnLive completely throws this concept out of the window, and makes gaming on multiple devices an absolute pain, or downright impossible in some cases. Specifically, OnLive removed all touch control functionality from their Android client, and they now require that you use an Android compatible controller to take advantage of OnLive’s new services… except, that kind of defeats the point, doesn’t it? I don’t want to tug my phone AND a large Bluetooth controller around, just so I can play my games on a service that is no longer optimized for mobile gaming. They’ve significantly reduced their potential client base by removing support for touch based devices.
Then again, no one really signed up just to play their games on the go, so I suppose this isn’t a major loss. However, I would have loved to see this feature expanded upon with the new OnLive, as imagine being able to play something like Civilization 5 on an Android phone, fully optimized for touch screen gaming. They could have also allowed mobile developers to port their games to the OnLive service, so imagine something like Angry Birds running via the cloud, or whatever game is currently making headlines. The fact is, this feature had so much potential, yet OnLive chose to ignore it. They removed touch gaming completely, which seems like a major step in the wrong direction, not to mention a significant loss of potential revenue, given the rising popularity of mobile game sales.
Though, let’s just pretend that this wasn’t a big deal, as like I said, no one really used OnLive as a mobile gaming platform.
OnLive must at least acknowledge that console gaming plays a key part in OnLive’s potential success, right? I mean, just look at the similarities between consoles and OnLive. They were essentially a virtual game console… yet, they’ve decided to partner with a PC-only service? A service that, let me remind you, has a userbase that is generally uninterested in the entire concept of cloud gaming. OnLive just alienated an entire group of gamers, all so they can target Steam users that never had and never will have an interest in cloud gaming services.
This choice also removes any hope of ever receiving an entirely custom and exclusive video game unique to the OnLive service, as the OnLive service itself is no longer unique. It’s simply a secondary rental cloud PC that can play select games via the internet. It is in no way its’ own service anymore, and based on the disconnected state of the new management, I seriously doubt OnLive will ever regain all of its’ lost potential.
But wait, what about the PlayPack bundle?
Honestly, the PlayPack is currently OnLive’s only good asset, but even the power of the PlayPack cannot restore the sinking ship that is CloudLift, and I’d even go as far as to suspect that OnLive will do everything in their power to make CloudLift a more enticing service, which might lead to a PlayPack that is largely ignored and generally stale of new releases. Since the PlayPack is all that they have right now, ignoring it would be a major mistake… yet, OnLive’s new management is unlikely to realize this, either out of general inexperience, or pure ignorance of the industry. Either way, this won’t end well.
To conclude, everything I know about business and the video game industry is telling me that OnLive is going to fail. It’s simply not a good business strategy, and the idea to partner with Steam was by far one of the worst things that they could have done. Steam users simply don’t care, and it’s likely that they never will.
Sadly, I doubt that the current management will be willing to cut CloudLift out of the picture, as the service is already out there and in the open. If they got rid of it now, or made some drastic changes to the way that it operates, it would paint a very bad picture on OnLive, which will only make consumers distrust them. Trust is something that OnLive needs, but they also need to stay alive and profitable. They’ve really crawled into a catch 22 situation, as no matter what they do, OnLive will fail. Changing everything reduces consumer trust, and not changing anything leaves you with an unwanted service.
I give them two years. After that, I fear OnLive will be nothing more than a memory.
ps. I know a certain OnLive employee is reading this, and I know that OnLive knows who I am. So, let me just say one thing.
I tried. I really did, but there’s simply nothing here for me anymore. OnLive’s no longer a service that I want to be a part of, as it is no longer a gaming service. It is now just a computer rental platform with a bundle service on the side.
Know that I will continue to support the PlayPack for as long as the PlayPack remains a valuable addition to my gaming life.