It's Time to Take OnLive Seriously

Is the lure of playing games like Arkham City or L.A. Noire on just about any tablet or smartphone enough to designate OnLive as a major player in the gaming industry?

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Today, OnLive announced that its cloud gaming service will be accessible via mobile devices--including Apple's iOS-powered hardware as well as most Android tablets and phones--on December 8. To be clear, this is different from the OnLive viewer that lets users watch live gameplay and clips from the service's users. This is the full-blown OnLive service that, in essence, lets you play OnLive's library of games in a manner more portable than even a laptop affords.

Put in more crucial terms, you can play games like Batman: Arkham City on your smartphone if you have the aforementioned hardware. Does that have your attention?

Want to play this on your phone while you're away from home? You can.

For those not familiar with what OnLive does or how this is even possible, here's the basic idea: The service is built around ultra-low-latency video streams sent out by a server that also hosts the game you're playing, whether it's on a PC or through the diminutive OnLive console that plugs into a TV. As you press buttons or perform various actions, a signal is sent back to the server to tell it to perform the corresponding action. Previously, OnLive worked only with a wired Internet connection and had connection requirements that were a bit too demanding for the population, but since that time, the service has dramatically improved, allowing for Wi-Fi and generally slower connections than before.

In fact, the service and its streaming video compression technology have improved enough to be functional even over 3G (and older iterations of 4G) and on tablets and phones, but OnLive admits that Wi-Fi is still the way to go if you want optimal visual clarity and performance. However, if you live in an area that supports 4G LTE and have a device that can operate on that band, then you might be surprised to find that OnLive works well, according to company representatives. While we witnessed the service running over Wi-Fi (and it ran well during a recent meeting and in the GameSpot offices), we did not get to see it running on an LTE network since AT&T has yet to roll that out in the San Francisco area.

Of course, this advancement leads to the most important question of them all: How do you actually play all of these games on these devices? The good news is that most tablets and smartphones are Bluetooth-equipped devices and therefore can be paired with an OnLive controller, which, as silly as it may sound, effectively makes a smartphone more of a gaming device than ever before. It's also worth mentioning that if you prefer better controller response time, you can even use a USB dongle on some devices that not only offers a better signal over that of Bluetooth technology, but also supports up to four controllers at once. There will be around 150 games, such as Arkham City, with controller support available at launch.

About 30 games, including Lego Batman and Split Second, will have touch-screen support, but there's an important distinction to make about the type of touch-screen support available. Some games, like Split Second, will make use of a controller overlay that shouldn't be unfamiliar to those who already play games on their mobile devices. OnLive said that it has gone to great lengths to heavily customize these overlays to correspond to the type of experience, so the overlay for a racing game is much different from that of a sports game like Virtua Tennis.

But what's significant, and ultimately a testament to the kind of relationships OnLive has developed with publishers, are the games that have controls completely readapted for the touch-screen experience, like Rockstar's L.A. Noire. Instead of implementing an overlay that merely mimics the controller inputs, L.A. Noire is completely playable using only your fingers to gesture what you want Cole Phelps to do. Both OnLive and Rockstar felt that L.A. Noire's gameplay and mechanics were perfectly suited for the overhaul. And this is only the beginning of things to come in regard to exclusive content for OnLive, which the company hopes will start surfacing over the next year.

All of this puts OnLive in a supremely unique and favorable position as a platform holder, especially when you consider that, outside of the laptop-with-Steam combination, it's the only one that can offer games on just about any piece of technology you can get your hands on--Blu-Ray players and TVs included. But when you consider the user base of the mobile universe (iOS devices accounted for over 200 million of that base back in June of 2011), all of a sudden you're dealing with a much larger audience and a financially viable option for publishers that didn't necessarily exist before.

Then there's the issue of piracy. As much as people dislike the fact that OnLive uses no physical media or local installs for individual games, publishers love it because it means there's no piracy involved. All of a sudden it becomes a little clearer why Rockstar would take the time to redo the controls for a new, touch-screen-enabled version of L.A. Noire.

Rockstar created a brand new touch interface for the OnLive version of L.A. Noire.

The only major hurdle OnLive has is an audience that demands optimal visual quality and control response, particularly in competitive instances. And to be fair, competitive multiplayer is a huge aspect of gaming thanks to the first-person shooters out there. But OnLive may have just cracked into an area where that same audience is willing to be a little bit forgiving because it has just became that much easier to play any major game, anywhere, and at any time on a device that you probably already own.

Disclaimer: GameSpot has a partnership with OnLive to provide demos of games as a complement to other content. For example, you can try Batman: Arkham City for free, by clicking here.

Discussion

224 comments
A_Belmont
A_Belmont

@Giancarlo I would not be taking offense or questioned the merit of this article had you taken an approach that try and inform us readers of gamespot about the OnLive service. You were more than happy to talk about all the positive aspects, but many commenters have pointed out that there are some real limitations to the OnLive service. The fact you didn't explore any of these limitations in your PR here is what makes it PR and not, say, journalism. Why didn't you explore the amount of bandwith streaming one of these games takes? Why didn't you explore the limitations in terms of the signal strength needed to play these games, and how games can be affected with even a wireless connection of say....75% signal strength? Providing the readers with information based off of investigations is high quality, GOOD journalism. This is PR, it's shameless, it's stinted, and it fails to provide the full story to your readers. This article hurts Gamespot's credibility, and doesn't offer your readers a broader, more informative picture of the OnLive service.

A_Belmont
A_Belmont

@giancarlo Now that finals are done and over with I can give this attention... Adspace costs money, yes? So by writing a full article, Gamespot GIVING AWAY one month free memberships to an Onlive package deal now, and providing space on your website advertising free demos, Onlive stands to profit quite a lot from your promotions, and once again, given your disclaimer at the bottom, you have a partnership, and one that deals with generating business for OnLive. A transaction is any exchange of goods or services for an agreed upon price - OnLive gets free ad space and a PR stint out of the deal. That's good business for OnLive, and is a business relationship, no matter how you slice it. Again, I'm not bashing the OnLive service, but this kind of hack PR is not journalism, and the bias is so transparent that it brings into question the standards Gamespot is willing to hold itself to. This is shameless promotion in an age of Twitter where these sort of endorsements can be made privately. How am I supposed to be assured that many of Gamespot's other recent features aren't better disguised PR stints? I mean I turn to you guys for my game industry news daily, am I really getting fair and well balanced news from you guys?

THE_DRUGGIE
THE_DRUGGIE

@Giancarlo Utilizing a service through a partnership to deliver content to users is pretty much a business partnership. Also, there's better services out there that will not cause your Internet bill to spike because you want to try out some games before you play them. You know, services that install the demo instead of running them through a connection that, for some people, would not be a stable method. Services like every other service out there that's not OnLive. It's a decently written advertisement, sure. However, I'm not going to adopt this.

ilantis
ilantis

It's a great project wich I saw at the first announcement, it could really bring playing games to a whole new level. Just imagine if you want to complete a mission in a game so badly, but you are waiting for your turn at the dentist, you just pop out your smarthphone, load the clouded save data and play! Of course it could take some time to achieve almost real time streaming, and sadly not every country has a decent internet connection. Here in Italy the average speed is 4,88MB and the best I can get is almost 4 . Guess I have to give up the idea now already XD

Solamon
Solamon

Still not interested. I don't understand why people aren't more hostile to the idea of OnLive. Everyone freaks out when Ubisoft implements always-on DRM in their PC games. What the heck do you think OnLive is?

NitehawkFury
NitehawkFury

I admire what OnLive is trying to do, and hopefully they'll be able to pull it off. While there are some definite technical obstacles to be overcome, this kind of technology truly has the potential to be a heavy game-changer if it ends up working the way it's advertised. As long as they remain honest about what is possible, and continue to work on the hardware to optimize it, I don't see a reason to simply disregard them. Innovation and new technologies are what drive our industry forward, instead of simply keeping it alive. To offer a simple knee-jerk reaction just because there's some minor problems here or there is short-sighted. Give them some time, and let's see what comes of it.

wildstallion
wildstallion

I've tried this service on my PC and on my HDTV with the microconsole. Until they fix the problems with the TERRIBLE graphical quality I can NOT take this service seriously. Now if they make me buy an ADDITIONAL controller in addition to the controller that came with my Onlive console in order to use the mobile app gaming service, I will officially say GOODBYE to Onlive.

GuilhermeHQ
GuilhermeHQ

@Zloth2 The main problem is that I live in South America and, sadly, high speed Internet is quite pricey. Some companies are starting to invest on cheaper 10mb + speeds but the cover range is limited to big cities. Hopefully, with OnLive growth, maybe they'll place a local server around my area =D

sune_Gem
sune_Gem

I think the idea for OnLive isn't that bad at all, it just needs a lot of work yet. Either way though I'm going to stick to keeping my physical consoles and games.

lindallison
lindallison

Can I tweak my .ini's via OnLive? No?

Baraq
Baraq

Its time to forget about OnLive, Seriously.

analgrin
analgrin

Ive tried onlive on pc and its not too bad, just a slight input lag and slight loss in visual quality. At the moment I think its a great way to demo games before buying them as its instant. 4G isn't coming to the uk until at least 2013 and 3g will be too slow with too high ping rates (which is what causes the input lag)

nourez
nourez

Still not a big fan of the service. Loads of washed out colours and artifacting and I've got a 30mbps connection at home and 100mbps at school.

vannacut
vannacut

probably it s gonna be some excuse for being lazy on the graphics, as it s gonna be blamed on being streamed , or your internet connection and stuff... so it might appeal to the developers

vannacut
vannacut

couple months ago i tried this , i have a 15 mb connection , the game was the witcher, visually it wasnt very clear, they cut down on the visuals for less data transfer , there was a little delay in controls too, you could still play the game but somehow it wasnt satisfactory to me, the library wasnt that big , and i was worried how much data it would have used after all as i have limited internet which is 80 gig a month

lipote
lipote

Don't worry guys, OnLive will take an arrow to the knee......soon.

JHG6784
JHG6784

it has nothing to do with change i just love owning a hard copy the whole digital copy feels wonky to me, as if i'm just throwing money out the window and never truely owning something. What going to happen to all the xbox360 and ps3 games that u can only play online when they shut down those server when the new console come out?

Misfitgraves18
Misfitgraves18

Is everyone really afraid of change? For those complaining about not having a disc, I just have one word for you...Steam. Also, streaming has become a major player in the digital realm. Netflix and other sources gaming and non have really begun to take off over the past couple years. Lastly, for those saying you don't own the game when you buy with Onlive, this is true but you have a 3 year guarantee on the game's release date. If it takes you 3 years to beat a game, then you should find another hobby.

DanteKilla
DanteKilla

So for all those phones that have touchscreen only, how will they manage to make complex games like Arkham City and LA Noire suitable for touchsreen only without damaging the gameplay? I can only see this working for the Xperia Play, and maybe, just maybe, some keyboard phones.

Arther-la-Blunt
Arther-la-Blunt

did anyone actually try this free demo? How is it? Is it worth my time away from Skyrim to try it out?

mooooo99
mooooo99

yeh, i think i'll pass on this onlive thing..

zenstrata
zenstrata

ewww, this is going to be really bad for gaming. it will fill a niche, but never take over the market.

badstyle
badstyle

OnLive should be taken seriously, cloud gaming is in itself an important evolution in the field. And as impressed as I am with what it can do to enhance the gaming experience I too am concerned for development of games generally if this distribution method would be king. The physical interaction aspect of the platform is purposefully limited, which is a bad thing and economical decision. If you limit hardware development you will limit game development and that isn't a good thing. It is important to have various gaming hardware/software manufacturers particularly the like of Nintendo, MS and Sony out there to push the envelope and keep the software exciting and innovative.

Ehsannp
Ehsannp

Cloud gaming will hurt gaming evolution badly. There will be no competition between major hardware builders. It will hurt hardware market and investment in new hardwares badly.

praack
praack

hmm = so we would need to either buy a tablet, or look at a tiny screen to play a game made to be played on a large monitor with high graphics - don't think so. perhaps they should rethink the model of what they are streaming- instead of desktop games stream the catalogue of portable

Yulaw2000
Yulaw2000

"It's Time to Take OnLive Seriously" No... No it's not.

HonorOfGod
HonorOfGod

@dahaoleboy69 you don't have to download anything.. its cloud gaming.

wexorian
wexorian

i like onlive but i need better net to play seems :)

Elem3nt
Elem3nt

The input is laggy. Until it ceases to be I will not even look at cloud gaming. I took it seriously, didnt like it. Plus the only time I would play a blockbuster game on my phone, as opposed to my high end pc, would be if I was away from home. Lets face it cloud gaming will just not work at all on 3g.

joder666
joder666

Ha! And people said that Sega and its consoles were always ahead of time. I'll take this "hybrid" seriously when internet connection be something fast and free worldwide (at least as fast a Japan and the cheapest possible).

Vajezus
Vajezus

I won't take Onlive seriously unless they take the rest of the world seriously.

thor107
thor107

I used have a subscription to OnLive but then I took an arrow to the knee...

1588greatdane
1588greatdane

The idea is cool, but I just tried playing on my Samsung Galaxy S2 (one of the best phones out there now/one of the biggest screens) and there is no way I would ever see myself playing games like that on it. There are very few games (simple games that you can probably download free/cheap versions of anyway on the Android market/iTunes) that would be worth while playing for a considerable amount of time.

willauqs
willauqs

Onlive is pretty great for casual play. I wouldn't buy a game I really cared about for onlive, but saints row 3 for a dollar - yes please.

FailHappy
FailHappy

I'll stick with my PC and PS3 :P

Sam3231
Sam3231

Isn't this similar to how EA's Origin demos work? I have a pretty good internet connection and I tried playing the Crysis 2 demo and the input was laggy as hell. But it might be nice for a RPG game per se.

drswank
drswank

Neat. But not for me.

kkevguy47k
kkevguy47k

Pleeeeaaase tell me that I can use my PS3 controller over bluetooth with this.

soulless4now
soulless4now

I'd rather play on a console than a smartphone. No deal.

turnerdoc
turnerdoc

i love my 40 inch hd and console to my little screen to play games like skyrim and gta i want a big screen until they come out with a 36 in screen you can strap on you ill play my console

p40tomahawk
p40tomahawk

the only problem i have with Onlive is that it only has games from 2k,rockstar,and THQ i wish there was some EA and Urbisoft games that would go on the Onlive program

StAzKrnchyNMilk
StAzKrnchyNMilk

@dahaoleboy69 you don't download the games. they run on their computers and it streams a "video" of that image to you, and your input back to the cloud center. all your device has to do is access the "site". @"the rest" I've played a few things on my comp through onlive, and I've never had any trouble with it. I haven't bought anything because like others I want a physical copy of my games, but from the trials I have played I would be willing to make the purchase if there was something PC only that I really wanted on there.

dahaoleboy69
dahaoleboy69

Downloading LA Noire or Batman will lag like hell and take up most of my memory. LA Noire is 12 gigs and batman is 17.9 gigs. Seems like a good idea but there's no way in hell an ipad can play Arkham City full res on an iPad or Android tablet. The commercials lie!

Goyoshi12
Goyoshi12

Its an interesting service...but I can't see it for gaming. More for the 30 minute free trials than "purchasing," TBH.

Jmaster211
Jmaster211

This company has a cool idea, but it is executed poorly. Not only is the service still not in the appstore, but I learned my pc needed specific settings to run onlive properly. Although it makes more sense just to buy the game normally, this onlive service could definitely lead to something bigger and better in the future. Lets hope the app works much better than the pc service!

max_1111
max_1111

@Kickable You haven't really been paying attention have you? For starters don't knock the hobbyists... No i'm not one of them, but i imagine it'd be lots of fun to be one. Secondly there are very few games that aren't enjoyable or just plain look like crap on mid-range PC's. If you are truly playing on an outdated system and i mean ACTUALLY outdated, it's not the fault of the developers anymore, they need to keep up with technology if they want to remain competitive (to an extent). With that said, if you've been watching the trends most developers are now going for this stupid accessible "casual" gaming market to cash in... None of which requires super duper mega OMG CROSSFIRE SLI setups. Heck, even before the casual craze there was really only the odd game developer out there that decided to try and push the envelope and bring the majority of PCs to their knees and the large majority of those were scaleable as all hell.

Rocker6
Rocker6

@PC-RUL3S It gets even better.OnLive games look and play much worse than console versions...

djpetitte
djpetitte

the games i want to play online would never work on this poooooop. get this crap off my internet.