Following months of hype about how its game-streaming technology would change the industry landscape, OnLive unveiled a $15 per month pricing model when it launched during March's Game Developers Conference. At June's Electronic Entertainment Expo, the company retreated, offering instead a Founding Members Program that allowed subscribers to use the service for free until 2011, when it would charge $5 per month in fees.
Today, in an interview with Gamasutra, OnLive CEO Steve Perlman said that his company had decided to do away with monthly fees altogether. "The key thing for us is keeping it free simplifies our pricing structure so it is entirely based on games rather than on access," he told the industry trade site. "It gives us much more flexibility and it is easier to understand than a two-tiered structure. And, now we know the business model works."
"We actually got the first indication that the business could be supported without a monthly fee when we let beta testers start purchasing games before we launched the service," he continued. "But, because it was beta, we weren't certain what usage patterns would be at scale."
However, just because there is no monthly subscription doesn't mean that OnLive is completely free. Currently, OnLive offers three different ways for players to access games themselves. The Full PlayPass gives players unfettered access to a game for the duration of its presence on OnLive (minimum three years) for a price similar to that of retail. Among the several dozen games on the site, Mafia II sells for $50, with Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Conviction and Batman: Arkham Asylum selling for $40. Five-day and three-day passes are also available, with prices ranging from $6 to $9.
OnLive's appeal is that it allows gamers to play graphics-intensive games in high definition on virtually any PC or Mac without the need for a high-end graphics card. It does so by streaming the games from various server farms all over the nation, which do the heavy lifting in terms of graphics. A small, Roku-like Microconsole is also planned for release that will give the same functionality to any television it is hooked up to--provided the owner has an Internet connection over 3Mbps (5Mbps is recommended). The service has also recently entered a Wi-Fi beta, with a smartphone version also in development.
More information on OnLive can be found on the service's Web site.