So OnLive is making a comeback – but I don’t think it will get anywhere unless it signs up the big console and PC game publishers this time.
OnLive itself is a service that actually works pretty well. You can play a cloud-powered game instantly using your TV or tablet or other device that doesn’t have a high-end processor. You can watch your friends playing live. You can game without a console or PC – it’s like the gaming version of Netflix.
However, that’s not the problem. Content is king, as they say, and gamers are a fussy bunch who want to play the latest and greatest games, regardless of the machine they’re playing it on.
OnLive needs a system-seller (or in this case I should say a service-seller). It lacks a World of Warcraft, a Halo, a Mario or a Call of Duty.
While it’s obviously unlikely it will be unable to grab the rights to first-party games like your aforementioned Marios and Halos, there’s no reason why OnLive can’t get the likes of EA, Activision and Ubisoft on board – big third-party game publishers who may be willing to embrace cloud gaming technology.
OnLive has definitely taken a step forward by allowing gamers to play any title they own via OnLive, rather than having to also buy it from OnLive direct (as was the case before), but they still need to be compatible with OnLive. This means the publishers have to enter into an agreement with OnLive first – and that’s the problem.
OnLive’s UK general manager Bruce Grove told me that OnLive is different to Valve’s upcoming PC gaming Steam Machines and livestreaming platform Twitch because it is a platform that can in theory let gamers play any game. It is not trying to compete with other offerings.
But Steam Machines will give players access to thousands of PC games, while Twitch can in theory stream any game.
The bottom line is gamers don’t just want to play big titles like Warner Bros’ Batman: Arkham Origins or Koch’s Saints Row IV because they’re not new enough.
Gamers right now want Titanfall, soon they will want Elder Scrolls Online and Watch Dogs, and in a few months’ time, no doubt they will be thinking about this year’s new FIFA and Call of Duty games. They want variety.
Grove assures me that OnLive is finalising several big deals with game publishers, which is great because I want to see emerging PC game services succeed.
But until they’re signed, and OnLive has its Call of Duty or other blockbuster, I’m not convinced it will be a runaway success.