It's been a year since OnLive launched within the UK and it’s been a tough one to say the least.
After entering emergency bankruptcy earlier this year, the cloud gaming service has undergone a behind-the-scenes transition that has saved the firm from the brink of closure, but not without its casualties. Now, following a managerial shake-up, OnLive looks set to get back on track.
PCR sits down with new CEO Charlie Jablonski to discuss the state of the firm...
Could you give us a brief introduction of what Onlive is?
OnLive is cloud gaming. It allows users to play the latest titles from a range of devices including PC, Mac, HDTVs, tablet PCs and smartphones, eliminating the need for high-end gaming equipment. Users have access to OnLive’s portfolio of over 300 games on-demand without the need to queue or endure long download times.
Gamers have a choice when it comes to getting their games: retail, digital distribution and cloud gaming. Why should they choose the latter?
Well, what OnLive gives you is a very opportunistic experience. You log on and everything is there before your eyes readily available. You can access and experience things very quickly without spending a lot of time or money. There are various ways of purchasing games or trying them before you buy via our three-day rental. We see ourselves as an addition to standard and digital distribution.
How does OnLive persuade users to spend money?
Obviously most games are longer than the 30-minute experience offered by a trial. So if you like the trial, you’re likely to spend money to play the full version. Some games have expansion packs and additional content, which we offer too, along with a collection that includes over 50 games that users can subscribe to on a monthly basis.
How difficult has it been to build confidence in the service as a start- up offering a new technology?
A year ago we sat here and, essentially, we tried to convince people that cloud gaming really works, and really, scepticism is a fine thing; I think we’ve proven that technologically, whilst the customer experience is where we suffered our biggest difficulty, which led to our transition a few weeks ago.
What has it been like to see competitors enter the market?
We’re starting to see other people enter the space now, which is great. Competition is good as it validates the space. They’re effectively holding us up as an example of cloud gaming and something they aspire to be. There’s nothing wrong with that.
The next-generation of consoles are forecast to be the last, in favour of a switch to PCs, mobile devices and cloud gaming. Is this something OnLive anticipates?
Probably. I think we’re seeing a switch, which is very much an obligation. If you’re a publisher, you’ve got to find a way to reach that audience. Had I told you five years ago that you’d be playing some of the biggest games releases on your phone, you’d have tried to lock me up. Games are expensive to produce and to market, so publishers want a way to extend the shelf life of their titles and monetise it.
Are there plans to increase the number of publishers and games available?
We’re always in discussions with various publishers as to how we can not only expand our offering, but how to make it more attractive to them from a business perspective and how to make it easier for them to get their games on the platform. We’ve got to make it almost seamless for a publisher to participate and have it make business sense for both parties.
How does OnLive plan to move forward from this recent transition?
As with any new technology product, when you introduce it, what you think it’s going to be is one thing, and what the market tells you it needs to be is something else. It’s not uncommon for a new technology to go through an evolution. Market blindness is one of the most fatal diseases you can have as a start-up. There has been a time of regrouping which is now over and there will be a lot of product announcements coming within the near future.