It’s amazing to think back to 2009, when the idea of Cloud Gaming was an idea people couldn’t quite get their heads around. So many questions. How could it possibly work? Would we ever have the bandwidth on our home internet connections to support it? OnLive answered some of those questions with their announcement at GDC 2009, but the media was still sceptical, with gamers even more so. It wasn’t until the product launched in the USA the following year that people started to accept that Cloud Gaming was not only viable, but that it could be the future of video games.
There have been a few changes to the business model over the years, but the service itself has been innovative since the beginning. So many of the much loved features of the new console generation originated with OnLive. The ability to observe live-streamed gameplay was one of the first features we got so excited about at Eurogamer Expo 2011, when OnLive launched in the UK. The ability to capture and share clips of gameplay footage is a much-loved feature on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, thanks to OnLive’s Brag Clips. Then of course there’s the PlayStation Now/Gaikai service set to launch sometime this year in the USA, which will bring Cloud Gaming to the PS4 in much the same way OnLive has been doing for the past 4 years.
All of those above features are still very much present with the updated OnLive 2.0, but it’s the new improvements that are really going to push OnLive forward as more than just a great idea. These new features are what will turn OnLive into a thriving platform. The problem OnLive has always faced, is that they’ve been directly competing with everyone – consoles, digital distribution platforms, high street retailers. With the announcement of their key new features, OnLive stop competing and become a complimentary service. It’s rather clever.
CloudLift is the brand new product offering that essentially makes OnLive your on-the-move gaming platform, in tandem with your current PC gaming setup. OnLive is now DRM agnostic, meaning instead of re-engineering every game that goes onto their platform, they’re running typical PC releases as they were intended by the developers.
OnLive can hook into third party platforms – the first of which they’re partnered with is Steam, which makes perfect sense as Steam is the most popular digital distribution platform. But we also expect to see an EA partnership in the near future, bringing Origin compatibility on-board too. But what these partnerships mean, is that when you purchase a game on Steam, you now have access to that game on OnLive. CloudLift is the brilliant tech that lifts your cloud save from Steam and uploads it to OnLive’s servers. So you can start a game on your gaming machine via Steam, then pick it up later on your Android device with OnLive and continue your progress, with the same save file. It’s such a great idea.
Now, OnLive is no longer competing with Steam for your business. You no longer have to make a decision about which platform you want to purchase a game on, it’s more a case of buying a game once and having even more access to it. Steam + OnLive is a bigger deal than the PS4 + Vita remote play, or using your Wii U gamepad while something else occupies the television. Your AAA PC titles can now go with you on the move, anywhere.
There are so many devices that are already OnLive compatible, the client is available for Ouya, Google TV devices, LG and Samsung TVs, nVidia Shield, Mad Catz M.O.J.O., Android phones and tablets and of course the OnLive micro console.
OnLive CloudLift is a subscription based service, costing £9.99 / $14.99 per month.
Any games you previously purchased from OnLive, you will continue to own. They are yours forever. That has been emphasised, as it’s obviously important that gamers have a sense of ownership over their games. But now that concern is further removed, because if you purchase a game via OnLive, you will also have access to that title on Steam, too. Another brilliant move on their part.
The only drawback to the CloudLift model is that although OnLive have a partnership with Valve, they don’t necessarily have partnerships with every publisher on the Steam platform. So they will have to build relationships independently, to secure more games onto OnLive. But it makes so much sense for publishers to sign-up now. It gives gamers another option, another way of playing their games. Plus publishers and developers no longer have to worry about re-engineering their game to fit on the platform – thanks to OnLive going DRM agnostic, and running native Steam versions of games.
The PlayPack subscription still exists, with over 250 games in the library. Again, now that OnLive is DRM agnostic, we’ll see more releases reaching the PlayPack day-and-date of release. There won’t be that long wait that sometimes occurred, while the OnLive engineering team worked out how to re-engineer networking code for a specific game. Games will simply work the way they do on Steam, only you won’t need any expensive hardware to run them.
The PlayPack is an all-you-can eat subscription package, at £6.99 / $9.99 a month.
We had a chat with OnLive’s General Manager, Bruce Grove, who informed us that OnLive had beefed up their server hardware, so each gamer gets the equivalent of a mid-to-high end gaming PC. This makes the games run incredibly smooth. They’ve also fiddled with the streaming quality, which looks dramatically different from yesterday’s OnLive. The specific bitrates weren’t shared, but the improvement is clear. While games streamed over the internet obviously won’t look as high-def as playing them locally on a next-gen console, you’re not going to see much of a graphical difference between an Xbox 360 and OnLive 2.0.
OnLive has been setting themselves up as the NetFlix of video games for a few years now. We think they might finally be there. The idea is simple: purchase an Ouya, subscribe to CloudLift and you’ve got yourself a really cheap Steam Machine, for some living room gaming.
The best part of all this news? OnLive 2.0 is in open beta as of right now! So recover your login details, grab your android device and get in game!