Wednesday, April 1, 2009

EXP podcast #19: The OnLive Myth

The gaming internet sites were humming with excitement during the Game Developers Conference last week in sunny San Francisco. Upon one particular announcement, a mix of gleeful tittering and cries of consternation were audible across the bay, and a widespread internet discussion soon followed. The product announced was OnLive, a gaming service that purports to do away with hardware concerns by streaming your games over high-speed internet. Crowds gathered around the presentation like skeptics around a yeti corpse, wanting to believe in the mythical beast.

This week, Scott and I discuss OnLive as it relates to the curative properties of snake oil, urban ISP ruffians, scam artists, and the future of consumer participation in game consumption. Since we are drawing on a wider collection of news sources than normal, we will link some of the more interesting pieces in the show notes along with OnLives demonstration video. If you are curious about OnLive further, allow us to google that for you. Comments are encouraged via email on the right or in the comments section below. We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Some discussion starters:

- Do you think the time is right for a service like OnLive? Are people ready for another console competitor?
- Do you think the infrastructure exists for OnLive?
- Would you partake in this service or do you think the growing pains of expanding their content is too much?

To listen to the podcast:
- Subscribe to the EXP Podcast via iTunes here. Additionally, here is the stand-alone feed.
- Listen to the podcast in your browser by left-clicking the title. Or, right-click and select "save as link" to download the show in MP3 format.
- Subscribe to this podcast and EXP's written content with the RSS link on the right.

Show Notes:

- Run time: 28 min 14 sec
- OnLive website with video.
- John Spinale talks to The Escapist about OnLive.
- Richard Leadbetter, of Erogamer, explains why OnLive can't possibly work.


  1. I'm with Jorge Albor on this one. As I figure I think there maybe one more factor that you haven't considered. yes it works for a handful of PC, but they haven't done any serious stress testing to the number of a couple thousand all running Crysis. That's the real technical limitation. It could be that they are banking on the fact that not enough people can afford the connection to overload their servers and they'll be able to upgrade in time wen they get more users.

    If that is the case, that's just as bad planning as you guys supposed. I have to call this one out. The US is one of the worst 1st world countires when it comes to connection speed and penetration.

  2. I can't even get a stupid myspace page to load in a reasonable amount of time. I don't know how they are going to pull this off.

    Nevertheless, the internet is doing things now that seemed impossible only a few years back and I have heard buzz from some computer scientists that this kind of thing is the future of computing: online software with no need to install on your home system.

  3. There is a great piece on Eurogamer which tears OnLive to pieces - it depends on so many conditions being right it'll never work.

    Personally, I think it's bad enough that I can't get on Xbox Live when my internet is misbehaving. To be denied singleplayer games at the same time = no sale for me.

    Plus, it will never replace portable gaming. I lose my 3G connection about 5 times on the train to work.

    I think this is the biggest scam in gaming since the Gizmondo.

  4. You all articulated most of the glaring weaknesses here. Poor connection speed, sketchy infrastructure, scaling problems; there are definitely some big questions to be answered.

    My biggest fear is about the pricing: how are they going to structure it and how much will we actually have to shell out for games for which we don't even get a digital copy? My thinking is that a service like this will happen someday, so we should start thinking about what the business model should be like so we don't get lured into a boondoggle (think about most cell phone plans).

    Despite all its problems, I'm still hopeful that a company could adopt a Netflix like model for this sort of thing. I was talking with a friend who was about to pull the trigger on a new video card for his PC, but was not 100% certain it would work with his hardware. His situation is a perfect example of what turns me off about PC gaming. A service like OnLive is getting closer to the "it just works" type of situation that makes console gaming so enjoyable.

    Still, I have a feeling I'll probably have a Playstation 5 before OnLive becomes a viable stand alone option. ;-)