Wednesday, 31 August 2011

PAX Prime 2011 Interview: The Present and Future of OnLive

OnLive - the premiere cloud gaming service - has made quite the splash and shown tremendous growth since its launch in June 2010. They started on PC and a little mini-console and have since branched out to tablets and soon, Vizio televisions and Blu-ray players. I had a chance to speak with two movers and shakers for OnLive: Director of Corporate Communications Brian Jaquet and Product Manager Andre Srinivasan.

gamrFeed: What's the next frontier, what's the next thing you're hoping to tackle as OnLive grows?

Andre Srinivasan: As you mentioned, horizontal growth across all these possible different screens, also the introduction of our universal controller. This is a controller that will not only work with the TV's and tablets across a standard bluetooth connection, but also will work with a low-latency adapter. You can get a full OnLive gaming experience whether you're on a PC or TV using our controller. So you don't have to go out and buy lots of different controllers. Our controller will work with all your devices.

Brian Jaquet: If we're doing our job right, the next TV you buy has OnLive integrated, the next blu-ray player, or whatever. Basically all you have to do is get a universal controller from us and you'll be playing there, you'll be playing wirelessly on your PC or Mac, you'll be playing on your tablet wirelessly as well, so it's cross-platform. We have a lot to deliver this fall, from the controller to playable tablets to the integrated TV's and other devices. We're working on a lot of things. UK, international expansion.

Srinivasan: So this really falls into, "what's next?" It's the UK, Europe, basically we've proved the service works, it works great with three data centers across the U.S. Now we can keep expanding it: add more data centers, address more markets, social is huge. We introduced integration with Facebook a few months ago. You gain an achievement, you can automatically broadcast to your friends, "hey, look what I'm doing," with links back directly into the service. Your friend clicks that link, they're playing with you. We just released group voice chat. Build a group chat channel, invite all your friends, the channel is persistent no matter what you're doing in OnLive. So you and your friends are playing F.E.A.R. 3. "Hey, let's go play Homefront." You don't all disconnect, the audio channel is completely above all the games. You're still talking to each other as you navigate out of F.E.A.R. 3 , through the GSP, back into Homefront.

gamrFeed: Does it include cross-platform? Say you're at home and you have to leave, so you pick up your tablet? You can jump back in to the same chat group?

Srinivasan: Exactly. Everything we do is about that ultimate cross-platform, everywhere you go experience. The act of saving your game and picking up your game, being in a group chat, continuing the group chat, all a continuous flow across the devices.

gamrFeed: Are you running into any barriers with connectivity in some of these foreign markets you're trying to push into?

Srinivasan: We've managed to reduce our minimum bandwidth with every release. It turns out that while we've been trying to get more and more out of less and less, the world has realized that everybody wants to stream movies and play games. So we're actually in a great position. Our minimum bandwidth is now lower than the common bandwidth that you find in most markets.

gamrFeed: Sort of like Netflix is kicking open the door and you're just walking on through?

Srinivasan: Exactly. But it's everything. All the Google Voices of the world, Skypes, all this consumption of bandwidth. It's not just from one individual, it's the group of individuals sitting in Starbucks just sucking up that poor wi-fi router. So all of that is sort of a perfect storm.

gamrFeed: So as you push to these other devices (televisions, tablets, blu-ray players), are you going to make a push toward the more casual market? Because you're going on to devices that non-gamers are buying.

Srinivasan: Absolutely. Already in the PlayPack, we have a wide set of genres; everything from multiplayer Homefront to World of Goo. The PlayPack is one of those family friendly investments. With the parental controls launch combined with all the possible games you get - we're at 80+ games for $10 a month...

Jaquet: Plus you can start searching by genre, you start seeing pretty easily that you can discover a lot easier an RPG, a shooter, etc. We've done a lot to make it easier to discover games and also control that experience as well. Parental controls were a pretty important piece in the latest release. We had three things in the last release: group voice chat, Facebook achievement postings, and parental controls.

Srinivasan: So it comes down to: start the service, find your games, find your friends, play. All without a download.

After the interview, Andre Srinivasan and I also discussed the far future of OnLive, in particular what will OnLive do to gaming when the next generation of consoles come around. The OnLive mini-console is only $100, but their service will likely be able to move into the next generation of games without a hardware update, so how will that affect the next generation of console buying? Only time will tell exactly how big of a splash OnLive could have in the video game industry, its splash is already bigger than most industry experts ever anticipated.



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