Thursday, 4 October 2012

The New OnLive Talked to the Media at Eurogamer Expo - Will Be Much More Business-Focused


After OnLive went through ABC bankruptcy and started their reorganization, they have now again started up their official PR machinery at the just finished Eurogamer Expo. Some might remember that OnLive officially launched in the UK at last year's Eurogamer Expo with huge fanfare that amassed huge crowds at the show floor as it was the first time that a gaming system launched at the Eurogamer Expo, they even gave away thousands of their OnLive Game Systems.

What a difference a year can make.

Understandably this year OnLive's presence at the Eurogamer Expo was much more subdued. They were an official suporter of the Eurogamer Expo and co-sponsored the GamesIndustry Fair Networking Drinks. Instead of last year's big stage and bold statements they had a quiet room at the back of the press area where the new CEO Charlie Jablonski and OnLive UK general manager Bruce Grove were ready to be grilled by the gaming media.


And grilled they were. Eurogamer was very persistent on OnLive user numbers with many questions that drilled for a definite number. For instance they wanted to know if the 1,800 concurrent users number that was leaked is true. The answers from the OnLive guys were vague and political, but they finally committed to a number. They said the recurring engaged audience is 1.5 million users. This number means the people who have been on the OnLive cloud gaming service within the last month and they're actively participating in the service. They said that their job is to find best ways to monetise them. People may be making a one off purchase. They may be in the subscription pack. They may be doing a rental. They may be doing a demo. OnLive's job is to now take that, grow that audience, but also make it financially viable. Putting it simply, OnLive has to start making money.

Speaking of numbers, Charlie Jablonski also said that OnLive currently uses several thousand servers in their data centers.

Speaking to GamesIndustry, Charlie Jablonski said that they now have to prove the business in the short and medium term. They need to get more consumers faster and need to make this a better business faster.

Bruce Grove said that in the last four weeks they've been running around building a new company and they've been reaching out to the partners and the games publishers and working with them. He added that the games publishers are saying that they want this to happen, to continue with OnLive because at the end of the day OnLive is the second or third largest digital distribution platform. They're putting Steam at the top and OnLive is sort of there, in their radar.

For Daily RecordGrove said that they are very focused on making it easier for people to put their content on the OnLive cloud gaming service. They want games from indie developers up to the top games from the biggest games publishers delivered by them just by pressing the submit button and not that an army of OnLive engineers is needed to help them port the games over to OnLive. This is a feature that their biggest rival in the cloud gaming arena to date Gaikai has been bragging a lot about.

Speaking of games publishers, there is a rumor that EA is again bringing their games to OnLive.

For GamesIndustry again, Grove said that Sony's acquisition of Gaikai woke everyone in the industry up and showed them that cloud gaming is able to deliver the same content to all the platforms.

The two OnLive bigwigs emphasized for Eurogamer again that the OnLive cloud gaming service has been operating 24/7 to date and the recent transitional period was no exception. They said that founder and former CEO Steve Perlman is the chief cause that made cloud gaming a reality. Steve is a genius and it was his dream, ambition and effort that brought cloud gaming that far. They would not be having this conversation if it wasn't for Steve Perlman.


They said that OnLive's collapse was due to them being unable to secure additional funding in the second quarter of this year. They quickly had to execute a strategy that enabled the service and the assets and the technology to move forward. That made the staffing reductions very painful, but they had to be done to come up with a company that is fundable and can be focused on what the business is going forward.

Speaking of staffing reductions, the two confirmed that the new OnLive currently employs around 90 people, which is about half of the old OnLive staff.

The thing that the two OnLive execs emphasized the most is that moving forward the new OnLive will focus heavily on the business side of things, helping out partners to make money. To date it was more of a cloud gaming technology showcase, and founder and former CEO Steve Perlman's private tech playground.



Charlie Jablonski pointed out that cloud gaming and OnLive are technologically realistic. But they have to work on popularizing it among consumers and the gaming industry. They have realized that they need the support of distribution partners and they need to capitalise on that support more to help with things like customer acquisition and marketing.

That not all people in the games industry believe that cloud gaming is realistic in the foreseeable future shows this comment on the article from GamesIndustry made by The Creative Assembly art lead Tom Pickard. "Like I keep saying about streaming games... Until we get internet infastructure that allows full streaming in HD with minimal input lag for a fair price, streaming games just won't take off. And in England that is about 30 years away based on my experinces of Broadband in the past few years. Not being able to stream iPlayer during peak times on a 60Mb line and that doesn't require any input requirements just says it all. Great idea just far far to early. If anything they are damaging the future of streaming as people will be put off by their experinces and won't try again till much much later." Since SEGA is a great partner of OnLive and they publish games from The Creative Assembly, we now know why SEGA hasn't brought any games from the Total War series over to OnLive.

Talking to Zero1Gaming, Bruce Grove said that a key focus for OnLive going forward is making sure they deliver the service to customers that can use it, this means to the people who have the broadband speed and quality required to get a good service from OnLive. They want to find partners that can deliver OnLive as a service to their customers, which probably means partners like telecom carriers, cable companies and ISPs. They want to be one of those services that are delivered to a customer as part of a value package they are getting. That’s how Bruce Grove thinks we’ll see OnLive grow.

Continuing for Zero1Gaming, Grove said that OnLive wants to concentrate on the OnLive PlayPack subscription package part of the business that was to date the most successful business for them. They want to work on various games channels that focus on different genres of games and that way on different demographics of gamers. For a small monthly fee people will get access to a massive bundle of content and they will offer things like a kids channel, an FPS channel, a driving channel and others, similar to TV and movie packages. This idea ties neatly into the idea of OnLive being one of the services that are delivered to a customer by the likes of telecom carriers, cable companies and ISPs as part of a value package.

Again for Daily Record, Grove said that instead of trying to target hardcore PC gamers or hardcore Xbox gamers who are so set on their platform, maybe OnLive is better off delivering a bundle of games to people that don't even have a console but they have just attached a Smart TV to the internet and they've got games as a service, games as a channel and they don't care if they are playing a 20 years old game or a 2 years old game. It doesn't matter to them whether it’s a day-and-date game or a 6 months old game. He thinks that PC gamers, console gamers and tablet gamers are completely different people, and OnLive has to think about it making sure they're targeting their audience correctly because maybe they don't want to play Call of Duty. The person who is sat in front of the TV with no console doesn't care about it, but they still care about being entertained so they've got a way of getting entertainment out to people with all different content through the various games channels. As they'll grow that business, he thinks then they'll get to partnerships with companies that want AAA titles day-and-date for their customers. They'll work with them and deliver the games for their customers because it’s the right targeted market.

Speaking of OnLive branding, Grove said that for instance if they create a family friendly children’s gaming channel, the branding for that channel is going to look completely different to how OnLive looks today. OnLive right now screams hardcore gamer, screams FPS, black and orange. It’s great branding, but at the same time it hits a certain target and that doesn't work for someone who has their children wanting to give them some nice content and they don't want that screaming at them.



Continuing for Eurogamer the two OnLive guys said that they want to put a narrower focus on the consumer oriented games part of their business and not on other things like the more business oriented OnLive Desktop. They want to leverage partnerships that will broaden their market, they want OnLive to be anywhere and everywhere. This means building on partnerships like with the OUYA Android game console, and the VIZIO Co-Star with Google TV and subsequently bringing OnLive to more Google TV devices.

A big part will of course be geographic expansion. OnLive is currently officially available in Northern America with the US and Canada, in the UK and Belgium. Belgium was the last country where OnLive launched at the end of July, so not long before their problems started. The most likely first candidates for their continued expansion are the other eurozone countries with the larger ones being France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Finishing off with answering the question of how OnLive's servers will cope with the increased stress of games designed for the next generation consoles, Charlie Jablonski said that a startup like OnLive has to keep innovating and they always continually iterate their server design, as they have to if they don't want to die.

To date OnLive was marketed more as a hardcore gaming service and some hardcore gamers even embraced it as they hoped that in the future OnLive would produce incredible games with out of this world graphics, physics, AI, Mova grade animation, massive multiplayer, etc. Games that one could not even remotely run on his own computer. Those gamers could soon find themselves out of place at OnLive with their new business plan that has much lower ambitions.


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