Saturday, 8 March 2014

OnLive Relaunched with CloudLift and OnLive Go

After OnLive went through ABC bankruptcy and its assets were purchased by Lauder Partners for $4.8 million in 2012, the company went into hibernation mode and started to rebuild. Now the time has come when they are showing the fruits of their labor, as they have relaunched with two new services named CloudLift and OnLive Go. They have also relocated from Palo Alto, California to Mountain View, California, and launched an official OnLive forum at community.onlive.com.



On the CloudLift service OnLive has partnered with Steam, with possible future partnerships with other digital game services like EA's Origin and Ubisoft's Uplay. With CloudLift gamers can sync their Steam games library Steam Cloud game saves with the OnLive cloud gaming service and play their games via interactive video streaming on PCs, Macs, TVs and Android mobiles. The OnLive Android App has also been updated to version 1.4 to accommodate the new CloudLift functionality. OnLive still hasn't made it to iOS devices like iPhones and iPads with Apple still refusing to let them in.

CloudLift is priced at $14.99 per month in the US and Canada, and at £9.99 per month in the UK. The list of CloudLift supported games is currently very limited with 20 games, but OnLive is in active negotitations with many game publishers and they intend to add dozens more games in short order. There is a 7-day free trial for CloudLift and gamers can also directly buy the CloudLift supported games from OnLive and get a Steam download code for them. This greatly mitigates the fear of gamers not having a product that they can own should the company go bust.

OnLive has stated that they have improved the on-boarding process for games, so very little to no modifying is necessary to bring games to OnLive. This should allow OnLive to deliver games on their retail launch dates and is a huge improvement over the cumbersome porting process of old OnLive that required a large games on-boarding team at OnLive. The limited games library was one, if not the, stumbling block of old OnLive that caused limited appeal to gamers.



The list of supported games may be short, but there are quite a few interesting among them. The 20 CloudLift supported games are: Batman: Arkham Asylum Game of the Year Edition, Batman: Arkham City - Game of the Year Edition, Batman: Arkham Origins, Saints Row IV, Dead Island: Game of the Year Edition, Dead Island: Riptide, Darksiders II, Metro 2033, Mortal Kombat Komplete Edition, The LEGO Movie - Videogame, LEGO The Lord of the Rings, Red Faction: Armageddon, MX vs ATV Reflex, Painkiller: Hell and Damnation, Strike Suit Zero, Truck Racer, Scribblenauts Unlimited, Type:Rider, The Raven - Legacy of a Master Thief and The Book of Unwritten Tales: The Critter Chronicles. Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment and Deep Silver have returned with their games, and even brought some new ones, after they removed their games from OnLive in fall 2012 following the troubles of old OnLive.

OnLive's CloudLift enabled multiplayer games now work like normal PC games and you can play with your friends on Steam. This is also a huge improvement for new OnLive. On old OnLive gamers only had the choice of playing multiplayer games with other OnLive gamers which severely limited their choices. This was another stumbling block for old OnLive, and not only that, old OnLive even had to touch the source code of games to get the multiplayer running on their closed system which resulted in many games that normally supported multiplayer coming without it to OnLive. Looks like CloudLift uses the Steam version of games as the OnLive CloudLift page says that the games use the SteamWorks DRM.

OnLive is also keeping their $9.99 (£6.99, €9.99) per month PlayPack plan of over 250 games. The PlayPass option for purchasing single games has been removed, though the games that people have already purchased are theirs to keep.



The other new service from OnLive, namely OnLive Go, is a B2B offering. This means that other companies can use OnLive's infrastructure and cloud gaming know-how. In this case the first company that has partnered with OnLive is Linden Lab, the creators of virtual world Second Life. They've launched an app named SL Go. You can get it for Android mobile platforms, or you can run Second Life via OnLive on PCs, Macs and TVs. Second Life on SL Go has the graphics settings dialed to the maximum, so depending on how good your PC is it can look even better on an Android tablet than your PC. Second Life on SL Go is also touch enabled so you can control your virtual avatar via touch controls.

OnLive Go, including SL Go, lets you rent the way an internet café would, only it gives the freedom to use it anywhere that you have high bandwidth internet, Wi-Fi and 4G included. In the case of SL Go it costs $3.00 per hour to stream the virtual world of Second Life to a device of your choice.



OnLive has also partnered with Gaijin Entertainment and will enable cloud video streaming of their free to play MMO War Thunder via OnLive Go.

To enable the new services OnLive has added thousands of new servers to their existing data centers in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dallas, Virginia and Luxembourg. They've also opened two new data centers in Seattle and Chicago, and upgraded the existing servers with the latest CPUs, GPUs and other hardware.

OnLive is still supporting their own hardware accessories. They are selling the OnLive Game System for $99.99 and the Universal OnLive Wireless Controller for $49.99.

OnLive has also revamped their leadership. Lead investor Gary Lauder stepped down from his role as chairman and hired Mark Jung as executive chairman. Mark was co-founder and CEO of IGN, which he built into a digital entertainment powerhouse. After taking the company public in 2000 and then private in 2003, Mark led IGN’s sale for over $650 million to News Corp, the parent company of Fox Interactive Media in 2005. Subsequently, he was the COO of Fox Interactive Media (FIM), where he was responsible for all of its internet properties including MySpace, IGN Entertainment, FoxSports.com, AmericanIdol.com, and Scout Media. After that Mark was the CEO of VUDU, a leading provider of digital home entertainment and interactive television services.

Joining him are Don Gordon as SVP of engineering. Don was a VP at Gracenote, held executive level positions at Microsoft and holds 55 issued US patents related to video technology. Carrie Holder as VP of business development, before that she was director of partner management at EA. And Rick Sanchez as VP of product & marketing, who was also a co-founder of IGN. Most recently, he was VP of Playdom at Disney Interactive.

From the old guard of OnLive there remain Tom Paquin as EVP and chief technology officer, and Bruce Grove as general manager of OnLive UK.

The new leadership of OnLive acknowledges a humbler OnLive that wants to work with other platform holders like Valve and being an enabler of business opportunities for other companies. As opposed to the OnLive of old that seemingly went against everyone and everything, impersonated by its founder and former CEO Steve Perlman, which was also one of the causes of their demise.



OnLive's new business model may prove successful, but business models aren't enough. And not every change is necessarily for the better. Judging from OnLive's new user interface that is now built with HTML5 and takes some lessons from Microsoft's Metro design that is geared towards touch interfaces, they have some work before them to make it user friendly and good looking. The new interface may look stylish, but it also can run painfully slow and finding what you're looking for can be difficult as there is occasionally so much information displayed that you can be overwhelmed and not know where to navigate next. It might be that the initial load of the OnLive relaunch is putting the strain on the interface servers.

Gone is the cool OnLive Arena where you could move between the different live video feeds of gameplay of various games, you can now only spectate other gamers under the game you've selected. The cool looking OnLive start up sequence where the camera moved through the OnLive logo to reveal a giant planetary grid made of gameplay videos was replaced with a hip looking video of colored OnLive logos floating around. And generally the old OnLive user interface felt more solid, with fast responses, and also felt more organized though it didn't have to display so much information.

It will be interesting to see how the OnLive user interface will develop and of course the OnLive cloud gaming service at large.

2 comments:

  1. After reading this well put together article, I was impressed by how much Onlive has achieved in the meantime... just to be floored by reading at onlive.com that their service has been discontinued as of 4/30/15, that Sony has acquired parts of Onlive and that they're now closed. What a shame! While Onlive made some mistakes (especially coming across too confident and disruptive), ultimately, gamers and the industry alike weren't ready for the service. That said, it seems to me that they were the first to show what was previously thought impossible and have created a path for numerous similar services and technologies to form and to gain importance in a relatively near future.

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