What Does the Future Hold for OnLive?

After some technical difficulties which were the fault of my PC itself I finally got the OnLive digital game streaming service working. As a gamer who prefers wired internet anyways, I was able to use it before their Wi-Fi support was rolled out and it actually did work pretty nicely on my middle-end machine (NForce 750i Motherboard, Quad Core 2.66GHz Processor w/ 1333MHz FSB, 2GB PC1066 Ram, 1GB GeForce 9600 GT Video Card, 320GB Hard Drive). I checked out the set up and it was pretty good to be honest. The ability to check out what other people are playing and watch them play then add them to a friend’s list via a universal spectator mode online was pretty awesome. Overall I like the service and its approach and think that this is probably the highest quality game streaming service I’ve seen yet.

The only real complaint one could offer at this time is that the selection of games on OnLive is really pretty weak. They say it will improve, but so far I’m not impressed on that angle. However, I have some serious problems with the concept as a whole and wonder if this is even a good service for gamers, the industry, and OnLive as a whole. I have serious doubts about the future of this service, and I’m going to present them now but they will also be covered in the upcoming ShockCast this week so you can hear what the entire team thinks about OnLive in theory, in concept, and in practice.

The main attraction of OnLive is that it will run on lower-spec PC’s, but upon looking at the minimum specs you still need a PC running at least Vista (or Mac OS X 10.5.8) with 3Mbps internet and its recommended you have 5Mbps internet with a Dual-core CPU or better. This is leaving me a bit puzzled since your average internet speed across the country, or anywhere in the world besides Japan, is going to fail at meeting the speed and bandwidth requirements. While they will let you on with slightly lower than recommended settings they are ceasing to guarantee you will have a fun time at that point.

So, I really question the fact that this is supposed to work on “lower-end machines” that can’t already play PC games well. Really it seems to only be forgiving for having a weak video card and the rest is still pretty demanding, or so it would seem. But when you think about it, do people who have a weaker PC really have a strong demand for gaming on it anyway? How many people are actually desperate for this? If anyone is desperate in this scenario it seems to be OnLive with all of their massive sales and the decision to drop the monthly subscription fee (which might have something to do with their recent competition surfacing).

Will OnLive, or any other digital game streaming service for that matter, really have any chance at all at surviving? Why do we need it and how can we tell it’s here to stay? Until we can tell, why should we entrust our hard earned dollars into a service that will leave us owning absolutely nothing if they go under? With digital download distribution, at least you have a file and game installed that you can access continually if a company were to go under, but you will not be able to download it again of course. However, with digital game streaming, you don’t even have that.

PC is already subject to massive pirating which takes a heavy hit on the sales of services like Steam, Games for Windows Live, and the PC Retail market. Hell, Epic Games claims it’s the reason Gears of War 2 will never hit the PC even though they are a company founded on supporting the PC Gaming scene. So what makes OnLive so special that it can charge you money for a bunch of games that mostly do not feature a multiplayer component anyone cares about, and never even give you ownership over anything but a stream.

What incentive do existing PC gamers have to move over to a service like OnLive? If you ask me there really isn’t one. PC gamers are already pretty confident in what they are doing and unfortunately the cons seem to outweigh the pros in my eyes for a digital streaming service trying to succeed in the current market conditions. I personally expect OnLive and any copycat service to eventually fade away into the night with barely a whisper. What do you, the readers, think about digital streaming services like OnLive? Will they be the next big thing? If you say yes let us know why and how you can justify your answer because things look pretty grim from where I’m standing.

[Also, stay tuned for a full discussion amongst the entire DualShockers team about this topic to be released tomorrow with the weekly ShockCast.]

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Jon Ireson

Jon is a gamer above all else. He plays all types of games. You can find him mostly in War games. He is very passionate and a hard worker and it shows through his writing. Favorite Games: Warhawk, Soldier of Fortune 2: Double Helix, Final Fantasy 6

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