OnLive Readying Subscription-Free Cloud Gaming

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Though online game streaming service OnLive will initially only be available to those willing to pay a monthly subscription of $14.95, the company has revealed plans to launch a subscription-free service--dubbed OnLive Game Portal--before the year's end.

As OnLive CEO Steve Perlman explains:

The OnLive Game Portal is for gamers looking for direct access to OnLive games without being required to subscribe to the features of the full OnLive Game Service. Through the OnLive Game Portal, gamers will be able to play select games directly on a rental basis as well as game demos for free; subject to available OnLive service capacity and whatever usage limits are associated with each given demo. Rentals will be priced on a per-game basis. There is no service fee for the OnLive Game Portal.

OnLive will open its cloud-based game streaming service to PC and Mac subscribers in the continental United States on June 17. Somewhere between a dozen and twenty-five titles will be available on that day, though that monthly fee does not include the as-yet-undisclosed costs of renting or buying a game through the service.

Instead, that fee will cover various social networking features and functionality:

Included in your monthly service fee are OnLive-exclusive features such as instant-play free game demos; multiplayer across PC, Mac and TV platforms; massive spectating; viewing of Brag Clips video capture and posting; and cloud-saving of games you've purchased-pause, and instantly resume from anywhere, even on a different platform.

Also included in the monthly service fee are features you'd expect from standard online games services such as gamer tags, user profiles, friends, chat, but with a twist: everything is live video. You'll be friending through multiplay, Spectating, Brag Clips, or by flipping through video profiles of friends of friends of friends. OnLive is delivering the first instant video-based social network.

OnLive and other offerings like Gakai and OTOY represent cloud-based services that see game data processed externally by a remote server. The visuals are then streamed to players through a web browser plug-in, with their control inputs then piped back to the server. Users of such services can play anything on offer, regardless of how powerful their computer is or isn't, so long as they have a decent enough net connection.

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From The Chatty

  • reply
    March 12, 2010 12:46 PM

    There it goes. I guess the subscription is just to help cover costs early on, so they can stop bleeding investment money. It doesn't make sense without this model.

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      March 12, 2010 12:55 PM

      True. I think this was only brought up because those other guys, Gaikai, were offering it for free right off the bat. I figured if there was no competition, this would have been announced MUCH later.

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      March 12, 2010 1:01 PM

      Note there's no mention of buying games with this free option, it appears to only be the rental portal.

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        March 12, 2010 1:39 PM

        Rental really is the better model for this though.

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          March 12, 2010 1:42 PM

          For some things yeah. You can imagine that you start renting though and then like the game enough to buy and you're just a click away from the subscription and being able to play it whenever (GameFly has a similar model).

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            March 12, 2010 3:16 PM

            No I think he means that it makes more sense to just charge $15/month, allow access to one or more games, and forget about the buying part. They could be like GameFly and just purchase X number of licenses to the game and manage them in the background. Heck, if they can make this work maybe GameFly will buy them and then have their "streaming Netflix" option sewn up.

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              March 12, 2010 3:25 PM

              Well, besides the obvious business model problems (charging less than Gamefly to also provide hardware and bandwidth...) it's also handicapping the versatility of the service. The whole point is instant on streaming games, no waiting a week for a new disc. If I'm just paying for 1 game a month and have no choice but to wait until the end of the month for the next one (at least with Gamefly it's x at a time and I can return it whenever, but that only works because the turnaround isn't instant) really diminishes the value of the service. So then you're back to paying for access to a second game for the month...

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                March 12, 2010 4:00 PM

                The Gamefly analogy we were going for would be that you get access to X number of games per month, for so long as you subscribe. So you could pick a game and just keep playing it and having access to it so long as you keep paying. If at any time you want to switch your game you can do so, provided they have a license available.

                If they did this then yeah they'd have to charge at least GameFly prices, if not more.

                The net effect would sort of be the same to the end consumer (stop paying the fee and lose access to the game you're renting or have purchased).

                Even this free option doesn't address the real issue - you don't get anything for that $15/month other than the right to spend more money, all of which becomes moot and useless should you ever stop paying.

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      March 12, 2010 1:07 PM

      No thanks! 180$ a year plus you still have to rent or buy the games,I'll pass.

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      March 15, 2010 11:41 PM

      a flat monthly fee for unlimited gaming of all the new releases would be nice, but input-> game lag is terrible