Editorials & Opinion / Other Games

A Pre-Post-Mortem for OnLive

UPDATE: It seems like OnLive is going to make it after all after some changes in their business, and an influx of new capital.  I am going to leave this post as is when I wrote it however for those who lost their jobs.  Thanks and welcome back OnLive!

It is an absolute shame to see OnLive come to this point.  In case you haven’t heard the news, some very serious rumors are going around that OnLive has fired its entire staff and will most likely do a complete restructure of their business.  I hate to hear people get fired, especially when things seem to be (or at least should have been) going well for their company.

When OnLive first launched, I was excited though very skeptical.  The idea sounded good but cloud computing wasn’t as mainstream as it is now.  Even after initially beta testing the service, my opinion was still mixed.  However, when Onlive decided to hold a contest centering on the release of Lego Harry Potter, my opinion and appreciation for the service completely changed.

It was a few summers ago.  I was off from college, living back home with the parents, and was too lazy to get a job.  I had tried the Onlive service a few times to demo games but never to play one to completion.  Then one night I received an email from Onlive.  It talked of a contest where the first person to complete Lego Harry Potter to 100% would win an iPad.  And as an iPod Touch user who didn’t have the money to get a data plan let alone an iPhone, I really wanted that iPad to play my iPod games on a bigger screen.

That same night, I drove to Walmart (about half an hour away, I am from a small town) and met up with a friend to give me a pep talk and some tips on Lego games.  The game wouldn’t release for another few hours and it was already midnight, so I was a little worried I wouldn’t make it the first day let alone the three or so it took me.  I bought lots of sugary snacks and Mountain Dew and drove home with the intention of taking home that iPad prize.

This was my first time really competing in any sort of video game related competition.  I had raided pretty seriously in World of Warcraft, so I had some idea of the obsessive mentality it might take, but this was a far more grueling task.  Even the runner ups would get some decent prizes in that of iPod Touches, so I figured that there would be some definite competition.  It didn’t help that I had never played any of the Lego games and had been avoiding platformers since the oversaturation of the genre in the 32/64 bit era. I was also never the completionist type.  I liked to get through the good, juicy parts of my game and avoid the lean, repetitive pickings of ‘catching ’em all’.

Sadly, I didn’t win the iPad.  I spent around 40 hours in a just over two day period playing the hell out of Lego Harry Potter, but the best I could do was third place.  I did win an iPod Touch, and some OnLive swag, so it wasn’t a complete loss.  And victory, even a third place victory, is a pretty sweet thing after forcing your body to sit in one spot and play one game for that long.  It also didn’t hurt that I really enjoyed Lego Harry Potter.  I of course read all the books and watched all of the movies, so the game’s puzzles and platforming combined with a comedic appreciation for the source material really made for an awesome combination.

But the best part of it all was the community.  A key part of OnLive’s platform aside from the cloud gaming is the ability to watch anyone else playing on the service.  As this was a pretty well-known contest among the OnLive players, a lot of people jumped into my game or sent me messages cheering me on or asking for tips.  It also gave me a chance to have my friends stalk my competition from time to time to let me know just how far behind I was.  Like Steam has to an extent already done and seems to really want to do with its new social hub changes, OnLive did a lot to create a social environment for gamers to play with gamers.  I believe the service has succeeded in this regard far beyond other gaming communities like Playstation Network or Xbox Live.

Of course, I fell quickly in love with OnLive after the contest.  I paid attention to all of their deals and played games like Arkham Asylum all the way through on their service.  I stopped playing once I got a better computer, but I never bothered to uninstall or forget OnLive.  Even today I have nostalgic memories of that contest and of how it converted me to both the immediate value of cloud game but also its definite potential when more people have more access to better internet speeds.

In that love, I had convinced myself and a few other interested friends to consider buying stocks in the company.  Like now, I still believe that the technology they have developed is going to be very important in the future of gaming, and has some real value for a wide variety of gamers right now.  The company was sadly private, and has remained private up until what appears to be its imminent demise.  I don’t think this will end the service though.  There is too much value there and I can see too many companies wanting to integrate OnLive’s technology into their portfolios.  For tablets alone, cloud gaming and streaming options like OnLive are a definite god send.  If OnLive had been a little more aggressive, I could even see cable companies wanting to pair the OnLive service with their cable boxes and on demand services to bring cloud gaming to millions of households who don’t regularly game on PCs.  As far as I can tell, OnLive has a lot of value that presumably poor owners have utilized.

In closing, I want to say thank you to the team and anyone else who made OnLive, as we all know it today, possible.  I am glad I have the memories of the service that I do, that I enjoyed everything it brought to me, and that it really opened me up to a whole new technological world of clouds and streams and true internet integration with my daily life.  I wish every team member a lot of luck in your future endeavors.  It may not help you land a job, but this fan would gladly give any of your future employers a glowing recommendation.

Thank you OnLive and farewell.

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4 thoughts on “A Pre-Post-Mortem for OnLive

  1. The concept sounded fine to me, an the technology is perfectly capable — I really hope it wasn’t just poor management that tanked a good idea.

    OnLive, I salute you.

  2. Very interesting to hear your personal experiences with OnLive.

    As I mention in my most recent post, I think this is a very viable technology for the future but I think it will take time for broadband speeds and consumer willingness to reach the levels for this get traction.

    I’m glad to see that the company is getting a second chance.

    • Definitely. Now that I have access to wi-fi fast enough for OnLive, it is really neat to watch people play games on my tablet. I wish they would improve that end somewhat as well. There is definitely a market for people watching people play games, and having it integrated into every game is such a help.

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