Opinion: Where did it all go wrong? OnLive users to lose all access to content

Ben Parfitt
Opinion: Where did it all go wrong? OnLive users to lose all access to content

The closure of OnLive will leave many gamers without access to content they believed they own, as well as a totally useless piece of hardware.

Those who subscribed to PlayPass will lose access to their library on April 30th, with all save data and achievements being wiped. Those who had purchased a PC-only game on Steam to use with OnLive via Mac have also been told they are out of luck, with no refunds on offer for Steam purchases.

There is also no lingering use for the OnLive hardware, which is compatible only with OnLive's soon to be closed network. The few (or any?) who purchased an OnLive console on or after February 1st this year are eligible for a refund, but no-one else.

The closure of OnLive and Sony's acquisition of some of its assets was revealed at the weekend.

After April 30, 2015, our data centres will shut down and the service will be offline. All accounts will be closed, and all data deleted including game save data, achievements, and credit card data will be deleted,” the company said.

If you purchased a Steam game from OnLive, that game will still be available on Steam. No refunds will be available for any game purchases, hardware purchases, or subscriptions. We will have extremely limited coverage for customer service over the next 30 days.

As the first-ever game streaming service of its kind, everyone who has ever played a game using OnLive has contributed to the technology and its evolution in some way. We're immensely proud of what's been achieved and extend our heartfelt gratitude to you for being a part of the OnLive Game Service. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being an OnLive customer, and we wish you all the best.”

"OnLive was from the word go set up with one
intention – to sell itself to Sony, Microsoft or
even Nintendo.
Every move was designed to
deliver a ready-made direct-to-TV gaming
service on a plate for platform holders. Except
Sony instead acquired Gaikai. And Microsoft
has built its own network. And Nintendo has only
just upgraded Kyoto's dial-up line to broadband."


OnLive launched to much fanfare in September 2011, thanks in no small part to its hardware giveaway at the Eurogamer Expo. A year down the line the company claimed that it had millions” of users and proudly boasted a 100% service record, with the network having not once dropped out.

However, while it reached a number of agreements with publishers and even conjured some decent offers – such as selling the hardware and Saints Row 3 for 25 – the promise of exclusive titles never materialised.

User and industry apathy soon became apparent, and it was of little surprise when the company collapsed in August 2012. It emerged at the time that OnLive typically had around 1,600 concurrent users – which were spread across its extremely expensive network of 8,000 servers.

What was more of a shock was the instant revival of the company, whose assets were acquired by a new holding company comprised of mostly the same faces as before but leaving creditors, such as investor BT, in the lurch.

Steve Perlman remained in charge of the rejuvenated firm… for a few hours. He was relieved of his duties just days after the new company formed, freed of the shackles of the estimated $30-40m debt that has dragged it down under its former guise.

The company even attacked the press the following spring, claiming that it did not shut down and it did not go bankrupt. Instead, majority owner Gary Lauder described the affair simply as a financing mishap”.

Things remained mostly quiet for a year until OnLive announced yet another relaunch, this time with a two-prong strategy. It would now focus on two services – CloudLift, a 9.99 PC streaming service, and OnLive Go, which promised to alleviate the downloading woes of MMO gamers. All of which saw it through another 12 months before its inevitable demise was confirmed just days ago.

So where did it go wrong for OnLive? Did the world's internet structure simply let it down? Or were consumers, who are increasingly cautious about investing in services that merely offer access to content and not ownership of it, just too wise?

The truth may be altogether less glamorous. OnLive appeared to have one intention – to sell itself to Sony, Microsoft or even Nintendo. It effectively admitted as much. More than once.

OnLive's technology may have never quite replicated the raw console experience (purists found it hard to get past the latency, and casuals were left unimpressed with the limited games catalogue) but it was always solid. Remarkable, even. Executives knew that it could never hope to get a box under every gamer's TV. That's part of the reason why it looked to get the software pre-installed into TVs. Every move was designed to deliver a ready-made direct-to-TV gaming service on a plate for platform holders.

Except Sony instead acquired Gaikai. And Microsoft has built its own network. And Nintendo has only just upgraded Kyoto's dial-up line to broadband.

But proof of OnLive's vision will live on. PlayStation Now may remain commercially unappealing but the foundations it is laying are clear. The streaming of games will likely become more common over time and, who knows, maybe one day it will become the predominant model. It would certainly not be a surprise to see Microsoft announce plans to allow Xbox One owners to stream legacy Xbox titles to their console at an upcoming E3.

GET EMAIL UPDATES

Subscribe