Why OnLive is Ultimately a Bad Idea

by on Dec.22, 2010, under thoughts

Perhaps some of my readers have heard of OnLive. If not, here’s a quick rundown: signup for an OnLive account, and start purchasing games through OnLive. Now, when you play those games, they don’t run on your computer. Instead, they run on one of OnLive’s servers, and the video (HD video, that is) is streamed to your computer. The idea is mind-blowing. It means that you don’t need to worry about your computer hardware being old — you can always play the latest games, because OnLive keeps their servers up-to-date.

Now, people who know a bit about the Internet and gaming might immediately claim that this is a bad idea because the lag would be HUGE. Well, I have no idea how they did it, but OnLive has created a system where lag simply isn’t an issue. Granted, it requires a good high-speed Internet connection, but as this becomes more ubiquitous, OnLive will be accessible to more consumers. Another neat thing about OnLive is that you can play a free demo of most of their games. Essentially, they give you (I think) 15 minute access to the game, so you can start to try it out, but your time will be up just as you get interested. Finally, this should theoretically allow completely cross-platform gaming. There is no Linux or Mac client currently, but as soon as one is created, you should be able to play any game in their catalog on any computer, with no extra work for the game creators.

Now, here’s what I think is wrong with OnLive: it’s DRM to the extreme. One of the main concerns of DRM is what happens when the servers go down? When the activation servers for popular games are finally taken offline, what will happen to people who own the game? They simply won’t be able to install it anymore, and, therefore, the game will be useless. Well, what happens when OnLive finally goes down (and I do believe that it will, sooner or later, die)? All those games you paid for will be gone. You’re not buying these games, you’re renting them. And when OnLive is charging more for the game than it costs to OWN the game (compare Assassin’s Creed II — vs., it doesn’t seem right that you don’t actually OWN the game.?

If OnLive can come up with an agreement with the creators of the game to give you a downloadable copy of the game IN ADDITION to the OnLive version, the price premium will be warranted (and they could even charge $5-$10 more for the game). Until that time, OnLive just isn’t worth it.

What are your thoughts on OnLive?


4 Comments for this entry

  • Neal Heatherly

    Another very well-reasoned argument, my friend! Kudos. And I disagreed with you until I actually read your post. Though I do find the price difference negligible, the risk that all that money will be completely wasted is too high. I might recommend a subscription model as a better alternative–say, $20/month allows you to have a save file for two games at a time–and I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the OnLive system for TVs.

  • Nicolas

    Well the idea itself of “owning” a game of few usd is a problem, but there is other problems. Only a few title are available, only a few people can have 700Ko/sec to play onlive, a part of the market buy already used games because 70 USD is a cost…
    i think a pay as you play would be nice,like X cents/ minutes you “rent” the game, since you do not own it , that only costing when you play.
    The broadband will be the bigger problem at short time, for playing you need at least 700ko/sec k , well estimating that house got more than one computer, ( at least two and that often the case of people i ll know) childs and parents, you have to got a bigger connection to put in that..

    to be honnest the only way it could be really usefull is for mmorpg, since you do not really own the game since its not playable alone, there is a lot of updates , a lot of major bug due to the mass of different computer / parts etc…
    but still the problem will be the broadband..

    DRM’s that up to the dev and game productor. if they aren t able to manage it , then work better , piracy is their problem after all…

    but i don t think something like onlive will never be cracked or hacked, and in final it could be a lot worse than just downloading a game on p2p.

  • Sherry Robicheaux

    I wonder how you got so good. HaHa! That is actually a captivating weblog, lots of stuff that I can get into. One factor I just need to say is that your design is so good! You definitely know the best way to get a ladies attention! Im glad that youre here. I feel like Ive realized one thing new by being here.

  • Ra

    Technically this is a good a good idea. Few unused computers.

    Practically, however, this is pretty much destined to become a showcase of what is bad about DRM, market segmentation, no resale rights etc.

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