OnLive-MicroConsole-and-Wireless-ControllerThe saga of OnLive has been a crazy one, and as a major proponent of the service since the first time I heard of it, it's more than a little depressing to retell. Founded in 2003, OnLive is a company that set out to change the way we play games. (How many times have you heard that before?) They weren't going to do it with a gimmicky accessory or control method, instead, they simply wanted to shift the burden of rendering the games you play to their datacenter instead of via the local console you've got hooked up to your TV. The dream they were selling is that you buy the OnLive box (Or use the OnLive software) and it works as a thin client to stream a game in realtime with all the heavy lifting being done with by the magic of OnLive's servers.

If things would've gone as planned, consoles would be a thing of the past as the OnLive client never needed to be upgraded. Instead, when new games come out that push the performance envelope, OnLive would just upgrade their servers, and everyone could play it. When the OnLive service was announced in 2009, many dismissed it as vaporware. Clever internet commenters compared it to The Phantom, and non-believers were proven wrong when the service actually launched in summer of 2010.

Initially, it seemed to have an incredible amount of potential. On my (admittedly, very fast and only a few hops away from the OnLive servers) internet connection it worked great. Aside from random video artifacts here and there it was (again, on a good internet connection) very difficult to tell games being played through OnLive or being rendered locally on an Xbox. At the peak of OnLive excitement, they started teasing the fact that OnLive's consumer facing side is just a client, that can run on anything.

At E3 2010, OnLive teased an iPad client that blew me away. It wasn't for another full year that we got more news of it, this time at E3 2011 where they had an actual controller in the mix. Sadly, approval drama with Apple complicated things, but in late 2011, OnLive still insisted the client was coming to iOS. Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, when E3 rolled around the following year, they were singing the same old tune: The iPad client was still in the works, pending approval.

The crazy part of this was, I had the iPad client. I had the iPad controller. It all worked, and worked quite well. We even recorded a couple videos shot moments before my iPad build expired:

...And that was about it from OnLive. About a month after we posted those videos OnLive laid off all of its staff and sold off all of its assets. Per Wikipedia, the company which was once valued at $1.8 billion only managed to sell for $4.8 million. Well, OnLive is apparently alive and kicking again, this time with a service they're calling "CloudLift".

The biggest problem with OnLive was that the game library was terrible. The best games available were old Ubisoft titles, so unless you were just crazy about playing Darksiders, you were kind of out of luck. The dream they're selling with CloudLift is that once you buy a game from Steam (or a similar service) you're able to upload the game data to OnLive and then play it anywhere- Some tricky tiptoeing around the licensing issues which no doubt endlessly complicated the service the first time around.


Oddly enough, the supported games that CloudLift works with is a pretty slim list. 20 in all, including things like Batman: Arkham Origins, LEGO Lord of the Rings, Saints Row IV, and a few others. Additionally, the other arm of CloudLift is something they're calling OnLive Go, which will let players of MMOs simply stream the game client live instead of installing massive clients locally.

Of course, the fate of OnLive on iOS devices is still nebulous at best. They're officially announcing CloudLift for $14.99, and suppiorting the Mac, PC, and Android devices. OnLive knows that iOS is a huge platform, and isn't ignoring it. Their business model depends on platform agnosticism, so if the new OnLive can come to iOS it will.

What remains to be seen is whether or not the new OnLive is still going to face the same challenges as getting the original client approved. We are in a different time on the App Store now, with Apple-blessed physical game controllers. Weirder things have happened, so we'll just have to wait and see.

[via MacRumors]

  • Boris Nguetie

    i was all excited at first when i saw the title i thought the app was finally accepted then i got to see only at the end of the article that it didn't change! seriously why does apple not approve this in the first place???

  • Lift the Camel

    I love OnLive and I think this new direction they are taking it is really smart. They will be able to quickly support games and allow you to play with others using Steam. I don't have a gaming computer or console, so I'd be more than willing to pay to play my steam collection on my old computer and, one day, my iPad.

  • Wizard of Odyssey

    Wow, this business plan is a muddle. I was a fan of the first iteration of Onlive, in which they sold games to stream back to you as well as a "playback" subscription. Their little streaming mini-console worked well and there was a steady stream of new games for a while. I thought it was a decent approach to casual gaming because I didn't want to build a dedicated gaming PC.

    Now, 2 years after their meltdown, they haven't added very many new games to the lineup, and the best of what they offered before has gone free on Playstation Plus and/or on Steam sale for a dollar and/or got added to the Nvidia Grid. Their uptime has been good but they haven't said anything about what happens to the play passes we bought.

    I'm not terribly interested in a monthly fee to stream a very limited catalog of games. Since the Onlive meltdown I've caved and built a gaming PC, which is cheap and easy and honestly a better value proposition than this.

    I want to see cloud gaming take off, but it will take a better offer than these guys are willing/able to make.

  • Repelstale

    We live in an era in which individual ownership of media is becoming a thing of the past, replaced by "All you can Hear" (Spotify), " All you can Watch" (Netflix), and now, hopefully "All you can Play" models. I'm a strict mobile gamer, but I dream of being able to play huge games like Skyrim on my iPad. I hope that dream will become a reality soon.

  • JJE McManus

    The biggest pushback to this service will come from the publishers themselves. Like with the sony scheme it will de-incentivize buying physical media for consoles. This means you can almost be certain there will be no current games on either service. It simply cuts too deeply into the publishers main profit center.
    Maybe there is a market for 3+ year old games on consoles but it isn't a large one. Surely there is a market for tablets but unless and until the iOS client appears they still will be playing in a very thin customer base.
    As much as I would like to see something like this on my tablet I fear publishers like EA and Blizzard will do all they can to prevent this from ever being anything more than a niche product.

    • Michael Graham Jr

      U still have to buy the game

      • JJE McManus

        There is no incentivize for AAA publishers to do so. There will be no current gen and few last gen games released to it. Not when a publisher can still eke out premium money in the current market. Steam is already a millstone to AAA pubs, why would they want another? There will have to be a steep discount to download. AAAs won't go for that on games that still sell for full retail. Everyone expects that performance will not be up to par. Who will pay $60 for sub par performance? If it's just a play anywhere cloud service for games you already bought, the big pubs already have versions of clouds and they don't have to pay CloudLift for the privilege. It will attract some indies but the Indy scene is a crap shoot even on the best of days.
        It's a great idea but Apple and the AAAs aren't going to allow an upstart company with a poor track record into their revenue streams. If it comes out at all you'll be seeing significantly older games. It's the definition of a small niche market.

  • Alexythimia23

    Ive said it before and i will say it again, it is 100% coming, no doubt about that, but the only question is how long we are going to have to wait?? I would love it even now with the 20 games just to play full console games on my ipad, dream come true lol i know we have console ports now but this would just make it extra special, wow we are really in a golden age for technology.

  • Michael Graham Jr

    if it comes to ipad i will not buy a gaming pc

  • Michael Graham Jr

    so far all the games are available to play, i don't own lego movie and i can still play

  • ODMay

    Lmao.... the paragraphs though; Look like I'm reading a page from a chapter book.