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OnLive CEO On Post-Launch Status, Game Licenses 121

CNET has a lengthy interview with OnLive CEO Steve Perlman about how the service is shaping up almost a month after launch. Demand seems to have outstripped their expectations, and it required some quick server expansion to compensate. He also addresses a common concern among gamers — that the licenses for games could expire in three years. Perlman says, "It's less of an issue about the licenses evaporating, and more of an issue of whether or not we continue to maintain the operating systems and the graphics cards to run those games. If a game is tied to a particular Nvidia or ATI card, or if it's relying on a particular version of Windows with different drivers, we can't be sure that those will continue to be available as our servers age and need to be replaced. If it's a popular game that can't run on old hardware anymore, the publishers can do an upgrade for the game. Also, servers usually do last longer than three years, so chances are we'll keep running them. But we have a legal obligation to disclose what might happen. I think the probability of us pulling a game in three years is on the order of 0.1 percent. It's also highly unlikely that a game server will evaporate after three years, but we have to allow for that possibility." He also goes into future plans for expanding OnLive, both in terms of the content they offer and the devices they may support. The Digital Foundry blog followed up the latency tests we discussed with a full review, if you'd like an unbiased opinion of the service.
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OnLive CEO On Post-Launch Status, Game Licenses

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  • Uh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sonicmerlin ( 1505111 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @06:58AM (#32924472)
    No no, the problem is exactly the licenses evaporating, or rather people's accounts being closed and a user subsequently losing out on all their purchased games. I think a simple, extremely reasonable solution would be to allow users to download and play the game locally if they wish a la Steam. Give them both the option to play in the cloud (much more convenient) and locally (sense of security and ownership) and you have an award winning service that destroys your Valve-hosted competitor.
  • Re:Uh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:11AM (#32924518) Journal
    I suspect that they would find the economics of doing that either untenable or unhelpful...

    Presumably, since a game that you must be connected to a fast, low-latency internet connection to play at all, even single-player, has lower utility than a game playable standalone(and such a game is pretty much immune to piracy, and revocable at any time) the OnLive people can negotiate lower per-unit prices from the publishers. That and they can presumably do some license sharing, since not everyone will be playing a given game at a given time.

    If they give their customers the option of cloud or download, these advantages evaporate. They'll likely face the same per unit costs as any other download seller, plus the costs of keeping their servers and lights on. If they offer the download option as a separate service, priced separately and distinct from the cloud stuff, they would avoid that; but their download service would be just another commodity CDN with a game-focused website slapped on top. How many of those are there now? At least a few that already matter enough to be called "incumbents" and dozens of more or less interchangeable minor competitors, at least.
  • Is it just me? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:16AM (#32924538) Homepage

    Is anyone else really sick of hearing about this dead horse that they're trying to flog?

    Latency claims - false.
    Framerate claims - false.
    Image quality claims - false.
    "Blockbuster" games claims - false.
    Bandwidth required - 2.5 Gb / hour (so the average UK broadband customer would exceed their monthly allowance in less than 10-15 hours a month).
    Overall system capability to handle powerful games - looking false already but there's nothing on the system to really tax them yet.

    Pricing - slightly more than just buying the damn game from a shop (and "owning" it forever), and actually cheaper to run it on your own PC even if you take into account the graphics card investment necessary to run those games (but, come on, my laptop cost no more than usual and comes with a card that can laugh at most of those games in bigger resolutions - are there still systems out there that can't do Half-life 2 at 60fps or equivalent?).

    It was a nice idea, but it was derided for making exactly those claims that turned out to be false. Some people may buy it but I'd be doubtful they'd keep it for very long. Probably because they don't know how to load / run Steam. If you'd pitched it at casual gamers, it would have sold millions and you could run be running every grannies Wii-style games for them, but you aimed it at fast-paced, FPS-gamers and the like, requiring huge investment in CPU, RAM, graphics cards and latency reduction. World of Goo is on their store lists - that will *work* perfectly in such a setup - low CPU/GPU demand, no latency issues, easily compressible graphics. Saying it could run "any" game was just silly. If you'd pitched it as a "no-maintenance Wii replacement" without the hassle of sticky fingers, scratched disks, special hardware, constant upgrades, etc. then you could have recouped your investment by now. As it is, most people are laughing at you. Give it up now, before the whole thing collapses under the weight of its own claims.

  • Utter crap (Score:5, Insightful)

    by crossmr ( 957846 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:30AM (#32924584) Journal

    Lot's of people, including me, called it as soon as it was announced. It is an absolute failure, we've got screenshots that look horrible, latency issues, games that are so bad you can't see crosshairs.. I mean this is just a disaster. They should close from embarrassment and try and pretend the whole thing never happened. If they wanted to target turn based strategy games or something they might have something.. but their service simply can't service the market they want and the market they want doesn't really benefit from their service.

  • Yeah right.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @07:57AM (#32924672) Homepage

    ""It's less of an issue about the licenses evaporating, and more of an issue of whether or not we continue to maintain the operating systems and the graphics cards to run those games."

    Whatever... I have a copy of the really old Unreal Tournament that works great on windows 7 with a modern video card. his "issue" is a non issue and is used as a red herring to justify killing customers licenses.

  • Re:Utter crap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:08AM (#32924714) Journal
    Crossmr is being a touch blunt; but he has a point.

    The real problem is, hardcore twitch gamers aren't going to be happy; but the further you get from twitch gamers, the less valuable the "cloud gaming" features become. Were it possible to serve them, twitch gamers would benefit the most; because they require the most expensive hardware, upgrade the most frequently, play the newest games that may not have been ported yet, etc. The further you get from them, the less valuable the service is. At the other extreme, the "casual" gamer, much of what they play is Flash-based(and thus about as "multiplatform" as anything currently available), and has resource requirements satisfied by a netbook. The technophobe market is pretty well served by a mix of casual flash that you just have to go to a web page to get, or (now relatively cheap) consoles that you can get brick-and-mortar buys/rentals for, pop in and play.

    The set of games that are, simultaneously, "non twitch" and "highly system intensive" and "tolerant of relatively low resolution" is vanishingly small. Dwarf Fortress?
  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Svartalf ( 2997 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:16AM (#32924764) Homepage

    No, they won't "have to do" anything at all. We already have the situation where they're flogging HIGH bandwidth stuff and they've got caps on landline and mobile internet access.

    If you think any single application's going to force them to change the caps anytime soon, I've got this nice oceanside property on the Florida coast to sell you...

  • Re:Is it just me? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by BForrester ( 946915 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @08:45AM (#32924950)

    The more likely case is that ISPs will
      - not improve their infrastructure
      - charge exorbitant prices for those who exceed the bandwidth cap
      - offer exorbitantly priced "HD gamer" packages for those who want low-latency, high cap plans
      - berate users (aka service abusers) who consistently use most of the bandwith promised them in their contract

    For many of us, this is already status quo.

  • Re:Uh... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday July 16, 2010 @09:34AM (#32925316) Journal
    There is no way in hell that I would touch their model, I'm just trying to understand their motivation and behavior structure as accurately as possible.

    It is, unequivocally, the case that "cloud gaming" is a far bigger attack on your ability to "own" what you buy than even the nastiest of DRM systems, and it is only logical to assume that the company behind it would do absolutely anything to you that isn't actually illegal if they thought it would improve their balance sheet by a nickel.

    However, as best I can tell, arbitrarily cutting off players of old games(unless the cost of supporting them gets too high, or the number of players in a given region drops below a certain value) is not an economically rational behavior, and I would, thus, not expect them to do it.

    I find their value proposition deeply uncompelling, and losing that much control over what I buy distasteful on ethical grounds(and, unlike something like Steam, they aren't even offering a good deal in exchange for your principles and your ownership rights...) and I have no intention of signing up; but I still base my analysis of their expected behavior on the assumption that they are value-rational, amoral, and money-seeking, rather than evil per se. Evil is, after all, only sometimes profitable.

Loose bits sink chips.