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OnLive has been available to users for over a month now. During this time, I have tested out the service in many different scenarios: from a high-end PC, to a five year old laptop, to both desktop and laptop Macs. Put simply, the service works.

Oddly enough, it was the service working that many questioned prior to OnLive’s release. While the technology is held back by the poor infrastructure that is United States internet, it manages to utilize new compression technology to make up for it. But is the fact that it works enough? Join me as I provide both a written and video review of the OnLive service.

For those that have been living under a rock since its announcement during the Game Developers Conference in 2009, OnLive is a service that streams games to your PC or Mac. The games themselves are run on OnLive servers and the important stuff, video and audio, are streamed to your computer.

While lag is the biggest concern for many, I can assure you that it is not that bad and quickly becomes something you find yourself adjusting to without issue. The performance of this service, in both video quality and lag, will depend on your internet connection speed as well as your distance to OnLive servers. Currently OnLive offers three server locations that cover a majority of the United States. Fortunately for me though, there are DC servers located close to where I live.

What this service offers is a whole lot of give and take. Sure the technology is groundbreaking and may be the future of gaming, but the limited library of games and the current subscription model is what holds OnLive back from having a large impact in PC gaming. For fifteen dollars a month you are given the pleasure of just using OnLive’s service and purchasing or renting games. While your subscription is active, you are free to watch others play games, purchase or rent games for yourself, or even play 30 minute demos of any game available. Should you deactivate your subscription, you lose all access to anything you have purchased.

Running servers for this is certainly not cheap. It is because of this that OnLive has to utilize a subscription based payment model. However, when paying a subscription fee and having to pay full retail price for a majority of the games, gamers quickly question the advantages of the service. Again, its that give and take, with a whole lot of take that does nothing more than reassure gamers that their consoles are in fact worth the investment.

What it boils down to is whether or not you fall into OnLive’s audience. If you aren’t able to afford a PC that can run some of these games, are a Mac user that refuses to use BootCamp, or are simply tired of having to upgrade your PC every couple of years, this service may be for you. For everyone else, it is best to evaluate what OnLive offers and determine how it will positively impact your gaming experience.

Again, OnLive works, the technology is impressive, but with the cost of monthly subscription and full retail price on games, the appeal drops drastically.


  1. I think OnLive will sound much tastier once they iron out a few things. The biggest red flags to me are the fact that, as you said, if one were to buy a game and then have their subscription canceled, they’d essentially have to repurchase the game. Together with the subscription fees, it means you’re basically paying obscene amounts of money for your games unless you’ve bought several of them. Imagine if Fallout 3 cost $30 plus $15 a month until forever?

    Also, last I heard, they have no backup clause that prevents their customers from getting screwed if they go out of business. If Steam were to go out of business, they have some sort of policy where they will ‘unlock’ all their games, allowing Steam users to then play any game they purchased without having to go through the Steam client. OnLive, as far as I know, has no such security measure. Given how hard it will probably be for them to break into this business with the popularity of Steam, this in particular seems very short-sighted of them.

    • That’s correct Jamie. Also what I didn’t mention is all of these games state specifically during purchase that they may only be available until a date in the future. For example, I believe LEGO Harry Potter will only be available until 2013. While I don’t see myself playing games like that 3-4 years down the line, I still want the ability to have that option if I so please. So despite paying full price for some games, I still feel like its nothing more than an extended rental service.

  2. I really like the idea of On Live, and like you, I’ve been impressed with the technology in my time with the service. But I’ve yet to purchase anything from it because there’s absolutely nothing on the service that I want. On Live needs to step up its title acquisition before it’s going to appeal to the vast majority of people.

  3. It looks cool that is for sure. They are going to need more servers, more games, to find a way to give an optional full download of games you buy if they want to succeed though, and a way to lower than 15 dollars a month. Personally I hope they pull it off, pc costs are beginning to get out of hand and games specs are going up every year.

    • Agreed. Unlike developing for consoles, PC development tries to push the envelope a majority of the time in terms of what it requires to run a game with high-end graphics. I don’t mind it as much right now since I have a good PC but I will definitely care once this PC sees the last of its high-end graphics days.

      It is weird though. I find the need to run any PC game with the highest graphics and settling for mid-range graphics becomes real frustrating. With consoles there is no need for that so I never feel disappointed about the graphics – unless of course the game is PS2 quality graphics.

  4. That was a very impressive video review. I was very awed by the navigation and the fluidity of the menus, yet I do agree with your closing opinions. The technology is there, but it hasn’t proven itself yet. It’ll be interesting to see what’ll happen in the near future.

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