Neowin Review: OnLive cloud gaming service

OnLive main screen

Earlier this month a company named OnLive unleased a new type of online gaming to the web. The service allows you to play the games they offer online without the need to install anything more than a client for OnLive.

New games can have some hefty hardware requirements, take up drive space and take a little while to install. With OnLive you don't have to worry about any of that, the OnLive client is only a 544Kb download, the system requirements are fairly simple and after you purchase a game it is up and running in almost not time at all. The minimum requirements for OnLive are:

  • PC: Windows® 7 or Vista (32 or 64-bit) or XP (32-bit)
  • Mac: Mac OS X 10.6 or later
  • Processor: Dual-core CPU
  • Screen Resolution: 1280x720
  • Internet Connection: 5 Mbps located inside the contiguous United States (wired connection required)

One of the key items to note from the requirements is the wired connection. The software checks to see if you are connected to a wired or wireless connection, if you are on a wireless connection you will get an error telling you to plug in before you can use the service. OnLive did say that they will support wireless in the future but at this early stage it would add another layer of complexity to the development.

To get access to the OnLive service it is $4.95 per month. The subscription fee pays for you to access the service which lets you play the game demos. While testing the service the demos lasted for 30 minutes at a time. To play a game you have to buy a PlayPass which gives you unlimited access to the game for the duration of your pass or until the game is removed from the service. OnLive says that the average life of a game on the service is three years but they intend to leave the games on the service as long as they are being played.  

Logging into the OnLive client is pretty simple, you enter your username and password, they client checks your computer to be sure it meets the requirements and you are ready to start gaming. I loaded two different games as demos to see how quickly they would load and how smoothly they played. The first game I opened was Assassin's Creed which loaded in almost no time at all. The video below, which is only 30 seconds, shows how long it takes to go from the menu to the game being loaded. Once in the game everything went along with out any issues. As the service grows I suspect the load time will be a little longer.

Since everything went so well with Assassin's Creed II, I moved onto Borderlands which loaded up even quicker and the game play was just as smooth. While playing the game I noticed I wasn't able to skip the in game videos. I suspect that OnLive uses the video time as a chance to load more of the game but I haven't played Borderlands outside of this demo so it may have been like that by design.

One of the other features that stuck out was the Arena, inside there you can see a live view of all the gamers connected to OnLive and a live stream of them playing their game, it was kind of fun to go in there and be a spectator. Overall I would say that the OnLive service has been executed quite well and I think they have a bright future ahead of them. But, I still have a hard time getting used to the thought of paying for access to play the game rather than buying the game itself.

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