Over Preparedness OR: A Not As Brief As It Should Be Word About This Whole OnLive Debacle


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It was some kind of crazy dream when you first heard about the service OnLive. People had been talking about “the cloud” for years but only a few attempted to venture into that unknown, and even fewer survived. The problem with most of the services before is that they’re basic level of virtualization made it impossible for a truly flowing game experience. You could always tell you were using that service instead of just sitting down to play a new game. The OnLive demos were fantastic, the talks were enthralling, the people were enamoring, most everyone in the industry saw this as a step towards the future, the whole world watching every move, it seems like it was doomed to fail from the start.

They prepared fully, with enough servers for tens of thousands of people. After a rocky start, trying to be a subscription based business to people who have absolutely no interest in paying a subscription and trying to force people who were already swimming in peripherals to buy their console, it seemed like OnLive was moving forward at a good pace. They added support for computers making the cost of entry for most gamers minimal, and in most cases nothing at all. Perfect, what more could they ask for?

Via Joystiq: “If you’ve got 8,000 servers and 1,600 users, how could we ever get to cash flow positive, right?” CEO Steve Perlman told his staff. Apparently all of that preparedness came around to bite them. All of the servers also have a service contract tied to them, eating up more of the revenue and leaving little for the company. However according to Michael Pactor via Twitter they were financially sound. It is true they were constantly receiving funding, but it just seems to all be going out the window before it even hits the offices.

They cut everything because they had too (or so it would seem) and because they had too much. Too many servers for not enough people, too many workers for an underwhelming number of users, to many external costs that would add up to more trouble than it’s worth. An anonymous investor came in and snatched (read: saved) the company from the brink of armageddon, right after the collapse. Many of the workers are being rehired, most of the others are being given consulting positions. Good on them for trying to make right by the the people who made the service run so smooth.

And good on them for keeping the service alive through the whole ordeal. The much easier route would have been to just drop the service and wait for someone to pick up the slack, but instead they kept everything going so that to the normal consumer using OnLive wouldn’t know anything was wrong. Is that sneaky? Would that be considered a false front to give to your users? Not if you have some kind of plan, which Steve Perlman seems to have had and has executed on now.

My time with OnLive was brief but valued. I purchased Space Marine the week it came out because signing up for the service and buying the game on there was so much easier than anything else. It rain perfectly, other than a few noticeable issues with lag causing the textures to be very blurred. There was never an issue with the controls, it all seemed somewhat magical.

OnLive proved that there was another viable way to sell and play games. There were many who came before and after who shared a similar fate but were not able to land with both feet on the ground. They didn’t seem to have any shady business practices and were open as they could be with the public and with their employees. When the shit hit the fan they didn’t bail, it only seemed like they did. In reality they were forming new plans to try and regain the employees they had to let go and do right by the ones they weren’t able to hire back. They never forgot about the consumer and didn’t use this opportunity to cry and scream fowl to gain attention and compassion. That alone is worth celebrating.

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