In case you missed it at 2009’s GDC, or simply forgot about it since, OnLive is the internet-based gaming service gunning to dominate the video-game market. The theory behind OnLive is relatively simple: process games at a powerful centralized computing hub, and render the output to a video stream, and send that to the end user. This is meant to allow for gaming on computers and devices that normally would not be able to run higher-end games, such as laptops, older computers, and even smart phones. OnLive has met a mixed reception; while some users have raved about their experiences, others claim our internet technology simply isn’t at a level where this kind of service is viable for mass-market use. Still others take issue with the service in principle, pointing to the fact that one doesn’t ‘own’ the games they play through OnLive, and that if the service were to die, every purchase made through OnLive would be lost. While OnLive has yet to be truly tested in the marketplace, I’d say that even more important than the success of OnLive as a business model is the technology behind it.
The technology is young and has some issues to work out, but it could very well be the future of not just gaming, but heavy-duty processing in general. Imagine connecting to a computer basically designed for high-powered processing and having it process your high-definition video for you, rather than having to wait on your computer to perform the same task. Even as a matter of convenience for teams working together this makes sense, as Google Docs proves, offering the ability to share office projects between people in the centralized space of Google’s network. Keeping this in mind, the real success of OnLive won’t be the success of the company, but rather the technology behind the business. That said, I’m carefully optimistic about OnLive’s chances for success. I believe the most important issue at hand is their pricing. If OnLive can hit a sweet spot in its pricing and address customer concerns, odds are it could do well. It all comes down to how much people perceive this service as being worth.