The future of gaming is finally here and it is called OnLive. When I got back from vacation I made it a point to check out this new service, which recently started offering a Founding Members Program which waves the monthly fee for the services for a full year, nice.

The service is interesting to me on a couple of points. First it’s all online delivery of the latest games. Unlike GameFly which uses the standard Netflix model of sending out physical media, OnLive is all online, streaming delivery. Now that’s the future!

I have a Netflix account, have for almost 2 years. I have never received a Netflix disk in the mail. I only use their Instant deliver (online streaming) and it rules, although Netflix could speed up adding things to it.

Personally I don’t like physical media, it can get damaged or lost and after a while just ends up taking up space and adding to the garbage pile. Which is why I kept an eye on OnLive for quite a while and signed up right after the E3 announcement. I believe the OnLive/Netflix Instant model is the future and I’m all for it.

After getting the OnLive client installed on my computer I fired it up and started browsing. I decided I would purchase the 3 day pass for Batman Arkham Asylum and try it out. I noticed no input delay, no lag or anything that would tell me I wasn’t playing this game on my local computer. The sound was crisp and everything was very fluid. It took a little bit to get the game started, but that didn’t bother me at all. From my few hours of game play experience OnLive works exactly as advertised. I could use my keyboard and mouse combo, or my Xbox 360 compatible controller for almost any game I wanted, which is good because I cannot play FPS or RTS games with a controller, so the game type and input options were refreshing.

OnLive don’t do a very good job of communicate this, but the monthly fee is just for your access to the service, not the games themselves. I’m currently not paying a monthly fee so that doesn’t bother me, but depending on the retail cost of the service that might be a stretch. So far there seems to be three methods and prices for playing games via OnLive:

  1. 3 Day PlayPass ~$4.00
  2. 5 Day PlayPass ~$8.00
  3. Full PlayPass (Retail Price of the game)

So lets say your playing Final Fantasy 13 on OnLive, where it could take you 80 hours of game play to beat. Lets assume you can play for 4 hours a day on average, without taking a day off, that’s 20 days of play. Lets assume a 5 day PlayPass cost’s $6.95 and you need 5 of them, that’s a total of $34.75, not including your monthly subscription fee. I bought a 3 day PlayPass for the Batman Arkham Asylum game and only played 1 day of it, I think it’s most likely you won’t be able to all the days of your pass.

When you buy the full game on OnLive you get it until they remove the game from the service, some of the messages I read was that it would be available till 2013, so you get 3 years. If you can’t already tell I’m not 100% sold on the cost model for the service, if I GameFly Final Fantasy 13, I pay 15$ a month and can keep it until I’m done with it. I get 30 or so days at 15 dollars, compared to 20 at almost 35, not including the service fee. But I have to deal with the physical media and I have to have the console.

OnLive wants to bill itself as a service where you don’t need “top end hardware” to play games. But I think there missing the mark on this one. People already have Xboxes and decent computers. You can’t play RockBand on OnLive or have a Kinetic for the Xbox on OnLive, so people will have consoles anyways. OnLive should be focusing on instant access to the latest games and value, because they won’t replace a computer or console, but instead will be a supplement to it.

I’m truly excited about OnLive and if your even a little be into gaming you should give it a try, they have casual games like World of Goo to sports games like NBA 2K to FPS’s. I’m optimistic that the service will thrive and eventually find it’s place in the gaming ecosystem and give us consumers more of a choice, why pay the full price for a game you can beat in a night, buy a PlayPass and only spend $5.

About: Shawn Jackson

I’ve spent the last 18 years in the world of Information Technology on both the IT and Development sides of the aisle. I’m currently a Software Engineer for Paylocity. In addition to working at Paylocity, I’m also the Founder of Resgrid, a cloud services company dedicated to providing logistics and management solutions to first responder organizations, volunteer and career fire departments, EMS, ambulance services, search and rescue, public safety, HAZMAT and others.

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