Why OnLive Doesn’t Work

A few years ago, the announcement that we would soon be able to play virtually any game from any device with an Internet connection seemed too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was. The idea of freeing yourself from the need of a high-end gaming computer or console, spending a fortune on games, and never having to deal with a red ring of death again was very promising. I was convinced that gaming was heading in this direction, and I didn’t like it. Thankfully, I was wrong, and so were the people behind OnLive.

Why OnLive Doesn't WorkThe idea behind OnLive, and similar systems, is that the processing and graphic requirements needed to run various high-end games could be done on a rack-mounted server somewhere in the heart of a data center and streamed to your television through the use of a special device or software. This streamed video would look and work a lot like any other streaming service, such as Netflix, except you would have control over the action. Now this sounds reasonable, but the bandwidth required to play the games is well beyond reach for most consumers.

When I say bandwidth requirements, I’m not talking about the actual upstream and downstream bit potential, but a set of specific details including the ping, response time, and capabilities of the equipment. When playing a first-person shooter, your response time is critical. Gamers work very hard to reduce their ping times, and some even go so far as to base their buying decisions off this very principal. Why buy service from a provider with slow routing and lousy pings to your favorite servers?

OnLive is essentially a remote desktop stream, and anyone who has used any remote desktop software should be very aware of the issues this interaction creates. Why would you ever want to remote into your game console or PC to play a game when you could just sit right in front of it and experience the content as it was meant to be experienced?

Further to that, bandwidth providers are implementing severe usage caps, and it would be very hard for someone under one of these artificial caps to take advantage of a game that would push their usage to the limit in days (or possibly hours). It’s better to download the game once, and play it from there with a low-bandwidth data stream than a high-bandwidth video stream feeding information and commands between you and a remote server in a crowded data center somewhere across the country.

I’m sorry OnLive, I’m not convinced. Have you used OnLive? What was your experience like?

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Ryan Matthew Pierson