As of yesterday morning, I had never heard of OnLive. As of now, I've had like three conversations on it and read umpteen blog posts, several comics, etc.
Buzz like that. It's slightly intoxicating, pretty much no matter what.
So, let's preface this with the obvious: I'm not at GDC. I haven't seen this demo. I'm not in touch with OnLive. I have zero technical background information on the product. All I have is hearsay, rumors and third party reports.
It's pretty obvious as to why the world wants to believe in OnLive, but I have to say I'm not really in the excited bunch.
Course, we've been here before - the promise of a console-busting console, all downloadable data, hassle free play, so on and etc. It turned into one of the great vaporware - the wildly aptly name Phantom.
It's entirely possible that OnLive is a similar sort of shenanigans. I'm not saying they're necessarily liars and such, just that it's one thing to produce a decent looking demo based on sound theories and a completely different thing to make a market ready product. So we could easily see a year from now people still poking the burning embers of this red hot hype, but have nothing to actually buy.
Unless OnLive can prove some real world testing, I have to say this is likely. The promise of "zero lag" is something which is really, really hard to deliver because the Internet is, by design, not controlled by anything which can keep that promise.
The premise of OnLive is pretty straightforward. Virtual Network Computing is something like a decade old now and I can run it off my iPhone if needed.
The problem isn't the mechanics, it's downloading frames per second. Let's remember:
... on a broadband connection with at least 1.5 megabits per second for standard-definition images, or 5 megabits per second for high definition. OnLive estimates that about 71% of U.S. homes have enough bandwidth for standard definition, and 26% have enough for high definition. But effective speeds are often less than advertised.
I just did a speed test here at it never hit 2mb/s. So, I'm certainly not playing any games in high def even by OnLive's theoretical standards.
Is there any gamer out there who is going to trade the convenience of cloud-based gaming with significantly lower graphics? I highly doubt it.
But let's play even deeper into the hype and theorize that somehow OnLive is capable of delivering liquid gold into the intertubes and high def video delivery is no longer a problem (which, as an aside, if were true they could be making a killing without bothering with games - just video aside). Would I still want it?
Look, I'm all for digital delivery, but at the end of the day I like the idea of having software installed that I can play whenever I want. I had enough troubles with Steam, and that's nowhere near this side of spectrum. OnLive would only interest me as a rental, pay as you play, kind of model - possibly a monthly subscription if could deliver the goods. But don't think for a moment that I'm paying anywhere near retail prices for software that someone keeps on the sly and allows access by online means. It took one bad experience from Valve, and I'll never go down that rabbit hole again.
If we're talking convenience, here's the convenience I get through my current means - I pay retail price, I can get access to the title on release day, if anything goes wrong with it, I can return it for a refund or at worst, go to a Best Buy and exchange for store credit.
Cloud based gaming, should it ever really take off, will still need to actually solve a problem I have, be it performance or cost or something. Otherwise it's just a clever parlor trick.
Right now the only problem I could see it solving for me is Windows based gaming on my Mac. If it offered a hassle free solution for that, we might have a deal.