I recently came across OnLive which appears to be a way to play games basically using remote desktop type services.

Has anyone had a chance to play with this system in their Beta? How good is the resolution/sound? Do you seem to have any latency issues (laggy controls, poor video)? Can you save your games? Do you feel that the service will be worthwhile?

  • in short: you need a low-latency, high bandwidth internet connection. if you have that, there's very little lag and the graphics look acceptable. Commented Apr 27, 2012 at 1:51

2 Answers 2


I got a free year subscription of it and my review is this:

"If, like me, you like fast paced competitive multi-player FPS games at high resolutions, this this service isn't for you."

There is some slight control lag. In some games it's not so bad. I played Lego Harry Potter on it and it was pretty good. I also played Splinter Cell on it and it lagged so bad that my character froze and when the controls caught up he was spinning in a circle. I found FPS games to be unplayable basically.

Graphically, it has a maximum resolution of 720p. But, the graphics can sometimes be quite compressed and at times it looks horrible but, others it is OK. The sound is alright as well, nothing spectacular but, it works. It's definitely not HD audio though.

The service handles saving your games and things such as GameSpy logins, which is nice.

I figured it would be good for casual games but, I found World of Goo about 100 times more fun installed on my PC than through the service. I guess if you own a MAC or something it's a good way to get exposure to games not on Steam but, for hardcore gamers I don't quite think it's good enough yet.

  • I agree with @Corv1nus, with a MAJOR note (imo) - you still have to PAY for the games. The subscription only gets you the ability to play on the network. They have demos, and likely will have some free games, but you'll have to buy each game you want to play for real (probably close if not at retail price) - I tricked it to run over wifi, and the graphics were not severely, but definitely more compressed than over wired - Ars Technica reviewed the speed, there's at BEST a 20s delay (arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/07/…)
    – Jon Mabe
    Commented Jul 13, 2010 at 0:05
  • 1
    Yeah, the pricing model is horrible. I do like the 3 or 5 day pass thing though. On some games that is all you really need to beat them. However it still stinks that the whole service is an expensive rental.
    – Corv1nus
    Commented Jul 13, 2010 at 12:36
  • The quality of the service depends on your connection (mainly your ping), and may also depend on the game. I have played Unreal Tournament over OnLive, and I experienced no lag. One of my coworkers had the same experience with UT, but Splinter Cell still lags badly for him.
    – sjohnston
    Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 19:31
  • I had an average experience with UT3 (I've pretty much tried all of the demos), albeit nothing as good as it is in max resolution on my gaming rig and I still found it less responsive than my own PC version. Also, I'm running the highest speed connection Comcast sells in the states. I ping <10 on some TF2 servers I play on. Maybe they don't have a data center near Pittsburgh... Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's not cool because it is. I'm saying it's not ready yet, especially given the pricing model.
    – Corv1nus
    Commented Jul 21, 2010 at 20:18

Disclaimer: I haven't used OnLive and this is all just my opinion & thoughts (and I'm only really answering the last part of this question)

OnLive is the future of gaming, but more than that, OnLive is a gaming manifestation of a shift in the computing industry that has been gradually taking place over the last 5 years or so.

The entire computing industry has been moving towards a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) as the Internet has become more integrated with computing and daily life. Products such as Google Docs, Salesforce, Mint.com are all examples of tradition boxed desktop products that have been moved to online platforms (this is sometimes called cloud computing). The idea being that you enter into a service agreement with the company, and rather than receive a boxed product, you receive access to the product.

The big advantages of this SaaS approach is the centralisation of the code & customer base. Piracy becomes impossible, deploying patches to your users becomes trivial, tiered subscriptions become easy to manage and hardware configurations can be guaranteed.

I highly recommend people watch this video from Simon Wardley from Canonical on this "Cloud Computing" (SaaS) model:

So OnLive, which removes the boxed product, is taking this SaaS model to gaming and with it, the big benefits of the SaaS model come with it.

  1. So will OnLive currently work for hardcore gaming?


  2. Will it currently work for certain games?


  3. Is a SaaS gaming model the future?

    No question

OnLive's biggest issue currently is technology. Gaming is one of the most intensive computing processes currently in wide use. Being able to process thousands of instances of different games, simultaneously and transmit that to thousands of different users accross the world is a huge technical undertaking. With current technology the bandwidth to supply HD video at 30 fps to users with low input latency is just not going to happen. The future however...

So to sum up my rambling thoughts. What OnLive represents is the future, but maybe OnLive has come a little early technology wise. However, every major change in an industry needs a visionary, and maybe SaaS gaming's is OnLive.

  • SaaS is great for innovation, since previous models of software development required complete products to receive funding. However SaaS allows for phased development which means that the cost of putting out a proof of concept is much cheaper and more affordable for smaller companies. On the other hand, it destroys what little right of ownership we the consumers had. Commented Jul 13, 2010 at 1:00
  • You're absolutely right, as someone who works in the SaaS and virtualization realms, I see it as the next evolutionary step on from services like Steam, that already divorce the physical package that we're used to from the delivery of the game itself. The ideal would be for Steam to partner with someone like OnLive (or start their own) to give access to your entire current gaming library as a remote service available on any device from your phone to your tv to your pc to "generic tablet form-factor computer".
    – GAThrawn
    Commented Jul 13, 2010 at 12:41

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