OnLive – Gaming Made Simple

OnLive - promising to deliver a new way of gaming

Gaming isn’t just for the guys! As the female share of the market increases, developers and software companies must start embracing that fact and we think there could be something that can serve as a brilliant opportunity to open up this arena.

Up until now, the big 3 console companies – Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo – have remained pretty dominant.

No one dared to challenge their authority and with good reason. The computer games industry is littered with the skeletons of failed projects.

And that’s even before the recession!

So it was with some scepticism that I approached the new OnLive console, although to class OnLive as purely a console is to miss the point.

What OnLive offers is an intriguing alternative to traditional console gaming in that everything is streamed to your screen, meaning that all the processing of the software is outsourced to external servers.  When you perform any type of instruction in a game, the action is transmitted across the Internet to the OnLive server, processed and then fed back to your screen. It’s like remote-control gaming.

One of the benefits is that OnLive will run on almost anything that has a decent Internet connection (something we’ll come back to later) including your PC, MAC, TVs, the iPad and most other tablets.

Of course the immediate issue everyone raises is “lag”. If I press a button here in the UK to execute a command, I have to wait as that instruction is processed back and forth across the web. Naturally this takes nano-seconds but it is never going to be as fast as having a console with the software running in front of you. The main case in point is whether or not it’s a noticeable difference.

To be honest, unless you are a hardened gamer you probably won’t be able to tell but it is there and to a degree dependent upon the speed of your internet connection. Which takes me back to my earlier point, your appreciation of the system is really dictated by the performance of your service provider. If it’s quick then your gaming experience is likely to be just as quick.

The OnLive mini-console unit allows playback through your TV and is a small device with an accompanying controller that resembles much of what is good about the Xbox controller. One gripe I did have was that whilst the controller is wireless, the box to steam content to your TV is not, meaning that aside from obvious connections such as power and an HDMI input, you also need to physically connect the device to your router. If that doesn’t sit close to your TV screen then you could face a potential problem, although I guess to keep costs down wireless connectivity was deemed necessary. There are also two USB ports at the front of the TV, which allow devices such as a mouse and keyboard to be added if required (some games do need them).

Coming in at under the price it would take you to purchase a couple of Xbox or PS3 titles and almost two thirds less than Sony’s admittedly multi-tasking machine, you can’t grumble at the potential value the system offers.

Setting up is simple and the intuitive display allows you to dive right in without too much instruction. You then have the option of renting or purchasing titles, as well as signing up for a subscription package that offers you over 100 games to play immediately.

Which leads me to my next minor grumble and probably the most important one when considering whether a service or device will succeed; the strength of its software offering.

The OnLive service delivers a mixed bunch of titles, none of the premium games make up part of the monthly bundle although as a starter there are enough to keep you busy and there’s no doubt these will be added to over time.

Of the full price offerings – which you can get a 30% reduction if you are a monthly subscriber, a few well known names such as Deus Ex, Batman Arkham Asylum and Dirt 3 make an appearance. Developers are no doubt watching to see how the service develops before committing further but from what we have seen so far, the future looks promising.

When compared with their Xbox and PS3 incarnations, the look and feel of many titles falls short but not by so much that your experience is diminished.

The fact that your membership allows you to play titles across more than one platform also means that you can pick up a title on your TV and then carry on playing on your MAC or PC later, no matter what the specification.

Overall we at Women Talking were impressed by the OnLive experience. Sure it has its failings but many of these can be resolved by a speedy internet connection. Additionally, the fact that everything is delivered digitally removes the need for a mountain of titles to clutter your shelves and the rental option reduces the overall cost if you are one of those people who plays a game obsessively from start to finish within three days.

A few games offer split screen but you’ll need to purchase additional controllers – from what I can work out the system can handle up to a maximum of four – but the real experience here is all about being online.

I would hope that the premium titles come down in price because selling them at the same level as the physical PS3 and Xbox alternatives seems a little unfair when there is no disc or packaging.

If you would like more information about OnLive then visit the website at

George R Vaughan

Women Talking are also offering one lucky subscriber the chance to win an OnLive Console and controller.

To win all you need to do is answer the following question:

Name two titles currently included in the OnLive Playback Bundle.

Send your answer to ensuring you put the word OnLive in the subject header and also include your Women Talking username with your submission.

This competition is only open to Women Talking subscribers so any entry without a valid subscription will not be accepted. (Remember joining us is free so there’s no excuse!)

This competition has now closed.