OnLive Has Game Changing Plans for the Cloud-Streaming MMO Market

The year of 2012 was a troubled time for the video game cloud-streaming outfit OnLive, but they managed to pull through only because, after becoming insolvent, they were bought out by another company—also called OnLive.

Red Bull UK interviewed general manager Bruce Grove about how OnLive intends to regain a place in the video game streaming market using resources in the cloud to deliver games to customers and an interesting idea came to light: a new type of cloud-streamed massively multiplayer online game (MMO.) Current examples of MMOs happen to be games like Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and EA’s Star Wars the Old Republic.

“The MMO one is interesting, there’s some technical challenges doing that–but we believe we’ve mostly resolved for those now,” Groves said.

Certainly there’s an amount of traction they need to overcome first, however, because many MMOs require a monthly subscription and there’s a question of how OnLive might make money streaming them to users. However, there is a huge market for free-to-play MMOs currently coming into its own and OnLive could provide a notable value-added by allowing users of free-to-play MMOs to play them anywhere they like (PC, mobile device, tablet, etc.)

“We run large farms of servers and we need to be able to run that business and so it’s about finding the right balance and the right business model that allows you to have enough users online to make an MMO worthwhile as well as being able to operate the service cost effectively.”

Groves added, “Some of that–never say never–may include—maybe we bring portions of an MMO to the service, maybe if you bring an MMO to OnLive it’s not exclusive to OnLive for example.”

OnLive is already going to face steep competition in this market because competitor Gaikai has already beaten them to the punch. The video game cloud-streaming outfit out of Southern California announced in early 2012 that intended to enable streaming of Dungeons & Dragons Online as well as Lord of the Rings Online—both of these are free-to-play titles—through their services.

OnLive could be an MMO “killer app” via streaming in-game components of games to clients

Modern day MMO games provide lush environments and a great deal of data to players, most of which must be delivered on DVD/Blu-Ray or through patches. As this content continues to increase games are increasingly approaching 5GB to 10GB sizes on disk and that includes downloaded sizes. A streaming service, however, might help to mitigate that somewhat by providing some components “on demand” instead of immediately on disk.

Some modern games, such as World of Warcraft, allow players to play the game at basic levels without having everything on disk yet. Say, for example, a player has only downloaded 5GB of the total size of the game, but most of that is in places they cannot visit yet because they’re just starting, why should they have to wait for the rest to download before playing?

A cloud-delivery service like OnLive could be used to stream the last mile of content to players before they reach those parts, saving time and disk.

It could also be used to deliver interactive or movie portions on-demand meaning that the gigantic, compressed movie or voice files that would make up parts of the world wouldn’t need to be on the drive of the player. This could certainly be a benefit to MMOs that want to hook players quickly by giving them a thin client that permits them to quickly install but still experience the richest experience possible with less wait.

After all, MMO gaming is best with friends and community and the faster a player can jump into the game and participate the quicker they’ll be hooked on the content.

About Kyt Dotson

Technology and civilization walk hand in hand and civilization is nothing without the skin of society, brushing up against itself, speaking strange nothings across dimly lit avenues and computer screens. If we're going to understand ourselves in this digital era, it will be through watching the adoption of technology by people to express themselves as people. I am an anthropologist and an author of science fiction and fantasy--and with my technology, I hope to open up new and exciting worlds that will not just enlighten the humanity of my friends and fans but also educate and enhance the expression of their own personhood. Find more of my work on Google+; send tips to @kytsune.