Six years ago, OnLive came up with a radical idea: With a good enough Internet connection, you could stream video games from the data center into your home, the same way millions do with Netflix Instant Watch movies today.
Soon, OnLive will be no more, as it sells most of its important technologies to Sony and prepares to shut down service by the end of the month.
It’s been a long and tumultuous journey for OnLive. Funded by companies like Warner Brothers, Autodesk, and AT&T, the service launched in mid-2010 at a price of $US14.95/month plus the cost of individual games (that monthly fee would soon be waived).
Games could be played from any PC, Mac, phone, or tablet. More recently, Amazon added OnLive support to its Fire TV and Fire Stick media players.
The problem was that in 2010, not enough Americans had the kind of broadband Internet connections needed for the high-velocity world of video games. And even when more people did get fast connections, people generally preferred to buy their games through more traditional channels — after all, you can play those without an Internet connection at all, and you don’t have to worry about performance issues.
OnLive tried to reverse its fortunes, including launching a virtual desktop service that would let customers access Windows apps in their browsers, but it wasn’t enough.
In 2012, OnLive’s management took desperate measures: It laid off its entire workforce at once, entered into a proceeding known as the “Assignment for the Benefit of Creditors” that left employees with worthless options, and sold all the company’s assets to a private equity firm for a mere $US4.8 million, a tremendous dip from OnLive’s one-time $US1.2 billion valuation.
In 2014, the company came back to life with a service called CloudLift, that took a player’s existing games and let them continue it from any device.
Apparently, that didn’t work either, and on April 30th, all of OnLive’s cloud services will be shut down, forever. Sony is snapping up OnLive’s patents, which only makes sense, given that Sony bought a similar service called Gaikai for the technology that lets it stream games directly to PlayStation game systems.
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