back to article OnLive Game System cloud gaming console

The OnLive cloud gaming service was launched in the UK in September, and I was impressed by the fact that it allowed me to play a wide range of PC games on my Mac – without requiring Boot Camp and a copy of Windows, or any virtualisation trickery. OnLive cloud gaming system microconsole The USB ports are for charging …


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  1. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    It sounds more promising than a lot of people originally claimed, then. Impressive that it works over a 2.5Mb/s connection.

    >My BT broadband connection is supposed to be 8Mb/s

    No it isn't. Your BT broadband connection is supposed to be as fast /as possible/ up to a limit of 8Mb/s. The exact speed - as has been explained ad nauseum for the last decade and as your ISP will have told you - is line dependant. You appear to have quite a long line (nearly 5km I'd guess) and the service has adapted its speed exactly as its supposed to.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Not quite, the "line-dependant" portion will vary his sync speed, which may well be the 8Mbps he's referring to, but what he gets through that 8Mbps line is dependent on network conditions and the target server's speed, so you can get off your high-horse mr jumpy gun.

    2. AlexH

      Oh god, it's you!!!

      I keep having this recurring nightmare where you corner me at a party and never stop talking...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Must admit when I tried the demo of OnLive I was very impressed at how well it worked considering what's involved but I don't tend to play games that much so it wasn't worth paying subs to join.

    I wish them well with this and while they are up against the 360 and the full dedicated PC rig, they have the advantage that you can try out a full game first without having to pay the £40 and find it's utter crap. Puts a damper on the pirates old argument, "I want to try before I buy, so I downloaded the full game not the demo!".

    1. pig

      I don't see how that is an advantage, given that just about every game seems to have a playable demo available on the PS3 store (and I asume on xbox live too?)

      The system looks ok to me, but expensive. I think it would work better if the hardware came free and they made their money purely on subs.

      Plus the full games need to be cheaper. I recently bought Uncharted for £39 and traded it in a week later for Assassins Creed Revelations. With the trade in Assassins Creed was £5.

      With onLive I presume you can't trade in the games you buy, and can't sell or lend them to friends either.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        They also reserve the right to remove games from their servers once the demand drops, so you are paying full price for a game they can take off you whenever they choose.

  3. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Thumb Up


    Assuming this is some kind of Citrix-like virtual window onto the remote server, what's the overall bandwidth usage like (for those with capped connections).

    If you play a lot, I bet you end up using quite a bit. My online radio connection manages to rack up a fair amount if I use it every day for a month.

    Good idea though, kudos to those that got this into play.

    1. Chad H.

      I was hoping the review would address this....

      I got a game on a special promo for just £1 - and saw my usage go up to crazy levels - several GB per day. I think its rather poor that El Reg didn't look at this and pull some stats...

    2. Lance 3

      It is north of 5Mbps, more like 8 to 10Mbps and rather constant at that. The more throughput you have the better the graphics are.

  4. DrXym Silver badge

    What a rip off

    Batman Arkham City is £24.91 on Amazon for the PC. So they're charging £10 more than it would cost for me to actually buy the game for my PC and delivering it with crappy picture quality and other restrictions.

    1. Shaun 1

      But you don't have to pay however much it costs to upgrade your PC to be able to play it.

      1. Paul Shirley

        Maybe, for the bulk of low end factory boxes.

        When I tried Onlive its rendering quality was massively below what I get locally on geriatric hardware - a 3.1Ghz dual core Phenom II/4770HD GPU combo, both low to mid range parts more than 2 years ago. While I do often need to reduce render quality to maintain frame rates, Onlive don't seem to be achieving much better quality, do it in a much smaller frame size (I play @2048x1152) and the compression wreaks havoc.

        Unless I had particularly unlucky experiences most recent PC's wouldn't need upgrading and where needed wouldn't need high end hardware to equal what Online are offering. I think time has been unkind to Onlive, PC hardware improvement has wiped out their theoretical advantage for all but the most casual PC gamers.

        I think the console is probably their most important component though. Much easier than hauling a PC to the main TV for casual gaming.

    2. Lamont Cranston

      On the other hand,

      70 quid won't buy you a PC to play it on.

    3. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      And how much does a decent PC cost?

      And how much exactly does a decent PC with a decent Nvidia card to play it cost nowdays?

      North of 600.

      And how much exactly does a decent PC usable for daily non-gaming use cost nowdays?

      South of 350.

      That is without taking into account power consumption, etc.

      If you do the _FULL_ math the numbers end up in favour of the onLive for anyone who plays less than 4h a day. If you are playing more than 4h a day... Well... Can you tell me who is your employer, I would like a job where I can spend 4h+ a day playing too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The difference between a gaming PC and a normal PC is usually doubling the RAM and a £200 graphics card.

        If you are into games the discounts available on specials on Steam, and the inherent cheaper games on the PC make it often cheaper in the long run. My last graphics card, which tend to last me about three years a go, unless they are nVidia and melt, cos £300. It came with a game I was going to buy anyway... games are about £10 difference in price (and in the case of Sonic Generations, £20). I think I must have bought 40 games in the two year life of my card, and that can't have cost me more than £15 a pop on average. £5 for Batman on the PC, or £20 in a classic range on a console.

        I figure if a console costs £200, and I pay £40 a pop a month for five years, for a game a month. I'll be paying £2400... £480 a year. I don't hit over £250 a year on games on a PC... with my gaming habits, I figure I could buy a £300 graphics card yearly and still pay about the same as a console gamer in the same situation.

        Admittedly, I have an interest in PCs, so a difference between a gaming and a media/photoshop really is just the graphics cards, but many people don't account for the tax that Sony and MS put on their games... it's how they make their money.

      2. Dave Murray

        Re: And how much does a decent PC cost?

        I bought a new PC 18 months ago and paid about £350. It is perfectly capable of running Rage, Warhammer 40k Space Marine, Alice Madness Returns, SW:TOR and other new / recent games. There is no need to pay £600+ for a gaming rig. Just don't buy from rip off stores like PC World.

    4. KnucklesTheDog

      Batman Arkham City is in the play pack, so you'll actually pay £6.99 / month. Thrown in you'll get 125 other games - or something like that.

      I signed up for this at the weekend and I think it's an exceptional service, particularly as I can play on my mac. Most of the games you wouldn't know you weren't running locally (Sky unlimited broadband). The fact is that some games are totally crap and some games you can't put down, and with this you can filter without any extra cost.

      As the review says, it's probably not for hard core gamers and those that want all the latest games straight away, but this will satisfy the vast majority of people.

  5. Alpha Tony


    It does look like this sort of thing is the future, but if everyone starts using this will the infrastructure handle it?

    Sure the data speeds may be fast enough in a lot of the country to deliver this now (although not in many of the greener bits!), but you are talking about adding potentially millions of new users continuously streaming high quality video. Most providers already throttle torrents for large portions of the day, not for any copyright reason, but for 'fair use'.

    If everyone that currently plays XBox, PS3, Wii and PC games was basically streaming HD video continuously any time they were playing anything that would take a huge amount of capacity - It would dwarf the stress put on the infrastructure by say catch-up TV and the ISPs were already up in arms about that...

  6. Danny 5
    Thumb Up

    good idea, but....

    As stated in the article, this is not for hardcore gamers. Casual gamers will find a happy home here though, it works quite well.

    I don't see cloud gaming growing much until there's fiber to your doorstep, but this is definitely a good start.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    80% for real?

    for a console that plays at sub-optimum resolutions, needs a top notch broadband, costs £70 for the hardware, then top-dollar for the games, plus a pricey uncapped broadband package....

    Is this some kind of joke? Did someone accidentally put a 0 on the end of the score? Or has someone fallen so in love with the IDEA of streaming gaming, that they are willing to ignore the obvious problems...

  8. Richard 81

    I just don't see why

    The little console thingy is £70 and buying a game costs the RRP and is unlikely to drop.

    For that you're tying yourself to a service that may not last forever and you never actually own your game.

    Why not just buy a second hand xBox 360 (I got a 2009 model Elite for £80 last year)? You can then hunt around for the best prices on new releases and pick up plenty of cheap old games. Or just rent them the old fashioned way.

    No mention of the subscription fee. Is that still around or did they decide it was silly?

    1. Chad H.


      The subs fee is optional. You can buy games, rent games, and/or pay to access a library of 100 or so games. Don't pay the sub? Fine - you can still play the a grade titles.

      As for unlikely to top they did offer your first gem for £1 at launch - best special deal I've seen anywhere.

  9. Geoff Campbell

    Bandwidth usage

    Interesting thread here about the bandwidth used by OnLive:

    In summary, I don't think this is going to be compatible with most UK ISP deals.


    1. The Original Ash

      Why is this even a question?

      You have the bandwidth it uses, and the time you play for. Just multiply the two together!

      5Mb/s x 4 hours play = 9GB of data.

  10. Shakje

    Bit worrying that the price was glossed over so quickly

    Full price for a game that you don't own? I buy a fair number of Steam games which means that I take the risk of Valve folding or deciding to turn the whole thing off some day. I don't think that's a huge risk, but with this, it's still a small company, and playing the games requires that your internet connection is decent and working, and you're paying full price for some game sitting on a server somewhere? At least if Steam ever did die I have the games on my HDD so I can (probably) crack them to avoid the need for the Steam client. With this, you could end up paying a lot of money for nothing. Don't they have some form of a subscription model which would give you so many PlayPass credits (or whatever) per month?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Or, they could just unlock them?!

      Plus, even if Valve folded, Steam would be sold... client base or whatever. Someone would surely by that!

  11. Semaj
    Thumb Down

    2Mb - I wish

    I'm lucky if I get 1Mb! And I know that many in the UK they get even less.

    It will not work for most people and hardcore gamers won't settle for anything less than cutting edge.

    Also I'd be amazed if it scales well.

  12. MJI Silver badge


    That 1/10th of a second would be a nightmare if you were panning a weapon. You would constantly overshoot.

    I find lag a pain when gaming online, oh look I saw a person, I shoot them, I die, I get shot, this sounds like it would be like this.

    Games, of course all the exclusives would be missing.

    But it looks like a clever idea for a casual gamer.

    £34.99 for a long term rental - I can buy a shiny disc for a similar amount which I can keep as long as I like.

  13. squilookle

    I'm not sure why, (it makes as little sense to me as anyone) but for some reason, even though I have moved over to cloudy services for most of my music and video and am happy with that, I really don't like the idea of doing away with the full fat console under the television and the games on the shelf... maybe it will change when the technology matures and the broadband connections improve, but I don't know.

  14. dotdavid
    Thumb Up


    My brother showed me OnLive on his PC and I was surprised how well it seemed to work.

    This little box is still a little pricey IMHO, but I can see a time in the not-so-distant future where they're a lot cheaper and a lot of casual gamers will have them (or have similar software built into their tellys or set-top boxes).

    Could this be the last gaming PC or console you'd ever have to buy? Probably not yet, but I can see the potential. Still I wonder how long before Microsoft, Sony, Apple or Google muscle in...

  15. Kyoraki
    Thumb Up

    Very impressive service from what I've seen, even in early days like this. Bought Batman AC during the black Friday £1 sale, and today downloaded the android app (which is exactly the same as the PC/Console version) along with my free copy of Lego Batman, and was bowled over by the service both times. I expect very very big things from this service in the future.

    ...Or until Steam offer something similar anyway.

  16. Andy 70

    for a starter gamer, a good idea.

    but, those of us who have invested heavily into steam, playstation network, xbox live.... what do we do, buy all the games... again? and have the possibility of being left hanging if the company goes under, or hostile takeover?

    found a little alternative. looked decidedly dodgy initially, but seems to hold water.

    use your home machine as your "rendering cloud", and stream out to where-ever you can install the client (linux/windows/ps3) and open the ports. still testing it myself, but looks promising.

    seeing if i can sneak a bit of skyrim into my christmas working schedule. and hoping they can put together an iphone/winphone port.

  17. b166er

    As an added bonus, the contorller can be bluetoothed to your Android/iPad OnLive client too for gaming on the go.

    1. Martin Chandler

      Actually it cant...

      Youre referring to the bluetooth controller which was only released on the 9th Dec.

  18. Vitani

    Additional question

    In this world of capped-broadband, it would be useful to know how much bandwidth this thing uses, and thus how often you could play it when your ISP limits you to 2Gb a month.

  19. Craig 12

    I was hoping the review would touch on a few more things, such as: does the HDMI also carry the optical-out info for those that can handle it? What about the speed of 'boot up'? Can you transfer a session from a tablet to the box?

    Is online multiplayer supported? Is it only with other onlivers (so in theory, level playing field)?

    I didn't see any mention to just how awesome the interface is, which was the thing I was most impressed with when I tried it out on the PC earlier this year. Everything's a video to the system, so they've really gone to town with the seamless menu system.

    No mention of watching other people play either, which I thought was quite neat side-effect of their system. It's like a demo-trailer for the interested yet lazy.

    I'm definitely going to be taking advantage of their £1 first game offer, and try the subscription out over Xmas. I wasn't convinced it was a good idea, but after I tried it, my mind was very quickly changed.

    I wonder if Sony/Microsoft would ever allow an onlive client on their consoles...

    1. hexx

      - MP is supported

  20. Deft


    Like most people I was surprised at how well it worked - but on my PC it chews through a steady 4-5Mbit whilst using it. As mentioned above, not for the bandwidth or transfer limited!

  21. ph0b0s

    720p only...

    The console may support upscaling to 1080p, but maximum resolution for this system at the moment is 720p, as is shown below.



    Internet Connection: 5 Mbps wired or Wi-Fi connection

    Operating System: Windows® 7 or Vista (32 or 64-bit) or XP SP3 (32-bit), Mac® OS X 10.6 or later

    Computer: Dual-core PCs, all Intel-based Macs

    *Screen Resolution: 1280x720*

  22. This post has been deleted by its author

  23. hexx

    I've been using onlive for some time (used the promo they introduced on EuroGamer Expo) and bought for £1 Dawn of War 2, I've had it on my PC but sold it. It's really good but you need a good connection. Our Sky gives us only 7Mbps and during the day/evening the quality is more like an YouTube video but at night it's really really good. If you have Virgin or better connection this shouldn't be a problem.

    Also when you buy a game you kind of own it but for limited time, each game states until when it's available.

    Monthly fee gives you access to all games available.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    More big brother consumer shafting

    Just like digital downloads, no second hand market to cut into various people's profit margins, luxury yacht sales figures etc.

    Alongside a metric fuck tonne of DRM, tracking, log building etc.......How long before an assault happens and the police come knocking on your door with your onlive log, "theres been an assault sir and it appears you have highly violent tendencies from your game log, come with us"

    OR some politician leans on Onlive to make the entire service kiddy friendly (basically turning it into an online wii :P )

    They can shove this where the sun doesn't shine

    1. Martin Lyne

      I suppose you pay by cash for everything do you? Because, obviously the government would love to know what you've been buying so they can wrongly accuse you of things to lock you away (you are, after all, *extremely* threatening to their way of life)

      But then, if the government wanted to lock you away for no good reason they could just claim you're terrorist, plant some books to corroborate and cart you off regardless of weather you had an expensive gaming rig or an onlive microconsole.

      == On topic =====

      I'm seriously considering the onlive console. Very impressed with the service when I tested it on my PC, even over wireless the quality was good (not excellent, sure, but one big factor for me is I can have my rig at home and leave the micro console at the girlfriends, with saves carried over twixt the two)

      What would really make this service special if is Steam bought it. Imagine having most if not all of your Steam games readily accessible from any computer with the Onlive app installed, including phones! If the saves get synched too, that is a serious value enhancer for me. Playing football manager on the bus. Sword of the Stars in the bath. Good. Times.Great for festive period when you can't take your rig to familial gatherings far away.

      THe only thing I'd like to have confirmed is ability to use Xbox controllers with it. Never agreed with "analog sticks in the middle". Serious cramp-maker. For marathon FIFA sessions, need relaxing hand position.

      I wish OnLive all the best and hope to help them on their way soon!

    2. Scott 2

      Would you like a tinfoil hat with your paranoia sir?

  25. MikeyD85
    Thumb Up

    This is the future

    The UK certainly isn't ready for this to go mainstream, but it's a bloody good start. I've tried it on my tripe PC and it worked wonderfully (Be+ Unlimited FTW). What really, really got me though was playing Lego Batman on my HTC Desire S. That's just insane. The virtual controls are mapped quite well too! :D

  26. Paul Shirley

    Lag a bigger problem than you think

    It's important to remember the network lag here can't be directly compared to lag in client rendered multiplayer games. In a well built network game prediction hides the lag leaving just the rendering&frame swap time lag - 1-2 frames most of the time. The lag's still there but isn't as noticeable. Onlive renders remotely *then adds network lag - some of the rendering lag*.

    It's not just adding more lag, it's adding it where it does the most damage, outside the games compensation loop. It's something I noticed both times I trialled it, the motion sickness set in almost immediately and didn't go away. Luckily for Onlive I'm in a minority but it's harming the experiencing for every player.

    What's worse is even if games could get adjusted to compensate for that extra lag, single player games just don't need the prediction code so have no mechanism to adjust. Hard problem to work around.

    Luckily casual gamers don't seem that bothered by this sort of problem but casual gamers aren't notorious for paying AAA prices for their games either. Be interesting seeing if they get any worthwhile outright sales at those prices, or just masses of £6.99 subscribers playing older stuff.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The best thing about Onlive is the ability to play the full game as a demo.

    Assuming you're happy with the pap graphics settings that make it look like an console game of course. I tried DiRT3 and Assassins Creed and both looked terrible (compared to the PC versions), the former looking like it was an original Xbox game... the bitrate was too low to handle it. If the demo are worse quality, that's also not a very good sales technique.

    It has some promise, but I'm not paying £35 for a game that I have to stream. I don't mind £35 for digital, but not £35 where I literally don't get any access to the product properly.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't bother on Virgin Media 10Mb

    I tested the system out on the PC and bought Dirt 3 for £1 a month or 2 ago, but found i can only really play the game after 9pm.

    Before 9pm, it runs without a hitch for about 25 mins, then Virgin Media's traffic shaping kicks in and my 10Mb connection is throttled by 75% making the game completely unplayable.

    So until i can either afford to pay for a faster connection without the traffic shaping, or Virgin Media raise the amount they throttle connections to something reasonable, i won't be paying for any more OnLive games - it's pretty handy for a quick demo of a game though.

  29. fLaMePrOoF
    Thumb Up

    Forgot to mention...

    That there are also iOS and Android clients so you can have high end PC gaming on your tablet or phone! Very cool!!!

    (I'd recommend using WiimoteControler and a Wii remote or something similar if you want a decent gaming experience on your phone or tablet ;o)

  30. Andy_Canuck
    Thumb Up

    Works well for me!

    Though it may not work well for those on shitty ADSL lines its been great for me. Recently emigrated to Canada and have a 50Mbit cable connection with unlimited bandwidth for the same price I was paying for Virgin at home. No daily limits, in fact no limits at all that I can see.

    I'm not a big gamer, only own a laptop and have no console. With onlive you can buy 3 day or 5 day access to the big games for around £5 which is more than enough for me to get my itch scratched and then move on after I get bored of randomly shooting stuff

  31. phear46


    They gave these away free at the eurogamer expo this year, tbh I haven't even had it out the box. Played about 5 mins online on my laptop and wasn't to impressed, though my laptop is old and my broadband is sloooooow. (i should also say I was on WiFi which isn't optimal for latency) it has huge potential for social gaming though, you can each others play real time etc so for tourneys it could be awesome. Just needs fibre to make it happen!

  32. Michael Sage


    If you have the playpack you get a 30% (I think) reduction on the cost of buying the full games.

    As a casual gamer I love it, and so do my kids. Being able to play a game for 1/2 hour is great, over Halloween they gave you access to some games for free for 3 days.

    But, it chomps through you BB allowance, my daughter played lego harry potter for an hour or so a day for a couple of weeks and managed to rack up about 3-4Gb a day!

  33. Adam T
    Thumb Up

    Sounds good to me

    Certainly better than Lovefilm - which, while cheap doesn't really fit into my lifestyle... I get a game sent to me and it just sits there for days, even weeks lately because I've got no time to play it. If I send it back, I've only got to put it on my list and wait for a slot all over again.

    And it certainly beats downloading, especially on a 4-8Mb/s connection. That's one thing I hate about MMOs - even if you buy a new release retail box, you still have to wait all day before you can play because it invariable has to download (sometimes GBs) of data.

    Yeah... instant play, even at reduced quality, has an undeniable attraction. I reckon they'll set lots of these, I'm already thinking of buying a couple as xmas pressies.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Extra tv channel

    I occasionally just sit and spectate in the Arena. Better script and sometimes funnier than most prime time TV in the US.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Big Brother

    Bandwidth and connection

    I bet this munches through your monthly bandwidth allowance like there is no tomorrow. That needs to be taken into account as will the fact that network connection quality at peak times may be an issue on some lesser service providers.

    One thing not mentioned is that if there servers have problems or there are network difficulties then your gaming experience will be wrecked. The Forza XBox servers were having issues last might while I was playing a game with 12 other chums. We had to give up in the end but thankfully I was still able to play single player. However with a "cloud" console you'll be stuffed either way.

    It's an interesting concept but it will never reach the market penetration of the main consoles.

  36. JDX Gold badge

    re: Bandwidth

    Isn't it simply going to be comparable with watching online video (iPalyer/4OD/NetFlix) and therefore you know what it's going to do to your usage?

  37. JDX Gold badge


    Is the back-end infrastructure PCs, or consoles like 360/PS3... they could in theory do either I suppose. Or do they run multiple VMS on a single PC - I imagine that would be quite tricky for resource hogging games so I imagine they need one box for each current player?

    I'd love to be able to hire their setup for my own games/software - being able to do rendering & complex logic on a proper PC then pipe the results to an iPad would be great for the scientific/medical training software I work on.

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