What is OnLive and why should you give it a second chance?

OnLive has returned, refreshed and reinvigorated. It has a new management team, different business model and price plan, and the whole service has been given more than just a lick of paint.

There's certainly enough for you to give it a second try if you were one of those who left it by the wayside after the company's troubled times in 2012. And for those who haven't given OnLive a try? You might fancy a look now. Especially if you are a heavy Steam user for PC or Mac.

But what is OnLive and why is its resurgence so interesting? Read on dear listener, read on...

What is OnLive?

OnLive is a cloud gaming service that, like Netflix for movies or Spotify for music, offers games to play on demand. The games themselves are stored on massive servers with the capabilities of "mid to high-end PC gaming rigs" and instead of having any of them installed locally, the video of the gameplay is streamed to one or more of your compatible devices, while the control codes are sent back. You control them just as you would if they were on your own machine, but through the internet instead.

It's really a precursor to other services to launch over the next year or so, including Sony's PlayStation Now. The Japanese firm plans to offer a similar system that has access to a large library of PlayStation 3 games to play across multiple devices. OnLive's library is made up of PC versions of titles, so in many cases have better graphics as the cards used are equivalent to next rather than current-gen consoles.

Video performance is 720p running at 60 frames per second. The company told Pocket-lint that it would rather a smoother frame rate than higher resolution.

READ: OnLive is back and this time it's brought Steam along for the ride

What devices does it work on?

You can download an OnLive application for PC, Mac and Android tablets and smartphones. LG released a Smart TV in the US that had OnLive access pre-installed, but that hasn't been expanded on yet.

For most games, you will need a compatible controller to play them effectively and OnLive's own £40 universal wireless controller, which uses Bluetooth 4.0 to hook up to tablets and smartphones, is a good bet. It works across PC and Mac too, thanks to an included dongle.

OnLive told Pocket-lint that it is still pushing forward with plans for an iOS app, once compatible controller technology has been finalised. It is exploring the possibility of ensuring access for Surface owners too. And Android games consoles, such as Ouya.

OnLive also sells its own Games System console, which comes with a controller and small set-top-box.

READ: OnLive: iOS is coming, but we have to get the technology right first

What games do I get?

The old OnLive sold or rented games directly, and while you can still buy game keys through the company, the main new feature utilises your existing games purchased through third-party platforms, such as Steam and, in the future Electronic Arts' Origin and possibly Ubisoft's Uplay services.

If you take out a CloudLift subscription you will need to sign into your Steam account through the OnLive client too. It will then check the games you have in your Steam library against the ones authorised by publishers for use on OnLive. The main requirement is that each title must feature cloud saves. That way, whether you play a game locally through Steam or remotely through OnLive, your save games will sync so you can carry on playing on a different device.

At present, OnLive has signed new deals with Warner Bros., Deep Silver and a few other publishers. One yet to come - the ink is still drying on the agreement - is Codemasters, so will include that brand's driving games, including F1 2013.

The inital CloudLift games list includes the Batman: Arkham trilogy, The Lego Movie Videogame, Darksiders II, both Dead Island games, Saints Row IV and a few others. Many more will be added in time, including those by indie developers.

What about my old OnLive games?

Although OnLive is ditching the older PlayPass system, many of the games you bought in the past will be available to you still. In addition, the company will continue its PlayPack bundle subscription, which offers unlimited access to a large library of back catalogue games for one monthly fee.

Do "Brag Clips" remain?

Yep, you can still record Brag Clips and post them to OnLive's servers. That way, you can show some of your proudest moments in games to other OnLive subscribers.

What about multiplayer gaming?

One of the aspects of the old OnLive cloud gaming service was that multiplayer was undernourished. On the new system, multiplayer in CloudLift games are served by the platform they originate from. For example, a Steam game will use your Steam account and the Steam community for multiplayer gaming.

Considering how popular Steam, Origin and the rest are and how many daily users they have, that expands multiplayer gaming possibilities dramatically.

And downloadable content (DLC)?

All DLC you buy for your game on Steam or through another platform (even physically) will automatically be available in the OnLive equivalent too.

How much does it cost?

The prices of individual game keys bought through OnLive will be market dependent, but you will probably buy them elsewhere anyway. OnLive's subscription fees are the most important part of its own new business model.

CloudLift, the service that allows you to play your existing or new Steam games through OnLive and therefore anywhere on multiple devices, costs £9.99 a month with no contractual obligation.

A PlayPack bundle subscription, which gives unlimited access to a large collection of back catalogue games 24/7, will set you back £6.99 a month.

To find out more information, check out onlive.co.uk.



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