I've written on the subject of cloud gaming in the past, specifically OnLive. The tone of my last entry on the subject was decidedly optimistic, as it seemed that OnLive was well on its way to becoming a respectable force in the gaming industry. Well, it's been a little over 9 months since then, and I feel that now is the time to admit my error in judgment.
This is not to say that I am against cloud gaming. If anything, I'm even more a fan of the technology than before. I love the idea of playing top-quality video games without the need for expensive hardware, large downloads, swapping discs, etc. I positively adore the idea of playing L.A. Noire or Batman: Arkham City on my iPad over wifi, then coming home and picking up where I left off on my TV. If I had my way, I'd give away my Xbox and PS3 and go all cloud without looking back. As it stands, I'd have to be an idiot to actually do that. While the technology is there, the library of available games on the OnLive service just isn't.
A perfect example of this is the release of Dead Island for OnLive. Originally announced to be coming to OnLive alongside its console and PC counterparts, its publisher, Deep Silver, announced that the game would be delayed until October, which came and went without a peep before they finally said that OnLive would get it in December, at the earliest. December came and went without a word. It wasn't until February that we finally got some news, and this time Deep Silver didn't even bother giving us an estimate, simply saying that it will come "soon."
Then in April of 2012, 7 months after Dead Island's release on other platforms, we finally got to play Dead Island on OnLive. 7 months. OnLive fans had to wait more than half a year to get their version of the game, long after it's become bargain bin fodder on every other platform.
I wish I could say that this was the worst case. Another prime example is The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, which was announced to be coming to OnLive at E3 ... in 2011. After proudly displaying the game in their E3 2011 trailer, Onlive then went completely dark. No news of the game has come since. On the OnLive fan forums, The Witcher 2 has become something of a myth, like Bigfoot.
Of the games shown in the above announcement video from June of 2011, 3 of them have yet to be released as of July of 2012.
Another game which was announced at E3 2011 was From Dust, which was given even more attention than The Witcher 2. Steve Perlman, CEO of OnLive, proudly stood in front of audiences and showed off the game running via the OnLive service. To make things even more sweet, From Dust was announced to have touch controls made specifically for OnLive for users playing via their smartphones and tablets. At the time of this entry, From Dust has yet to be made available on OnLive.
You may notice that Perlman was playing that OnLive game via an iPad, which leads me to the next bit of disappointment. The big announcement at E3 2011 was the OnLive app for mobile devices. The iPad was featured prominently in their demonstrations. The Android version was released, but OnLive went dark on the status of the iPad app. We can only speculate as to what happened here. The guys at Touch Arcade spoke with the OnLive folks at E3 2012 to ask about the app, which got them a guarded response that it's still awaiting approval ... a year later. Touch Arcade recently posted some videos from their preview build of the OnLive app for iPad shortly before their copy expired.
While we're on the subject of E3, OnLive's 2012 showing was lackluster, to say the least. They announced a paltry 11 games coming to the service. Of those games, 4 of them are confirmed to be coming in 2013, so that leaves only 7 games for the rest of 2012. Their other announcements consisted of the ability to play OnLive demos in your web browser without the OnLive program installed, and the upcoming multi-view function, which lets you spectate other people's gameplay while playing a game yourself. An interesting idea, but what new games will I be playing with this feature?
Publisher support, even from known OnLive partners, is spotty at best. How come I can play Borderlands and Duke Nukem Forever on OnLive, but not Spec Ops: The Line? Publishers bring some games to OnLive, but not others. As a consumer, I find this highly disappointing.
When games take months or even over a year to be released after their console counterparts, OnLive's promise of "instant gaming" doesn't feel instant. OnLive's spotty publisher support, their seeming inability to release a game on time, and their many broken promises makes using the service feel like a version of the idiom, "hurry up and wait."