OnLive, as you may have heard, is dead. For real, unlike the last time, its corpse chopped up into little bitty pieces and buried—or, more precisely, sold off to Sony. It was just a few years ago that Sony acquired Gaikai, OnLive's one-time competitor in the streamed gaming space. And Gaikai founder David Perry has a few thoughts about what went wrong.
Perry described OnLive as "a heck of a competitor" in a recent blog post, and said that it was "very worrying" that virtually every significant choice OnLive made was different from Gaikai's. Particularly with regard to platform: OnLive was a PC-centric service, but Gaikai felt it was too problematic to effectively support.
"PC games (for keyboard and mouse) were becoming really difficult to get running across a myriad of TV’s, Phones, Set-Top-Boxes, and websites from the cloud, especially as a lot of great games are no longer supported by anyone, even their publishers have disappeared," Perry wrote. "You probably were not aware that we had to modify the PC games in realtime, hiding legacy buttons, icons and features that no longer made sense etc. It was a nightmare."
Gaikai felt that consoles would be a better fit for streamed games because of their standardized hardware and control schemes, a philosophy that was validated when Sony came along and threw $380 million at it. OnLive, meanwhile, went through some restructuring, laid off some employees, took on new leadership, and stuck with the PC.
"Again their games group stayed focused on PC gaming and at Gaikai we knew just how difficult that was to maintain," Perry wrote. "After two more years of trying to source and onboard PC games they have finally closed their doors."
I'd always assumed that inadequate infrastructure would be the downfall of streaming game services, so it's interesting to read that platform variations were actually such a big problem, especially since "runs on anything" universality was one of OnLive's big selling features. But it did actually express interest in moving to consoles: In late 2011, well ahead of Sony's acquisition of Gaikai, OnLive UK chief Bruce Grove told Eurogamer that he would "love to have" discussions with Sony and Microsoft about integrating the technology into their consoles, and said it actually had OnLive running on a PlayStation 3, before Sony killed Linux support.