OnLive game streaming comes to smartphones, tablets

OnLive’s cloud gaming service has finally come to tablets and smartphones. Released first for the PC and then on a separate, TV-friendly console, OnLive apps can now be downloaded for iOS and Android devices. Tablets and smartphones have been a part of OnLive’s plans for more than a year now, so it’s nice to see the apps finally rolling out.

Obviously, the touchscreen input offered by smartphones and tablets is less than ideal for the vast majority of games in OnLive’s catalog. The company has been working with developers to incorporate touch-friendly controls, and CEO Steve Perlman cites L.A. Noire as one example of a game that’s been completely infused with touch controls. Other titles will rely on buttons and joysticks that have been superimposed on the screen, although OnLive also has a separate controller up its sleeve. The controller will cost $50 and will support a variety of different wireless technologies to ensure smooth pairing with your mobile device.

While you’ll have to shell out for the controller, the OnLive apps are supposed to be free. If you download now, OnLive will throw in free access to Lego Batman, too. Other games will have to be purchased through the app on Android or on a separate PC for iOS devices; OnLive doesn’t want Apple taking a cut of in-app game purchases, it seems.

Having spent some time with OnLive a year ago on my notebook, I fired up my Eee Pad Transformer to check out how the service translates to tablets. Alas, the Android app isn’t available in Canada just yet. The premise certainly has promise, though. Provided latencies aren’t too high and the image quality looks better than a standard-definition YouTube feed, OnLive could be a compelling solution for mobile gamers—just keep in mind that streaming the game is going to eat up a fair amount of bandwidth.

Comments closed
    • zeoxzy
    • 8 years ago

    I really don’t understand some of the comments on this page. Onlive is already mainstream, so quit saying it’s not and also why are people saying it a terrible service when Onlive isn’t exactly forcing everyone in the world to suddenly use its format and drop physical game disks. Onlive is basically an alternative to using a physical disk. If you want to be able to play a game where you don’t have the hardware to do so, then Onlive is your answer.
    Last thing: I wish websites would stop saying the the ios Onlive app has been released, when a quick search on itunes shows that it hasn’t. Get your facts right!

    • ronch
    • 8 years ago

    What’s happening today is that if each household or user spends $500 – $$800 for a gaming rig, the cost of playing the game is spread out across many users who each have his/her equipment. What OnLive is doing, however, is unloading that cost from players and centralizing all the processing to themselves. Problem is, in theory, if this becomes successful, it’s doubtful that OnLive will be able to shoulder all the processing and associated costs required to properly service each player’s game concurrently. And instead of processing the data (i.e. game data) locally, one has to transmit data all the way to OnLive, across the world perhaps, do the processing there, and send the processed data back to the player. This, I believe, is a terrible waste of resources. It’s like going to your friend’s house to wash your hands and going back home after doing so. I doubt it will ever succeed beyond being a niche enterprise.

    OnLive. Why bother? The world has worked well enough on the current model. Processing power is cheaper than ever today and keeps getting even cheaper. I suppose all the hype about the Cloud has to do with this, which is, in itself, not a very good idea. Just look at how the Chrome book is doing. Judging from the lack of headlines regarding the said devices, I don’t think it’s a resounding success. No one is gonna be ok smashing his/her laptop because his/her data is perfectly safe somewhere across the world.

      • lilbuddhaman
      • 8 years ago

      It’s all about the cloud. Cloud == Control. This (terrible) implementation will improve with tech, but the end goal will not be something a power user will like, at all.

    • MarioJP
    • 8 years ago

    I listen to online streaming music, yet i haven’t given up my local copy of the albums that I owned. The only useful about the “cloud” is backing up purposes. Not so much with use. But this is good, this gives more options to let consumers that can not afford consoles or pc’s. Don’t think local gaming is going anywhere just like how internet radio did not replaced owned copy of an album.

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    I would happily play single-player games with an average 50ms of delay between my input and and an on-screen response.

    Fire up something like Quake3, set com_maxfps to 10, and you’re getting 10 frames/second. That’s an [i<]average[/i<] of 50ms, where your responses are shown somwhere between 0 and 100ms after the fact. Ignoring the horrible juddery visuals, that's about the limit of what I consider acceptable. Any higher than that and you lose the ability to simply move around a map accurately, let alone track a moving target with anything other than immense guesswork. Here's the total chain: - Input from user - Polled by OnLive client - Transmitted wirelessly to mobile data provider - Relayed via backbone internet to OnLive - Fed into game at OnLive, running at (let's be optimistic!) 200 frames/second - Encoded to a video stream in realtime at 30 frames/second - Transmitted via backbone to mobile data provider - Relayed to your tablet wirelessly - Rendered by the onlive client at 30 frames/second on your tablet. OnLive has to get the WHOLE THING down to an average of 50ms for this to be even acceptable for realtime gaming. As far as I can see, onlive is limited to point and click games. Strategy games at best. Anything requiring the player to react faster than a sloth is dead in the water. [i<]edit: It's worse than that. Most user input will be a reaction to what has happened on-screen 🙁 Add the bottom half of that chain to the top to give you THIS chain: - Event happens in-game, requiring user response. - Encoded to a video stream in realtime at 30 frames/second - Transmitted via backbone to mobile data provider - Relayed to your tablet wirelessly - Rendered by the onlive client at 30 frames/second on your tablet. - [b<]Superhuman[/b<] user reacts instantly: Input from user. - Polled by OnLive client - Transmitted wirelessly to mobile data provider - Relayed via backbone internet to OnLive - Fed into game at OnLive, running at (let's be optimistic!) 200 frames/second - Encoded to a video stream in realtime at 30 frames/second - Transmitted via backbone to mobile data provider - Relayed to your tablet wirelessly - Rendered by the onlive client at 30 frames/second on your tablet. Oh dear. Just put an optimistic figure in miliseconds next to each of those list items and see what your total comes out to 🙁 [/i<]

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    OnLive is a cool idea, but I honestly can’t see it making it mainstream. People still like having the ability to play games on their computer (physically have a copy there and choose how to modify it), they like the graphical fidelity, and serious gamers don’t like latency.

    Bandwidth caps have now hit all major providers in the US. That will quash what is left of this when people start getting bills for excessive bandwidth cap usage. Unless OnLive works out deals with ISPs, they wont be able to offer anything close to an acceptable service. Since the amount of bandwidth is generally proportional to the video quality this is directly tied to that.

    On a more positive note, they should consider selling the backend software that allows this to work. So people can run video games on their desktop computer from anyway in the house. It eliminates all of the above issues. I’m sure it wont happen and they’ll take their tech down with them, but it’s a nice thought.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 8 years ago

    This will be awesome I can play crysis on anything!

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Doubt it. Crysis 2, probably. Though nobody likes a 2 billion pixel plank of wood with jaggies for edges.

    • Xenolith
    • 8 years ago

    This is actually the best way to bring non-twitch PC games to a tablet and other mobile platforms. There is probably a small, but profitable market for this.

    • odizzido
    • 8 years ago

    By “Alas, the Android app isn’t available in Canada just yet” I assume you mean it has been region locked to the US. Retarded.

    What’s more retarded is that this technology doesn’t even work well in ideal situations. Now they are bringing it to phones? What?

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    Someone had a “brilliant” idea and no one bothered to tell them all the problems with it before they invested too heavily in it. Yes this will work one day. Today is not that day. Try again when internet bandwidth and wireless connectivity has improved at least 100x (though by then I would assume game fidelity would have increased, so you’d still be behind the eight ball)

      • indeego
      • 8 years ago

      Not quite sure how you can get around the laws of physics here. If you are not OK with poor latency + poor quality then Onlive will never work for you.

        • yogibbear
        • 8 years ago

        I don’t see any laws of physics anywhere. I see theories, yes. Theories that hold up to 99.9% of what I observe.

          • Farting Bob
          • 8 years ago

          You suggest that latency is not inevitable but can be zeroed out by a app on your iphone?

          speed isnt as much of an issue as many people have good enough speeds already, although i would imagine it will eat through any caps you have on your bandwidth like nobodies business.

            • yogibbear
            • 8 years ago

            I don’t own an iPhone. I’ve got a crappy nokia. And yes, latency can be zero’d just as much as we can approach absolute zero given the right materials, machinery and manpower. Just because we don’t today, doesn’t mean we won’t at some point in the future. i.e. i’m not saying your ping will be 1ms, but it might get within finger counting distance of that.

        • jensend
        • 8 years ago

        Totally wrong. Laws of physics say I can get ~5ms one-way network latency with a 1000 mile link (and laws of physics put no restriction on bandwidth). OnLive has data centers in Virginia, Silicon Valley, Illinois, Georgia, and Texas; the vast majority of the US population lives within 500 miles of one or another of those, and practically everybody is within 1000 miles of one. And of course OnLive can always build more servers.

        There are reasons why OnLive’s latency is too high for some games for most users. But those reasons don’t have the necessity of physical laws. Completely overcoming the latency problem might be prohibitively expensive, but it’s by no means physically impossible.

      • jensend
      • 8 years ago

      Your claim that the network needs to be “improved by 100x” is ridiculous.

      There are already lots of consumers with enough bandwidth to make this workable. Sure, you’re not going to get pixel-perfect 4K, but for many games the actual perceived visual difference during gameplay between lossless ultra-high-resolution and lossy 720p is fairly small. Esp. on a tablet etc. 1080p will be better; there are more and more people with enough bandwidth for that, and OnLive says they’ll start doing 1080p as soon as that market is big enough.

      Latency is another matter; improvement is needed here but certainly not by 100x. Right now, to get latencies low enough for reasonably smooth gameplay in real-time games you need to be just a few hops from your OnLive server. (That still won’t suffice for hardcore twitch FPS players, who may not be satisfied with remote rendering on the Internet as we know it because they expect sub-20ms latencies, but they’re in the minority.) Everybody else is getting 100-150 ms latencies; improving latencies by 4x would be more than plenty to make this work well.

        • yogibbear
        • 8 years ago

        Well trust someone to take something arbitrary literally. Maybe I meant improve the investment in tech 100x to bring latencies down 4x…. 😛

    • Forge
    • 8 years ago

    I feel I must note that the OnLive app for iOS that is currently out is a viewer only. You can watch other people play, but cannot play yourself. The update with playing games directly is supposed to be out Real Soon Now, but no date is given.

    Edit: App Store: OnLive Viewer: Last Updated: Dec 22, 2010

    Edit edit: Yep. Tried to start a game, got “Launching games is not supported on this platform”.

    • provoko
    • 8 years ago

    Considering your phones/pads don’t have the GPU powerful enough to run these types of games, this is a great solution.

    • Arclight
    • 8 years ago

    Please stop this monstrosity while it’s still in its infancy…..

      • ImSpartacus
      • 8 years ago

      This is the future.

      OnLive, itself, might not survive, but the concept of streaming video games will be the future.

        • Arclight
        • 8 years ago

        If this is the future of gaming, color me disappointed.

          • Suspenders
          • 8 years ago

          It probably is the future sadly, and not because of convienance to gamers but because of the insane amount of control the publishers will finaly get over the games they peddle us.

    • Chrispy_
    • 8 years ago

    Ohhhh yeah!

    Laggy, blurry, heavily-compressed and overpriced gaming now comes with an imprecise touch interface!

    Go baby, go!

      • lilbuddhaman
      • 8 years ago

      You need more emphasis on Laggy. Not to mention how quickly your battery will die, and how fast your data allocation will get used up.

      • Bensam123
      • 8 years ago

      lol…

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