It seems Sony is about to become the only real key player in the online game streaming space. Sony has purchase the streaming patents once held by OnLive, making PlayStation Now the only real option for users who’d like to digitally rent video games over the internet.
OnLive, the company that was formed out of the ashes of the original OnLive will shut its doors and stop taking new subscribers. A Re/Code report out last night first indicated that things weren’t going well for OnLive and that the company planned to close for good soon. This morning a statement on the company’s website confirmed mostly everything in that report. Sony acquired large parts of OnLive. Because of the acquisition, OnLive is shutting down its gaming service as of April 30th and will stop charging subscriptions to users effective immediately.
OnLive took the gaming world by storm when it originally arrived. Though it required lots of complicated technology and patents behind the scenes, the idea of OnLive was very simple. OnLive’s mission was to allow anyone to experience PC games, even if they didn’t have a PC capable of running them. Users purchased a dedicated set-top box and a controller, then purchased access for the game they wanted to play.
OnLive’s shutdown pretty much leaves Sony’s PlayStation Now subscription service as the only game streaming subscription. Ironically, a lot of what makes up PlayStation Now was built by Gaikai, a former competitor to OnLive. PlayStation Now works almost the same way as OnLive. Instead of picking up a small set-top box, PlayStation Now users simply use the PS3, PS4 or PlayStation TV that they already have.
With OnLive’s patents, buying a PS4 for PlayStation Now just became the obvious choice for anyone looking to do cloud game rentals.
Sony doesn’t just use PlayStation Now as an online game streaming service, the company also angles the service as an easy way to play games from its older consoles. The PS4 doesn’t actually feature backwards compatibility, but there are dozens of PS3 games available through PlayStation Now. When it first launched, Sony charged users for blocks of time with their line-up of games. This past year, the company rolled out a $20 unlimited subscription model that makes PlayStation Now streaming even more approachable and potent.
Microsoft’s Xbox One video game console isn’t backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games and doesn’t offer any type of cloud game streaming service. The closest thing the console offers is EA Access, a monthly subscription service that gives users unlimited access to a subset of titles published by Electronic Arts. EA Access costs users $4.99 a month. Microsoft hasn’t said anything about plans for a cloud streaming service like PlayStation Now.
When the OnLive was working well, it appeared as if the little machine plugged into their television really was playing pretty demanding games. What would actually happen is that the OnLive console would connect to a server at the company. The console was only connecting the video stream and sending back the actions the player wanted to take in the game. In reality, OnLive’s servers were actually the one’s running the game.
In recent years OnLive tried to supplement is games rental business with a cloud computing platform. That service worked exactly the same way, but let users run apps that they could over the web on its servers. That service, called OnLive Desktop is also shutting down on April 30th. Anyone who has things stored in OnLive’s file service will need to download their stuff before April 30th too.
Sony hasn’t yet commented on the purchase of OnLive’s patents.