By now most people have heard about Sony acquiring the patents for OnLive after buying the company out. It’s been big news within the core gaming news spectrum after IGN covered the story. However, part of the process of acquiring the patents included shutting down OnLive… and that means all the games, save data, achievements and user content is being wiped for good. Every cent you poured into OnLive is rendered worthless. So what does this tell us about cloud gaming?
Well, first up, the post over on Facebook from OnLive is the one that really deals a mean blow to the prospect of any sort of viable future for cloud gaming, given that here’s what they had to say to OnLive customers about the shutdown following Sony’s acquisition….
“After April 30, 2015, our data centers will shut down and the service will be offline. All accounts will be closed, and all data deleted including game save data, achievements, and credit card data will be deleted. If you purchased a Steam game from OnLive, that game will still be available on Steam. No refunds will be available for any game purchases, hardware purchases, or subscriptions.”
So essentially, if you didn’t buy a game from OnLive for Steam, you are 110% screwed.
So what about everybody who put money into OnLive’s micro-console that enabled them to play games on the cloud without a computer or mobile device? Well, those poor saps are screwed, too. Not only that, but the micro-console becomes nothing more than a glorified paperweight.
“OnLive’s hardware does not work with any other platforms. No refunds are available for hardware purchases, unless it was purchased on or after February 1, 2015. If you purchased hardware on or after February 1, 2015, your purchase has been refunded and an email was sent to notify you.”
If you purchased anything before February 1st, you’re basically screwed. No refunds for you.
After April 30th everything falls in under. Your games, your achievements, your saved data… everything.
While Sony will undoubtedly use the patents to help improve PlayStation Now, the biggest problem is that what happens when PlayStation Now eventually has to bite the dust?
This is also a partial sign of what gamers would have had to deal with had Microsoft had gone through with the Xbox One’s 24-hour check-in with the Azure network – your games would have been tied to the cloud.
For games that rely on the cloud – such as Crackdown, due out for the Xbox One – when the network eventually goes down you lose whatever functionality is tied to that online service.
It’s a scary time for gaming not because of cloud gaming on its own, but how cloud gaming spites the historical value of video games. What happens to exclusive titles with features attached to the cloud? What happens to exclusive titles only available through the cloud? These games eventually become extinct. Worse yet is that there doesn’t appear to be anyway to replicate cloud-based games for private, offline use… unless, of course, the IP holder decides to dump the code for public use.
We already see some popular titles that have been cut out of the history books when the servers go down, games like Tabula Rasa or City of Heroes gamers are left with a vacant spot in the internet where these games used to be. As noted on forums and community threads, the only option is to either completely reverse engineer the game based on the available data, or to let it fade away into the digital ether of time.
The real question is will gamers stand by and support the next efforts of cloud-based rental services and will gamers support a console that relies entirely on cloud streaming to provide content? While movie goers and television buffs don’t seem to mind services like Netflix or Hulu, there’s still the alternative of getting the programs or content on Blu-Ray. Will publishers and console manufacturers offer the same alternative or will gamers be left to their own devices to preserve whatever games are tied to the cloud?