OnLive and kicking

OnLive and kicking

By Michael French and Ben Parfitt

June 12th 2009 at 8:00AM

The second part of our interview with OnLive's Mike McGarvey

Concluding Develop's interview with the OnLive CEO Mike McGarvey, we turned our line of questioning to address the benefits the system offers to game makers and the ways in which the technology will effect the design process.

To read the first part of our interview with McGarvey, click here.


How would a cloud-based distribution system change the way developers approach making games?

Well, for starters, they no longer have to develop for the lowest common denominator of hardware. They can basically assume that when their games release they will be running on the most technically advanced hardware available. This means that we should see richer, more robust worlds, better graphics, more depth and intensity of gameplay.

And because it’s all online, the platform is incredibly flexible. So, we expect to see people experimenting with the type of content they deliver, so maybe that will result in episodic games, or maybe that’s how they handle pricing.

It’s incredibly efficient and effective to develop for OnLive – with only one binary to reach PC, Mac and TV – that kind of reach, and ‘ease’ if you will of reaching gamers – is unprecedented. We think developers are really going to love it. Their games will be instantly available to a large market of gamers – be they PC, Mac or TV based.

Are developers already on board?

We’re engaging with developers of all sizes. At GDC, we announced partnerships with major publishers like EA, Ubisoft, and Take Two. At the same time, we announced a partnership with 2D Boy, the ‘indie’ developers that created World of Goo.

The OnLive platform is very easy to develop for so we think that a lot of smaller developers will embrace it. And, because we offer a wholly online platform, we think that the smaller independents – who have more flexibility to be creative – will probably do a lot of experimenting with new types of gameplay and new models for delivering games. Basically, OnLive offers them an incredibly powerful, very flexible platform that allows developers to do what they do best: be creative. There are no boundaries. That’s something I’m really very excited about personally.

Do studios need to take anything into account when making games for OnLive?

The only thing that they should be thinking about is: how do I take advantage of this incredibly flexible and powerful system?

We’ve set it up so that working with us should be simple. There is little cost to publishers to get their games running on OnLive; they can port their PC versions in a few weeks.

I think everyone is really enthusiastic about working with us. OnLive has the potential to completely alter the economics of the video game industry, offering more monetisation opportunities and enhanced consumer touch points. Our aim is to bring the content makers and consumers as close together as possible.
 
What needs to be re-developed on existing PC games to make sure they work on OnLive?

There are a few changes to the code as a result of being run on server class hardware with no disc drives, but the port is a fairly simple process that can be done in a matter of weeks.

The current demo shows established big brands that have debuted on console as well as PC – are you hoping to secure original exclusive IP for the OnLive platform?

In a way we have ‘exclusive’ games for people with Macs and low end PC’s. Crysis is a great example. The game isn’t currently developed for the Mac and doesn’t run on low end PC’s yet both of those user groups will be able to play the game on OnLive, because we do all the computing in our server centres in the cloud and it just runs on their hardware.

Also, the OnLive platform opens up several new avenues for game development and distribution – episodic games that update throughout the year, for example – and we expect games developed specifically for the OnLive platform to be available in the near term. Because we are the only platform that is wholly online, those games would – by necessity – be available only on our service.
 
When will it launch in the UK or Europe? Will the UK’s slower broadband speeds affect the roll out? Will you need infrastructure partners to launch outside the US?

For the time being, we’re focused on the U.S. market and our consumer beta program and consumer launch later this year. Europe is a very important region for us and close to my heart (obviously!) but we need to launch in the US before we announce specifics plans for Europe.

Aside from the questions regarding the technology, there’s also a big question mark hanging over the cost of the whole operation. Is OnLive going to be affordable to the masses or more of a ‘core’ gaming luxury? Can you give us any indication of pricing?

We can’t say a lot about our pricing strategy quite yet, except to say that games will pay a basic monthly fee for access, and that the cost of the MicroConsole will be much less than competitive consoles. With respect to the games sold on the service, we expect them to be priced competitively.

Regardless, we’re confident that the economics of the OnLive system will be favorable for consumers. Essentially, we’ve removed the reliance on high-end hardware, so gamers will never need to upgrade their PC or buy another console. So OnLive is very cost-effective, particularly over time.