The Cloud Gaming service Onlive looked an extremely promising platform for Indie Games to thrive on, is it living up to expectation?
This fall of 2011, cloud-based gaming service Onlive added five highly-rated independent games to their offerings. ‘Limbo’, ‘Orcs Must Die’, ‘Bastion’, SpaceChem and ‘Magicka’ add to the other popular titles that the service holds, that include Braid, Trine, World of Goo and The Maw.
OnLive most definitely has the capability to be a huge figure in the indie gaming market, and their own John Spinale led gamers into believing that the company would be providing a new direction in how indie games were delivered to customers:
“We have long been a supporter of independent publishers. Simply put, they’re making some really great, innovative games these days.”
What started out as a promising new distribution platform for the smaller companies in September 2010, when OnLive sponsored several indie gaming events (Independent Games Festival and Game Developers Conference) and also held a 75% discount sale of its indie games in the hope of luring potential customers from Steam and others, has since proved to be rather stagnant – only recently delivering any sort of proof to this early show of intent.
“They’ve sponsored two or three indie bundles” said one OnLive fan, “But the sponsorship has never actually [culminated] in more indie games on the service. As a matter of fact, the community at OnLiveFans.com has been more directly responsible for more indie games showing up on Onlive.”
As of now, Steam must surely be considered a far better provider of independent games, offering a far greater and more up-to-date selection, and fabulous deals of the week (for example $2.50 for Magicka) to customers.
OnLive, or rather cloud gaming as a medium, has an incredible amount of potential to reach more PC and Mac gamers, so it is at times easy to be frustrated with the turtle pace at which the service is moving to bring games on board. OnLive makes it exceptionally easy for independent developers of all shapes and sizes to get their games in front of dedicated gamers on an exciting and emergent platform that does, indeed, offer some unique features: The instantaneous nature of it, for starters, that allows a certain platform independence as well as the ability to ‘drop in’ on others users’ playtime. Add to which, the ability for OnLive to “rent” games for short periods, even just a day, means that you can pay-as-you-go and effectively turn almost any game into a try-before-you-buy scenario, perhaps helping to curb piracy along the way.
The recent addition of popular indie games to OnLive’s library is a positive step in the right direction, but it is only the first signal of what fans hope will be a long road towards the company showing a lot more love to indie gamers and developers alike. Titles like Limbo and Bastion being enrolled was good news to both OnLive users and indie game fans, however both games have been on Xbox Live, Steam, Windows and in Limbo’s case Mac OSX since July/August of this year. OnLive’s asset is the speed at which it allows users to access games, so why not be a pioneer in the introduction of new titles from lesser known developers, rather than consistently lag behind Steam and its competitors?
Only very recently has the intent to innovate in this way been evident, with Spiderweb Studios’ Avadon: The Black Fortress being sought out by Onlive to add to its service. Jeff Vogel, Spiderweb’s President said of working with OnLive:
“It was really painless. I handed them a build. They made it work. Real life ought to work that way.”
Vogel also made it clear that Spiderweb would like to add other titles to the service in the future. It has been interactions such as these with independent developers that have been painfully absent from OnLive’s existence thus far.
Recently OnLive has experienced a huge hike in its membership, particularly due to their recent successful UK launch. After the relatively disappointing first year in terms of a selection of indie titles, gamers can be somewhat more positive during the next twelve months that we will start to see the green shoots of exciting developments springing from what has the potential to be a revolutionary service for how we absorb the latest offerings from independent developers. In the meantime, the question remains – what’s the hold up?