OnLive has always been somewhat ahead of its time. When it launched back in 2009 we were incredibly excited about it, but the service was hampered by restrictive bandwidth, piss-poor internet infrastructure, and unhelpful ISPs. There were a whole bunch of features that we really liked, married to a UI that was pretty cool, but the whole thing was dependent upon systems beyond the company's control, competing with services that had been around for years.
That's all changed now.
The key difference with the release of OnLive 2.0 is the shift from being a competitive service to a complimentary one. To be honest, that's been the case with cloud gaming and its perception in general -- we're not in a place where streaming can supplant offline media in this industry, but that doesn't mean they can't overlap.
The biggest addition to the service is a new initiative called CloudLift. The idea is that you buy a game on a digital marketplace and it also unlocks on OnLive, meaning that you buy that game once and then take it with you wherever you go. Better yet, this includes Steam games. Sync your Steam account with your OnLive account and you'll get Steam codes for the games you buy on OnLive, and you'll be able to start your game at home on your PC, then fire it up on your tablet or phone with the OnLive app, and carry on from where you left off via cloud saving.
Essentially CloudLift gives you access to streaming versions of games you already downloaded, and OnLive is the only service that offers cloud play as part of a game purchase.
"We've listened to our players. They want the convenience of instant access to their games wherever they are, but they also want to own the game and be able to play it locally on their home PC," said executive chairman Mark Jung. "With this new offering, we’re continuing to expand on the compatibility, freedom and instant access our users enjoy, with the added flexibility of owning a local copy of their games."
It won't work with every game -- you'll be able to see participating titles in the CloudLift section via the OnLive interface -- but for £9.99/$14.99 a month, you'll be able to take a large chunk of your digital library with you without the need for a hefty PC or length download/install processes. That chunk will only grow larger as more publishers get involved, but with no need to re-engineer titles for hardware platforms, and a great opportunity to get games out to an even wider audience, it seems like a no-brainer.
The PlayPack is still there, of course, and it's important to note that CloudLift doesn't incorporate the PlayPack subscription. But for £6.99/$9.99 a month you'll still get unlimited access to over 250 games.
OnLive has returned in a big way, then, and the stability of the service has grown much over the past few years. OnLive 2.0 is in open beta and you can try out the new services for free. We'll certainly be back with some impressions in the very near future, but what do you make of this? Would you be interested in paying a subscription to take your Steam games on the road with you? Let us know below.