What is OnLive's New "CloudLift" Service?

What is OnLive's New "CloudLift" Service?

The "cloud gaming" service has had a bit of a rethink.

Those of you who gave the ambitious cloud gaming service OnLive a go will have probably received an email inviting you back this week -- though the service has undergone a few changes since it launched.

Chief among the service's new offerings is "CloudLift," a currently-in-beta feature that claims to give you access to the games you already own wherever you are. Purchasing a subscription to the service -- which will set you back $14.99 a month -- will enable you to stream Steam games that you have previously purchased, effectively allowing you to play your favorite games on hardware that might not normally be powerful enough to provide a good experience. Assuming you have the bandwidth for 720p, 60fps video, of course.

CloudLift syncs fully with Steam, so that means when playing via OnLive you can earn achievements and make use of Steam Cloud for games that support it. Multiplayer gaming is supported, and you can access all downloadable content for the games the service can currently handle. You can also make use of it to play a game via OnLive while the native version is downloading and installing on your main gaming PC -- OnLive's servers are based on mid-to-high spec machines, so you should be able to have a good experience, again, assuming you have enough bandwidth to stream the video at its highest quality.

So far, OnLive has done deals with Warner Bros. and Deep Silver to bring titles such as Saints Row IV, The Lego Movie Videogame and Batman: Arkham Origins to the service. OnLive is also selling download codes for games -- purchasing one of these will give you a seven-day free trial of CloudLift as well as providing access to the game on Steam.

This shift in focus means that OnLive's original form, whereby you could "buy" access to games and then stream them via the service either on a computer or on the dedicated OnLive microconsole, no longer exists. The service does, however, still offer the cheaper, $9.99 "Playpack" subscription, which gives you access to over 250 games (but only via OnLive, not via Steam), and anyone who previously purchased access to individual titles through the service will still be able to access them. The ability to try any game in the OnLive library free for 30 minutes still remains, too, as does the ability to record "Brag Clips" and spectate other players' games in real time -- features that OnLive pioneered well before PS4 and Xbox One popularized them.

"We're a companion app," general manager Bruce Grove told our sister site Eurogamer. "We're a complement. We don't care where you've bought the game from. Not everyone is going to want this. That's okay. It's about looking to people who want mobility."

Given Steam's continued dominance over the digital marketplace, this would seem like a sensible direction for OnLive to move in. Streaming games is still a relatively unproven technology, however; OnLive's aims to bring 720p/60fps streaming to its customers are ambitious and certainly laudable, but the big question is whether or not online infrastructure is ready for such heavy use, particularly when it's as dependent on low-latency as gaming is.

You can find out more about OnLive's new offerings here.

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