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HTC Invests $40 Million In OnLive

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the still-waiting-for-mass-effect-on-my-microwave dept.

Cellphones 48

Smartphone-maker HTC has invested a significant chunk of change into cloud gaming service OnLive, raising speculation that the service could be headed for mobile devices. "At the D8 conference in June 2010, one of the most impressive demonstrations was a PC game running on an Apple iPad tablet via the OnLive service. HTC has yet to announce a tablet, although a recent report by DigiTmes said that HTC will ship a tablet at about the time that the Motorola Xoom launches." The deal comes alongside HTC's acquisition of a company involved with mobile video-on-demand, pointing to a renewed interest in bringing more types of content to mobile customers

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Competition! (1)

hishamaus (1991142) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148818)

I hope this creates competition we could see better gaming experience as competition rise

Re:Competition! (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148952)

From the perspective of "competition", deals of this sort make me a touch nervous.

It could be largely benign: "Company that makes devices incapable of playing PC level games sees potential in service that would change that, doesn't want it to die, does want to profit if it succeeds".

However, the cellphone market is a bundling-riddled hellhole. Hardware exclusives are used to drive service subscriptions, certain carriers obtain "content exclusives", etc, etc. Seeing an "OnLive Go: Only from HTC" sticker in the near future would, let's say, entirely fail to surprise me.

That may well light a fire under some of the on-device game producers, and the device makers whose hardware capabilities they depend on(though those already seem to be moving about as fast as the, quite competitive, ARM SoC market can carry them); but a deal between a handset maker and a potential handset content publisher is unlikely to aid competition much(particularly if OnLive has any juicy patents over important parts of their comparatively low-latency streaming stuff...)

The situation it looks most similar to, to me, is when Microsoft or Sony eat an independent game developer in order to obtain an exclusive for their respective console. The amounts they are willing to pay to do so are certainly indicative of competition; but competition of a sort that is basically just a pain in the ass for buyers: many games are simply unavailable on one platform or the other, and those prices being paid then have to be ground out of the install base that they help generate...

Re:Competition! (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149604)

The problem at least here in the US is more and more carriers are going to metered billing to keep from actually having to reinvest their massive profits into their infrastructure and groups like Onlive are betting the farm on infrastructure that isn't there and likely won't be for the foreseeable future to most folks.

Just look at the stink with Comcast wanting paid for allowing Netflix, now imagine a service that blows through bandwidth so hard it makes Netflix look like passing GIFs on BBS. Does anybody seriously think this is gonna fly? How are they planning on getting the entire nation's ISPs to come together and use those massive profits for upgrades? OnLive just seems to be going "la la la I can't hear you" when it comes to that crucial fact, and unless they can afford to pay every single ISP to host an OnLive server locally the bandwidth will kill them. I just don't see this being sustainable for mobile or any other market short of someone with Google money rolling out their own fiber with it.

Re:Competition! (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149958)

OnLive might actually have at easier than Netflix...

For all the cable company whining about how that scary, scary, "top 1%" of evil downloaders are ruining it for everyone, and they just have to protect the precious consumers, they still have plenty of bandwidth for streaming a bazillion over-compressed "HD" channels and whatever video-on-demand gets purchased... Through their set top boxes...

Netflix's real mistake isn't being bandwidth intensive, though it is moderately so; but stepping on an existing, substantially profitable, incumbent bundled service.

Were OnLive to cut a deal with the cable companies, giving them their cut of the action, OnLive support would be baked into the firmware of every cable box going out the door, just as fast as the, er, fine folks, at Scientific Atlanta could get off their sorry asses and deliver it(they'd probably be particularly pleased to have a service that the nearly DOA and lamented only in crocodile tears Cablecard was never designed to address)...

Re:Competition! (1)

Ricken (797341) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148956)

Yes, but OnLive could surely use a lot of more servers (world wide). I tried some demos, with a 100/100mbit optical fibre connection over here in Sweden the latency was unbearable, not to be unexpected as they only have servers situated in the U.S. amirite?

Re:Competition! (0)

Mike Mentalist (544984) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149026)


How was school today? Did mummy pack you a nice lunch?

Re:Competition! (1)

HaZardman27 (1521119) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153046)

How unfortunate there's no -1 Unnecessary Doucheness mod...

Re:Competition! (1)

z3pp3h (1842070) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149456)

The entire experience was very "meh," in my opinion. The video quality was sub-par and there was noticeable input lag. That's fine for some games, but it might be the cause of some frustration if you're trying to play something like UT3. I also don't want to pay a subscription fee, and also pay the "rental" price for the game. It could be good for non-hardcore folks who don't care about building their own rig or who switch between games very frequently.

Re:Competition! (1)

Guspaz (556486) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152066)

That'd be the distance, yes. I tried OnLive in Montreal (my ISP bounces me through Toronto), for a total path (by car) of ~1300KM. The recommended range of OnLive to their datacenters is ~1600KM. So, I'm not optimal, but I'm well within range.

My experience was that latency was acceptable (I was surprised, really, how low it was) and that people at shorter ranges might even see latencies below a typical console game (console games tend to have massive input latency compared to PC games).

However, the video quality was exceptionally poor. This is not a bandwidth thing, since onlive does not appear to adapt to the available bandwidth; if your connection slows down too much, it drops frames, and then disconnects you if it continues (also, I was testing with a 50Mbps cable line). This was purely a matter of their bitrate being too low (or their h.264-like encoder not being efficient enough). Slower-paced games might be OK, but vehicular combat in Unreal Tournament 3 was unplayable; as soon as the vehicle was moving at speed, the screen devolved into a blurry mess. I couldn't aim at enemies properly because I couldn't see them.

I think there's potential for the service, though. Latency, while not bad, could be improved with more regional datacenters (Toronto would shave off most of the latency for me), and image quality can be improved by cranking up the bitrate (I don't think they can make codec changes since they're producing hardware).

Re:Competition! (2)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148994)

It's more like the starting of the race to define the "next-gen" of console gaming. All the content is going to be available as DLC only with some sort of subscription required to access/play. Question is will you even own the content or will it be rental only or some combination there of. But the idea of cloud gaming probably has a few bigwigs raising an eyebrow. One, all the games are hosted on the OnLive hardware. If it's only available via OnLive, that makes piracy MUCH harder. Secondly, you have subscriptions which provide an on going source of revenue that comes in month after month and in any business, cash flow is king.

Re:Competition! (1)

alen (225700) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149558)

yes, paying onlive to rent a game is so much better than buying it for the same price or less on my x-box or PS3. and my x-box/ps3 can be used for netflix, hulu, dvd, blu ray and other uses. onlive will just waste a HDMI port on my TV

Re:Competition! (2)

PingSpike (947548) | more than 3 years ago | (#35150364)

I have no idea why OnLive is billed as a competitor to "buying an expensive gaming PC". It is clearly a competitor to buying a cheap console. And looked at objectively, it fails at every point in that match up (ongoing cost, selection of titles, performance, image quality, ease of use, reliability, versatility of experience, etc) except perhaps a barely lower initial cost and novelty.

The gaming PC thing is a head scratcher. Let's forget that buying a Dell and plugging a $100 video card in it will get the job done better (and cheaper long term) I acknowledge some people don't want or can't deal with the hassle of PC Gaming. But the majority of the "big name" games that run poorly on that cheap laptop you have console ports that will run fine on a Xbox360 arcade. Most PC and Console titles aren't even available on the service. If you want to play those games with no hassle, no mods and aren't super concerned about top of the line graphics then the console will get you more for less. And you can even still play them when you run out of money for a monthly fee, they won't vanish into the ether.

Using OnLive on mobile devices is the most bizarre business case yet though. Ramming latency sensitive and high bandwidth use applications over an unreliable connection that is increasingly limited by ISPs to avoid having to buy local hardware that has never been cheaper historically was crazy enough on land based connections that could conceivably be upgraded (but probably won't) was crazy enough. Pushing it over cellphone wireless networks that have real finite physical limits in their ability to provide bandwidth to users sounds like the product of some one that thinks cell phones work through enchantment by wizards.

OnLive is the answer to the question nobody asked. At least, no reasonable consumer asked. I know who asked it!

Re:Competition! (1)

MogNuts (97512) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151508)

You're entirely correct. I can't believe no one has realized that it's a console competitor.

But I have to disagree with you on graphics and ease of use. You buy or rent it, it just plays. Yes consoles are ridiculously easy. But this is even easier. Buy it, it plays. No shipping, waiting, popping in a disc, or even two button pressed to do a game patch update. And it's playable on any PC you own, across multiple ones.

And the graphics. I recently got back into console gaming from the PC (I have a 360 and a PS3). The graphics are atrocious. I mean muddy, utter crap. Played BF:BC2 and MoH reboot. It seriously hurt my eyes. It looks like I'm playing a N64. RE4 for the Gamecube looks better than pretty much every title out for the consoles. Playing MoH, I kept wondering what was that white icy stuff on the ground everywhere. Played the PC--oh, I can actually see that it's mud!

I downloaded the Crysis 2 demo. Every "gaming mag" said the graphics were the best the 360 had to offer. Really? Call of Duty 4 at its *lowest* game settings looked better. Halo:Reach? Played it. I swear that Quake 2 looked better. Quake 2!

I can't imagine OnLive having any worse graphics than the consoles.

The money (3, Funny)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35148828)

I've no Idea if $40 Million is a lot of money for this project. I see so many huge numbers on the news about money that anything less than One... Hundred... BILLION DOLLARS! doesn't bother me.

Re:The money (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149022)

It's all relative. If you only have $5 and spend $4 of it, then you've made a huge investment. If you have a $1B and spend $40M, it's like taking the spare change from the sofa and buying a couple lottery tickets.

Re:The money (1)

Mouldy (1322581) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149066)

Is HTC's spare change a lot to OnLive? If OnLive were previously only sitting on $10m of funds, a boost of $40m gives them a huge incentive to make sure their service works well on HTC smart phones.


Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35149078)

Patch motherfucks !! Patch like it's your first motherfucking time motherfucks !!

How would this work? (2)

Melchett (1992998) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149112)

Is it really practical to play a PC or console game on a mobile or tablet? Talk about niche within a niche. Games designed specifically for a tablet will offer a far better experience, and it's as if the next-generation of tablets have a shortage of processing power. Maybe HTC fancies making its own OnLive box with some extra home-cooked features - Apple TV with games anyone?

Re:How would this work? (3, Interesting)

wintermute000 (928348) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149158)

You're missing the bigger picture.

Imagine a top of the line HTC tablet with a slide out joypad or included BT joypad, hardware optimised / accelerated stream decoding etc. that 'plug and play's anything from onlive. Sure you've still got game interface issues but as the portable gaming market grows more and more games will be designed with portables in mind, even AAA titles eventually. OK so 3G or 4G streaming online still sounds like scifi (that extra 100+ms latency.... oooooh) but could work very well with wifi. How about a Motorola atrix style dock next to your TV? Suddenly you have a tablet that doubles as an portable onlive machine that can dock into your HDTV for a full onlive experience, or you can take it round to your mates place.

Without knowing HTC's balance sheet and cashflow don't know if 40 million is a big number for them but this could be far from a niche within a niche.

Re:How would this work? (1)

Melchett (1992998) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149468)

Some interesting ideas. I could see a tablet as a docking Onlive system, but would people pay extra for the functionality or be happy to have something dedicated sitting under their TV? The actual OnLive box is hardly obtrusive, is it? Way too many ifs and maybes in this equation for me, but it's interesting nonetheless. I like HTC, so I hope it leads to something fruitful.

Re:How would this work? (1)

wintermute000 (928348) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154788)

Well if you could undock that tablet and play at your mates house for example (I'm assuming wifi .... 3g latency lol) it could be enough of a value add to justify buying instead of separate tablet and onlive box.

Anyhow as a proud Nexus One owner I can only say GO HTC

Re:How would this work? (1)

Y2KDragon (525979) | more than 3 years ago | (#35150930)

HTC is also frequently rated very high for the quality and performance of their existing devices. HTC isn't just sitting back and running with what they already do. They are boldly going forward, bluring even further the line between devies and functionality. And besides, they could just know a good product when they see it.

Re:How would this work? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35151302)

The bigger picture is that OnLive is riding the cloud bubble.

In 10 years, nobody will remember the name. It's a CloudTek(tm) circlejerk that'll go by wayside when the marketing wears off and people become get bored of the ripoff their $10 hdmi box gives them access to.

Re:How would this work? (1)

wintermute000 (928348) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154770)

You know it actually works right? not great if your connection is not up to speed but if you're within spec it does actually do what it says on the tin.

Re:How would this work? (1)

r0n0c (1795646) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152118)

Maybe HTC fancies making its own OnLive box with some extra home-cooked features - Apple TV with games anyone?

OnLive already sells this $99 box. [] I bought one during their CES promotion for $66. Worth it. I don't own a gaming console above my ps2, and my "gaming" pc is pretty old. (more than 4 years) This purchase has allowed me to play high res new games on my 50" plasma. I like it. However their service really needs a broader spectrum of games.

Never mind texting (2)

jenningsthecat (1525947) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149148)

Now we're gonna have to worry about drivers playing games...

Re:Never mind texting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35149402)

Drivers playing driving games!

Re:Never mind texting (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149428)

Link the game back to the car for feed back and you'll solve the problem.

Re:Never mind texting (1)

mrax (1825176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35150152)

The InCARnation: It's like - a car within a game within a car... You can't understand it because it's so cool and complicated...

Re:Never mind texting (1)

z3pp3h (1842070) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149600)

The Only Way to Play(tm)

Re:Never mind texting (0)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149872)

Yo dawg, I heard you like cars so we put a car in your car so you can drive while you drive.

Warning: Unfunny Linux troll ahead.... (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 3 years ago | (#35149892)

Now we're gonna have to worry about drivers playing games...

It's better than having to worry about drivers before playing games !

(....and runs back to hide behind his stuffed Tux before anybody throws rotten tomatoes)

Re:Warning: Unfunny Linux troll ahead.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35150268)

you're hilarious

No thanks (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35149762)

About time this OnLive shit dies.

We know it's technically flawed, because you simply can't beat the speed of light and the feeling of latent control. We know it's only getting members from cheap initial pricing (oh look, now you've got to pay more for the games you want!) and from throwing millions of dollars in the direction of advertising and backroom deals.

If I'm not buying the hardware, I'm not playing ball. Fuck the cloud, dammit.

Re:No thanks (1)

Snaller (147050) | more than 3 years ago | (#35155820)

You are just getting old

Android wins over iOS (1)

DrYak (748999) | more than 3 years ago | (#35150058)

It's one example of something that's possible with android and much more difficult with iOS.

As android is open source, any interested manufacturer can jump in an decide to develop this kind of support.

Whereas, Saint Jobs tends to like his platform kept tightly controlled, and usually isn't very happy about anything that could bring uncontrolled content to it. (The ban on Applications able to interpret arbitrary code, run interactive flash games, etc.) They can demo it on an iPad, but they can't go live, unless Apple has a complex censoring system (DRM used so that Saint-Jobs can personally greenlight each individual game).

Re:Android wins over iOS (1)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151388)

As android is open source, any interested manufacturer can jump in an decide to develop this kind of support.

And they'll have to reimplement it every time Google moves the OS in a new direction. Not that this matters, seeing as how OnLive is all about streaming video and not actually executing anything.

Maybe now (1)

ZirconCode (1477363) | more than 3 years ago | (#35150294)

I can run emacs with syntax highlight *ducks*

getting better (1)

opticstoreonline (1958446) | more than 3 years ago | (#35150762)

phones are getting better and better really confused on what to buy...

Latency (2)

Krneki (1192201) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151420)

Last time I checked mobile Internet sucks donkey balls when it come to latency. And reading the current news I don't see this changing anytime soon.

The Perfect DRM (2)

Microlith (54737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35151766)

It disheartens me to see people so excited over what OnLive promises, since in the end it's only "benefit" over properly designed games is to the publishers, via perfect and unbreakable DRM. You get "higher detail, higher resolution" games crammed down through heavy compression over a high latency network on to a tiny screen, so no real gain there. You get nasty control schemes forced upon you by lack of any real tactile controls.

Never mind that OnLive's payment schemes keep shifting. I expect it will likely end up in the state of "pay retail (or near retail) for a game that requires a subscription to keep going." Which is where they initially chartered it.


Re:The Perfect DRM (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154232)

It disheartens me to see people so excited over what OnLive promises, since in the end it's only "benefit" over properly designed games is to the publishers, via perfect and unbreakable DRM.

Vizio will be adding an OnLive "app" to its Internet enabled HDTV suite.

It is easy to imagine the OnLive client becoming as deeply embedded into the "home theater" market as Netflix and Pandora.

But DRM isn't the only thing here that will ruffle the geek's feathers.

The "app" bypasses the "standards based" browser as a platform - and it is the raw performance of the video codec and other essential technologies which matter - and not their freedom or openess.

Crysis on a cell phone? (1)

killdashnine (651759) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152652)

I guess HTC is convinced enough to blow $40M on this, but this obsession with "streaming games from the cloud" really doesn't seem to have made much traction. I have to think that it makes even less sense on a cell phone because of how much bandwidth would be used.

Re:Crysis on a cell phone? (1)

gmb61 (815164) | more than 3 years ago | (#35154170)

It's just streaming video, so it's going to use the same amount of bandwidth, as say, Netflix does.

Don't be stupid... (1)

WaffleMonster (969671) | more than 3 years ago | (#35152772)

Could there be a more rediculously ineffecient way to waste bandwidth while at the same time locking customers into a subscription model and expensive data plans? With all the latency in a mobile environment the experience is sure to suck ass. It seems the winner here is NOT the customer.


Mobile devices are getting incresingly sophisticated GPUs as a standard feature.. It costs nothing to use what you already have.

Who said anything about phones? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35153802)

I would speculate that they are going to release a Google TV box with onlive. That would make far more sense...


PC Games on mobile devices? (1)

iampiti (1059688) | more than 3 years ago | (#35153830)

...I don't think it'd be practical. How are you going to emulate keyboard and mouse input? I don't think even emulating a gamepad on a touchscreen works well. Anyway, let them try...if they can make it work good for them
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