EA Sceptical About OnLive Latency

In addition to chatting about BioWare's upcoming MMOG Star Wars: The Old Republic, EA CFO Eric Brown took a shot at cloud-based gaming service OnLive during his presentation at the UBS Annual Media and Communications Conference in New York. Unfortunately, he didn't get his facts in order before pointing fingers.

"As I understand it, OnLive costs you $10 to $15 a month, then you have to buy content on top of that," he said. "So if it's $15 a month, you're down $180 at the end of the year. That's about the price of a discounted high definition console. And the library out there for the HD consoles is extensive."

That of course is incorrect. As previously reported, accounts are free, however members can choose from three models for each game: a 3-day pass, a 5-day pass, or basically purchasing the game in the form of a "Full PlayPass." OnLive is also working on an all-you-can-play subscription service for $9.95 per month, however it's currently in beta for stand-alone OnLive console owners.

Despite the pricing error, Brown brought up an important factor that could make or break OnLive's service: latency. He pointed out that online delivery of games is different to online delivery of movies via Netflix. "You can buffer up linear media," he said. "If you have a slow connection you can download for two or three minutes in advance and buffer any slow-down of the connection so you have a smooth viewing and entertainment experience."

"When it comes to videogames, particularly first person shooter games, anything less than a response time of 30 or 40 milliseconds is unacceptable and by definition anything going through a streaming platform is going to go through a series of switches etc," he added. He then questioned if the latency can be overcome in the long term, noting that the current response time might be sufficient for certain genres that are more turn-based or slow-paced.

Previously Digital Foundry discovered that OnLive was actually hovering right at the boundary of what's considered as acceptable lag during intense gameplay and often exceeded it, however that report was presented back in July.

  • DokkRokken
    I'm not sure EA is the company who should be calling out others over something like gameplay.
  • gladiator_mohaa
    EA is not perfect, but they did release free map packs for Bad Company 2 all year. Bad Company 2 is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination either but that has to be better than anything Activision would do for their customers I think.
  • jerreece
    I won't be playing Bad Company 2 via OnLive anytime soon, this I promise you.
  • rohitbaran
    Well, I think Onlive can coexist with consoles. It is for those people who want to play for sometime, then get busy with their work, then come back again. To some extent, it is like renting a game, only better if you consider that you get a whole lot more. But yes, latency is one hell of a problem, at least for fast paced games.
  • megahustler
    Exactly my concern. OnLive faces both a bandwidth and a latency problem. Solving a bandwidth problem is often easy - throw a bigger tube at the problem.

    Solving a latency problem is often much more tricky. Throwing a bigger tube at a latency problem will sometimes increase latency, rather than decrease it.

    Online games, such as Counterstrike and the like, will often use different tricks to hide or at least reduce the players perception of latency. With online delivery of the actual screen image, these methods are impossible.

    I think OnLive will have serious issues with FPS games, but will probably work ok for more casual games.
  • juncture
    "anything less than a response time of 30 or 40 milliseconds is unacceptable"

    you mean anything more than?
  • soundping
    Online gamers with metered internet will be 100% screwed.
  • Mark Heath
    Here in Aus, often there are no/few local servers and a good ping is less than 200 :(.
  • proxy711
    Last time i played Onlive (Im a founding PC owner) there was very noticeable lag. while some single player games would be just fine, others like fps and multiplayer wouldn't be "playable" IMO.
  • dEAne
    One day gamers will understand this and stop playing it.