It looks as though OnLive's days are numbered, as the company has announced that Sony Computer Entertainment has agreed to purchase "various" OnLive assets that include the company's U.S. and international patent portfolio for cloud gaming services. The financial information and the terms of the transaction were not provided.
A press release distributed late Thursday evening said that customers will have access to OnLive's services until April 30, 2015. This will include Second Life (aka SL Go), OnLive Desktop and the OnLive Game Service. Subscriptions will not be renewed, and those that renewed on or after March 28 will get a refund.
Moreover, customers who purchased Steam games from OnLive will obviously still have those games in their library after OnLive closes its doors. Customers who purchased a PlayPass, which was essentially buying a game that's stored in the cloud, will not see a refund. These games will no longer be available after April 30, 2015.
"Following the termination of the company's services and related products, OnLive will engage in an orderly wind-down of the company and cease operations," the press release stated.
So what happened? For gamers who don't have the resources to build a gaming machine, OnLive seemed like the ideal answer to playing PC games in high definition. These games could be streamed to tablets and smartphones. A representative told Tom's Hardware that this kind of business needs the scale that only a large company like Sony can bring.
"After five years of uninterrupted service, the OnLive Game Service will be coming to an end," the OnLive site said Thursday evening. "Sony is acquiring important parts of OnLive, and their plans don't include a continuation of the game service in its current form."
"As the first-ever game streaming service of its kind, everyone who has ever played a game using OnLive has contributed to the technology and its evolution in some way," the site added. "We're immensely proud of what's been achieved and extend our heartfelt gratitude to you for being a part of the OnLive Game Service."
In addition to the PayPass model, OnLive offered an all-you-can-eat buffet of games, aka the PlayPack service, for a monthly fee. The company also introduced a new model in mid-2014 called CloudLift that allowed Steam customers to stream those games to the OnLive client: no game installs were necessary. At one point, the company also sold a microconsole and compatible game controllers.
The OnLive game service launched in June 2010 and originally cost $14.95 per month. OnLive appeared during the rebirth of PC gaming, offering a cloud solution that doesn't require hefty system requirements. Farmville, Angry Birds and other "cloud" games were at their peak in terms of popularity, and during that time, OnLive demonstrated that like those games, popular PC titles could be played anywhere and virtually on any gadget.
However, by August 2012, Steve Perlman had stepped down as CEO while the company laid off its employees and sold all of its assets for a mere $4.8 million (at one time the company was worth around $1.8 billion). A new company, also called OnLive, rose from those ashes and seemingly continued where the old version left off.
Unfortunately, given the financial troubles the company had endured over the years, the sale isn't all that surprising. However, a sale to Sony is a real eye-opener, as Sony is a company that already purchased OnLive's arch nemesis, Gaikai, back in 2012. What will Sony do with OnLive's portfolio? Merge it into PlayStation Now?
A representative clarified that Sony has agreed to acquire OnLive's 140 patents and 132 pending patents. As for what will happen to all of the equipment, operations will be winding down over the next 60 days, and the hardware will be sold. Many of the former OnLive employees may find themselves working for Sony after the patent transaction is complete.
As a former OnLive customer, news of the closure is somewhat saddening. However, this technology may be what Sony needed to stream PlayStation Now to PCs, smartphones and tablets without getting into patent-tainted trouble.