Now that OnLive has finally revealed some pricing details, the cloud gaming service is looking more than ever like a dubious proposition.
OnLive will cost $15 per month when it launches on June 17, but that price won’t let you play any full games. You’ll still have to rent or purchase games to stream to your computer in addition to the monthly charge, at prices that are still undisclosed. Even if it costs less to rent or play a game — and it probably will, given that OnLive promises lower distribution costs compared to retail — OnLive will have a tough time competing with actual hardware for all but the most dedicated gamers.
Let’s say you spend $300 on a new console every five years. That’s $5 per month, already less than a subscription to OnLive. Now, let’s say you buy one new game every two months, at $60 each (a very generous estimate given that average game ownership per console hovered around six games after 24 months in this generation ), you’re basically spending $35 every month. That means publishers have to charge $40 or less for a game through OnLive (which makes $70 every two months when you add in the subscription) to make the proposition worthwhile.
Even if publishers are willing to go that low, the consumer is making concessions. Yes, you get instant gratification and the ability to play anywhere, but you lose the ability to buy, trade or sell used games, and there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to play what you bought 10 years from now. If OnLive goes belly up, so does your entire game library. And I wonder, if you decide to stop playing games for a year or two (say, you’re raising a baby), can you recover your library when you’re ready to start playing again?
The prospect of game rentals raises more questions. How much will an OnLive rental cost and how long will it last? In other words, how long do you have to rent a game before it becomes more feasible to “buy” it? Will the amount you spent on the rental be credited towards the purchase price?
I’m still willing to give OnLive the benefit of the doubt that its technology will work (despite one rogue report), and that cloud gaming itself isn’t a bad idea. But on pricing alone it’s too early to call OnLive a console killer.
Article updated to fix calculations.