Sony is buying up some "important parts" of OnLive, the first major video game streaming platform, and casting the rest aside. The game streaming service, and its related Desktop and SL Go applications, will shut down on April 30, OnLive announced this week.
As the first paid 'cloud gaming' service of its kind, OnLive's most valuable assets - to Sony, anyway - are likely its many patents. The streaming service itself, which has operated without interruption for five years despite narrowly avoiding bankruptcy and changing owners halfway through, isn't part of the deal.
Sony may use OnLive's assets to improve its PlayStation Now rental and subscription service, which lets players stream a library of PlayStation 3 games to their PS3s, PS4s, PS TVs, and a growing selection of Sony-approved televisions and multimedia devices. Some of OnLive's technology may also prove useful for the Remote Play and SharePlay features on PS4, which respectively let users stream their games on remote devices or play with distant friends as if they were on the same console.
Aside from partnering with Steam in 2014, OnLive's gaming service has kept fairly quiet since it nearly went belly-up in 2012. But it's still a shame that all of its micro consoles and dedicated controllers will be made useless after April 30, especially since you're not eligible for a refund if you bought them before February 1, 2015. That's the biggest danger of investing in a streaming platform - once the service is gone, so is all the stuff you bought for it, no matter how long you let the hardware linger in your closet.
Speaking of investing in game streaming platforms, Sony buying out OnLive further asserts PlayStation Now as the preeminent service of its kind. PS Now's selection is still relatively limited, and it only recently began beta testing outside of North America, but Sony seems very serious about expanding it in the future.
Meanwhile, Microsoft hasn't expressed much public interest in the sort of game streaming model that OnLive and PlayStation Now use. Xbox One was theoretically built so that it could offload certain games' hardware-intensive calculations to remote servers, but we haven't seen much of that in practice. And Nintendo's happy to just sell downloadable versions of its old games via the eShop Virtual Console, which recently added Nintendo 64 and DS support on Wii U.