SL Go: of pricing and models and some thoughts from OnLive

SL go logoImportant note: The SL Go service is to be shut down on April 30th, 2015. For more information, please read this report.

Update: On April 3rd, 2014, OnLive announced a revised pricing structure for SL Go.

While only launched on Wednesday March 5th, OnLive’s new SL Go offering for accessing Second Life from Android devices, low-end computers and TVs (additional hardware required) has already received a lot of kick-back due to its initial pricing model.

As it stands, OnLive, in something of a departure from their normal pricing models, are initially presenting the service on a pay-as-you-go offering starting at $3.00 for an hour in SL (with an initial 20-minute free trial period for new sign-ups), through $8.00 for up to three hours access, to $25.00 for up to ten hours. This is being seen as prohibitively expensive for using Second Life.

But is that really the case? Ultimately, the answer to this is both yes and no.

SL Go by OnLive: streaming Second Life to your tablet - but the pricing model is upsetting to many
SL Go by OnLive: streaming Second Life to your tablet – but the pricing model is upsetting to many

On the one hand, SL Go is being presented as an adjunct – not a replacement – to people’s “normal” means of accessing Second Life; something to be used to get in-world when access via home computer and local viewer isn’t an option. This was very much underlined by Nate Barsetti,  the Senior Manager of Customer Relations at OnLive, and Don Laabs, Linden Lab’s Senior Director of Product with overall responsibility for Second Life, emphasised when both appeared on a Designing Worlds special presentation shown a few hours after the launch of the service.

In such instances, a pay-as-you-go option is actually valid, as it potentially offers a better means of managing costs than something like a subscription payment system, such as OnLive’s new $14.99-a-month CloudLift subscription service, which was also launched on March 5th alongside their new OnLive Go service (of which SL Go is actually a part)..

For example, someone who find they need to access SL for, say, 4 hours a month when they are away from their home PC and viewer would have to pay a maximum of $31.00 a quarter in order to do so. But if SL Go were pitched at the same price as CloudLift, then their cost for the same 3-month period would be $44.97.

Of course, how far the pay-as-you-go payment plan remains attractive is on something of a sliding scale, and a tipping-point can easily be reached. There’s also the fact that were SL to be “rolled into” something like CloudLift, then it becomes more attractive on a subscription service as users gain access to it and other titles provided by CloudLift should they wish to make use of them. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there are genuine use-cases where pay-as-you go is potentially far more cost-effective, and therefore attractive, than a flat subscription rate.

On the other hand, however, SL Go has been presented as a means of accessing the full richness of SL on computers otherwise incapable of doing so. This suggests that SL Go could be used as a more general means of using SL than those on such low-end machines can currently enjoy – and as such, it is where the pay-as-you-go option falls flat on its face, and an alternative means of paying for the service to be used in this way is required, such as a subscription model. And OnLive aren’t actually blind to this fact.

Nate Barsetti, Senior Manager of Customer Relations at OnLive, in his Second Life guise (Nate is also an active SL resident of seven years’ standing)

One thing to remember in any discussion of payment models is that SL Go is only currently a beta offering at present, and as such, it is very much a case of testing the water: things may yet change.

This is something Nate Barsetti, commented on during a Q-and-A session also hosted by the Designing Worlds team shortly after the SL Go beta had been launched:

This is the only product line that we’re doing the pay-by-minute. We’ve been running the games service for about four years, and that’s not including our closed beta, the variety of closed betas, that we ran … We had a tremendous amount of data on usage, on propensity for people to play on a particular account, a lot of guiding  metrics on the commercial side of things. And it was that data on which we were able to build a subscription model for our other product lines that allowed us to stay in the black with our network overhead and the cost of doing business in general.

This is the first foray into Second Life, and there’s definitely so uncertainty about the adoption and the community reaction to this kind of technology. So we are officially in an open beta, and we’ll be taking what we’ve learned from this beta, and looking at whether we should be making any adjustments to how it is presented to users … So it’s a learning experience right now, it’s hard to say, “use it, pay us money and we’ll charge you less!”I certainly can’t promise that. But we have tremendous business intelligence and analytics here, and we’ll certainly be looking at it as a possibility down the road.

These sentiments are echoed by Dennis Harper, the Senior Product Manager for OnLive, while chatting on the most recent Drax Files Radio Hour, where he says:

In terms of the pricing, that was a business decision that we made, and the reason we made it was because we didn’t really know what the usage patterns were going to be for people. Once we understand how people use the system, we may be able to provide a subscription package that says, “for a monthly fee you get this thing, and you get to use it all you want.” Because as we know how these usage patterns work,then we know what we can do.

However, Dennis also adds a note of reality to matters:

But we need to analyse this first, and the fact is, our services are not cheap. OnLive has extremely powerful, state-of-the-art computers in the cloud with massive GPUs and rendering systems and with gigabit data connectivity … and so  it’s a pretty expensive overhead to maintain our service, so we can’t really give it away. What we like to say to people is, “You don’t have to use SL Go. You can use Lumiya if you want to .. but you’re not going to get the same kind of immersive experience that you’re going to get in the SL Go app.

My own view is that the best course of action OnLive could take is to offer both pay-as-you-go and a subscription service. In this way, they capture the best of both worlds, offering those who may have the occasional need to access SL while away from their home computer (and have no interest in any additional opportunity of playing any games they may otherwise be able to access as part of a subscription-based payment) and those who would love to enjoy the full spectacle of SL when their hardware would otherwise prevent them from doing so.

Whether any adjustments to the pricing model will be made obviously remains to be seen. The service itself is barely 48 hours old as a public beta, and OnLive and as indicated in the quotes given above, OnLive – and the Lab – need time to gauge the general response directly as people sign-up to the service at OnLive and, more importantly, use the service beyond the 20-minute free-trial period.

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*Note the UK prices are ex. VAT

17 thoughts on “SL Go: of pricing and models and some thoughts from OnLive

  1. I agree, several pay options are probably the best way forward.
    For instance per hour or one monthly payment.
    Ideally a combination would be also possible; pay 10$ a month for 10 hours of SL, if you use more, you pay 2.50 per hour.
    The perfect solution would be to offer 5 (or so) hours a month to all premium users for free, with a 2.50$ per hour if they go over that.
    It would make being a premium member a lot more interesting, especially if you can carry over unused hours to the next month.
    This way people who rarely use it can save up their hours and then spend a lot of time in SL during their holiday for instance.


    1. I like the idea of a premium account offering. However, there are issues. The payment plan as offered, is payment to OnLive, not Linden Lab. Therefore, an inclusion of SL Go access with the premioum account plan would require a lot of additional processing and support to be put in place between the two companies than is likely the case at present. This would involve additional overheads, etc., on the part of both companies which might not be seen as particularly beneficial to either company when compared to OnLive just introducing a subscription option service alongside the existing PAYG model, together with a degree of freedom for people to move between the two.


      1. Yes absolutely, it will add a lot of extra bookkeeping for both OnLive and LL, but I think it would be worth it for both parties.
        Being a premium SL user has very little benefits but clearly gives LL a lot of revenue and steady income and suddenly being accessible to thousands of premium SL users will mean a lot of new OnLive users who may also be interested in playing other games and who may regularly use more than the hours LL is giving them for free.


  2. To put SL on mainstream, is not leap motion nor oculus rift, but SL Go can be!
    Please just remember, nobody likes to play with a sword over their heads and the pay per hour use is just that, offer a monthly subscription without time limit and for sure it will be the way to go!


  3. When I first tried out Lumiya, it wasn’t clear how to log off! I came back to my almost rundown tablet and discovered I was still inworld. So long before my 20-minute free trial runs out, I’ll be sure to know how to turn off the lights in SL Go before I put my tablet down. Otherwise, I am looking forward to using it and judging for myself what such a service is worth. I think we all have to step back and remember what a great gift it is to have SL on our computers for such minimal costs, if we even own a premium account. Maybe having such tasty frosting on our cake is worth it.


    1. SL go is easy when it comes to logging out – tap on Me > Quit Second Life and you’re logged-out :). Good on you for judging for yourself! That’s the best way.


  4. So as my previous post was redundant ill ask one that it means a lot to many (yes they exist!) sl users, the oens that like to travel using other meanings then teleport!
    Does any tried it on mainland or any group or sims that allow the use of a vehicle (be a boat, a bike or whatever?).


    1. If you read my report, you’ll see a screen cap of me boating around the Calas Galadhon park.


  5. There’s no way in hell that I will pay for SL by the hour.
    This again, shows how little SL knows about what is needed to run their software.
    What I mean is, that why are there 15 viewers out there, plus this new one “SLGO”,
    that all run SL, better than SL can run their own software ?


    1. I think you’ve already made that point in my last post on SL Go.

      You don’t have to pay for SL by the hour (or at all) if you don’t want to. There’s no requirement for you to use SL Go, but for those who would like the access SL on occasion and with all the full graphical richness a viewer can offer, this is a potential option.


    1. I was fortunate enough to have a temporary preview account, so have had no need to register myself, although I believe others have managed OK. Have you tried using an alternative browser or contacting OnLive support (link at the bottom of the SL Go website)?


  6. I haven’t tried it out because the 20 minute trial is too short. SL on a tablet is a radical shift to the user interface, and it will take more than 20 minutes to figure out whether it works well enough to be worth paying for.


    1. The UI isn’t too difficult to grasp – took me less than 5 minutes, and I’m hardly a games player. If you’re used to tablet gestures for pinch-zoom, scrolling the display, etc., then that’s part of the interface grasped. The overlay controls are also relatively simple to grasp as well. The rest is actually the V3 UI. Admittedly, getting comfortable with using the overlay – that is, using it more intuitively – takes longer, but I was certainly walking, running, boating, camming and zooming with SL Go well within the 20 minutes offered in the free trail. I’ve an actual overview of the UI here.


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