Why SL Go won’t continue, and OnLive opted to sell

Farewell SL Go; one of OnLive's most successful services, but nevertheless one unlikely to be saved
Farewell SL Go; one of OnLive’s most successful services, but nevertheless one unlikely to be saved

Since the announcement that OnLive’s gaming services are to shut down at the end of April, there has been understandable upset from within the SL community (and from some OpenSim users as well, given Firestorm on SL Go can be used to access OpenSim grids).

Following the news, there were a plethora of requests made to Sony on social media that they continue to provision SL Go as a service and an on-line petition was started in the hope of achieving the same end. Unfortunately, these requests and the petition overlook one thing.

As OnLive made clear in their statements on the future of their gaming services, and as I attempted to point to in my original article on this news, Sony didn’t actually acquire OnLive’s services. They took the opportunity to purchase the IP and 140 patents the company held relating to cloud gaming and other “assets” (which would most likely appear to be the additional 135 patents related to cloud gaming  OnLive had pending), without actually buying OnLive’s services. So technically, there’s nothing for them to “continue” to offer SL Go users.

What’s more, as Dennis Harper, the SL Go Product Manager at OnLive, made clear in these pages, taking the IP and patents is akin to taking the heart and lungs of OnLive’s services; without them, a service like SL Go cannot easily be continued by someone else. At least, not without money changing hands and someone having the infrastructure by which they can deliver the service.

So, are Sony the Big Evil for doing this? did they gobble OnLive’s patents to stifle competition? Is this, as was dramatically stated in some quarters as the news broke, some kind of first shot in a forthcoming “VR battle” between corporations? Well …. No.

From the start, OnLive was well ahead of the curve, and even though we're reaching a point were the viability of cloud-based gaming can be demonstrated, it seems few are yet willing to take a gamble on taking-on the kind of services OnLive have offered
From the start, OnLive was well ahead of the curve, and even though we’re reaching a point were the viability of cloud-based gaming can be demonstrated, it seems few are yet willing to take a gamble on taking-on the kind of services OnLive have offered (image courtesy of OnLive)

The truth is that OnLive put itself on the market.

That this is the case can be found in another post on the company’s blog entitled, A Bright Future for Cloud Gaming At Sony. As well as containing useful historical information, the post underlines the specific issues the company’s management had been forced to face:

Since 2012, the company has dramatically improved its technology and business models such that all of its 5 services are gross margin positive, ranging from 43% to 86% margin … The company also was able to achieve conversion rates from free trial to paid of between 64-78% for its services. Despite these positive metrics, the lifetime value (TLV) of a subscriber was still less than the cost to acquire subscribers (CPA), but they were converging. While we knew we could not get to break-even on our own, we believed that there were many large companies who would be able to get there.

In other words, in order to get to a break-even point,  OnLive’s management felt the company needed to be offered-up for acquisition, albeit hopefully as a going concern.

Perhaps the first fully public hint that this was the case may have actually come in a blog post issued a couple of days ahead of Sony deal being announced. Of course, by the time the post appeared, the deal was undoubtedly cut and dried; nevertheless, The 2015 Case for Cloud Gaming and OnLive, could almost read as the company laying out its stall in order to attract a suitable investor / acquirer.

Despite the fact the Nvidia suggested OnLive themselves were helping to lift cloud gaming out of the Trough of Disillusionment towards its Plateau of Productivity, no-one was interested in acquiring the company as an operational concern when OnLive decided to seek outside assistance (image: Nvidia via OnLive)
Despite the fact the Nvidia suggested OnLive themselves were helping to lift cloud gaming out of the Trough of Disillusionment towards its Plateau of Productivity, no-one was interested in acquiring the company as an operational concern when OnLive decided to seek outside assistance (image: Nvidia via OnLive)

Unfortunately, despite all the positive indicators they could show, the Cloud Gaming hype cycle had bitten hard; no-one OnLive approached was willing to take them on as a going concern. Not even the fact that Nvidia had indicated the worst was behind the sector, and that OnLive itself was helping to push the technology up the Slope of Enlightenment, could encourage anyone to acquire the company outright. Thus the deal with Sony for the IP and patents sale was agreed.

Why didn’t Sony acquire OnLive as a whole? Because they already have their own cloud gaming service, PlayStation Now, which came out of a 12-month beta programme in January 2015. The OnLive patents understandably offer more value when put to work within PlayStation Now than Sony would be liable to find in buying-out OnLive as a whole, so they didn’t bother.

Interestingly, and entirely coincidentally, PlayStation Now has its own link to Second Life. It is built on the back of Gaikai, a Japanese streaming game provider acquired by Sony in 2012. Gaikai is the company Linden Lab worked with in an attempt to provide the means of streaming Second Life to web browser, a service which underwent a limited beta run in 2010, as the video below demonstrates.

But to draw things to a close; however “unjust” it might appear, all of this means that SL Go cannot really be saved. The patents which enabled it to function are gone, and the services upon which it runs are closing down. The only real options are for someone else to come along and offer a similar service of their own, or for LL to work with a partner to provide such as services, as they once attempted with Gaikai.

Both would seem unlikely; in the case of the former, SL perhaps represents too small a community of users to be worth catering for (and remember, SL Go came about in part as a result of rather unique circumstances). And while I tend to lean towards LL having an interest in cloud-based streaming, I don’t think that interest is with regards to Second Life, so I can’t see them getting directly involved in trying to provide a streaming solution for SL access. If nothing else, they’ve likely got enough on their plate already.

SL Go was a great and brave experiment. It is a shame that its days are drawing to a close; but OnLive, through their services as a whole, have proven what might be achieved. In that respect, they are right when they proclaim that cloud gaming has a bright future.

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Edwardian satire, Appalachian walks and fairy tales for adults

It’s time to kick-off another week of fabulous story-telling in voice, brought to Second Life by the staff and volunteers at the Seanchai Library.

As always, all times SLT, and unless otherwise stated, events will be held on the Seanchai Library’s home on Imagination Island.

Sunday, April 5th: Tea Time with Saki

H.H. Munro, aka Saki (via Wikipedia)
H.H. Munro, aka Saki (via Wikipedia)

With Holmes having accepted an invitation to spend Easter with the Watsons, and Corwyn similarly engaged for the Easter weekend, Caledonia and Kayden invite us to take tea with them in the glorious company of Hector Hugh (H.H.) Munro, perhaps better known as Saki, the master of the short story satirising English Edwardian life, often in a mischievous and / or macabre manner.

Born in British Burma in 1870, Munro’s writing career started in journalism, working for a number of noted newspapers and periodicals, including the Westminster Gazette, the Daily Express and the Bystander, His first book was non-fiction, The Rise of the Russian Empire was published in 1900, and from 1902 through 1908, he served as foreign correspondent for the Morning Post.

his first novel was published under the pen name of Saki in 1913. In When William Came: A Story of London Under the Hohenzollerns, Munro imagined a world a few years into the future, where Britain had been defeated in a war with Germany, and is under the occupation of Kaiser Wilhelm’s (the William of the title)  victorious military. From this, Munro’s career as Saki took flight, and he became a master of the Edwardian short story, his style influenced by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll and Rudyard Kipling, whilst in turn influencing the likes of A. A. Milne, Noël Coward and P. G. Wodehouse.

Monday, April 6th

06:00: The Emerald Atlas

emerald atlasCata Charisma continues his reading of John Stephens’ The emerald Atlas, the first volume in his fantasy trilogy for young adults, The Books of Beginning.

Having been passed from pillar to post through orphanages, three siblings, Kate, Emma, and Michael, find themselves lodged at the home of one Dr. Stanislaus Pym. Kate, the eldest of the three is driven by a promise made by her mother, that if Kate protects her younger sister and brother, then their family will be one day reunited.

But in their explorations of Dr. Pym’s house the three of them find their way into the basement, where they come across a mysterious door and an equally mysterious emerald-covered booth, entirely without text. When an old photograph touches the blank pages of the book, however, the three are immediately transported to the time and place depicted in the photograph. Her they find themselves in a realm populated by witches, henchmen, giants, dwarves and more – and one Dr. Stanislaus Pym, a good deal younger than when they last saw him in his house…

19:00: Jack of Shadows

Gyro Muggins returns to Roger Zelazny’s 1971 novel which mixes science-fiction and fantasy, the title of which is an homage to Jack Vance.

jack-of-shadowsThe story takes place on a tidally locked planet – that is, one whose rotation about its axis precisely matches its orbit around its parent body, thus the same face is always presented to the parent body (just like our own Moon always presents the same face towards Earth). Given that the parent object in this case is the planet’s Sun, it means that one side of the planet exists in perpetual daylight – and is the seat of science; while the other lingers in perpetual night – and has become the seat of magic.

It is from the latter that the protagonist of the story – Shadowjack – comes. Even among his own kind, he is unusual, for the manner in which he draws upon his power; something which can, in the right circumstances make him exceptionally potent. However, when placed in either complete light or complete darkness, he is almost powerless. Jack’s only friend, Morningstar is doomed to what is effectively eternal punishment unless Jack can cross between the two realms of light and dark, combining his abilities with the power of science. Thus Jack must risk being lost in total light or total darkness in order to rescue Morningstar. And if he fails, who might rescue him?

Tuesday April 7th, 19:00: A Walk in the Woods

walk-in-woodsBy his own admission, Bill Bryson isn’t the world’s greatest adventurer. This being the case, you’d think he’d have serious misgivings about undertaking this particular “walk in the woods”, as he disarmingly calls it: taking the 3,500 kilometre (2,200 mile) Appalachian Trail – a journey which would take five months to complete.

Travelling with his good friend “Stephen Katz”, the book is both a humorous guide to the trail and a set of serious and insightful comments / discussion on the trail’s history as it winds its way from Georgia (where Bryson was living at the time the book was written in 1998), to Maine. These discussions cover a broad range of subject including the sociology, ecology, trees, plants, animals and people of the states through which the trail passes (Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine).

Join Kayden Oconnell as he resumes retracing Bryson’s footsteps through the pages of this classic.

Wednesday April 8th, 19:00: Christie’s Detectives

Join Caledonia Skytower as she presents short stories featuring Agatha Christe’s beloved detectives: Parker Pyne, Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot.

Thursday April 9th, 19:00: Silver Birch, Blood Moon

silver birchShandon Loring dips into another anthology edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.  In Silver Birch, Blood Moon, they bring together 21 tales by some of today’s leading writers in a volume focused taking cherished tales of childhood and re-imagining them into sophisticated, seductive, fairy tales for adults. The stories gathered within the covers of this anthology include:

  • The tale of a jealous prince who plots the destruction of his hated brother’s wedding by inventing a “magic” suit of clothing visible only to the pure at heart
  • The story of a young girl’s strange fairy tale obsession which results in a brutal murder
  • The tragic tale of an embittered mother, who must care for her dying son as he is trapped within a thicket guarding a sleeping beauty
  • The revelation of what happens when a group of violent outcasts within a desolate industrial wasteland attempt to lay the myths of one Millennium to rest, only to give terrifying birth to those of the next.

Join Shandon Loring as he opens the pages of this latest collection from Datlow and Windling, and see if it is one of these stories or something else contained within the volume which falls under his gaze…

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Please check with the Seanchai Library SL’s blog for updates and for additions or changes to the week’s schedule. The featured charity for April / May is Habitat for Humanity, with a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live – a safe and clean place to call home.

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Fancy exploring the world of merfolk? Now’s your chance!

The welcome are for the merfolk community at Fanci's Deep, with the entrance to the Safe Water Foundation beyond
The welcome area for visitors to the merfolk community at Fanci’s Deep, with the entrance to the Safe Water Foundation beyond

How many of us spend our time sailing on, or flying over the clear waters of Blake Sea, content to drive our power boats, cruisers and racing boats, or pilot our sailing boats and ships, our men’o’war and battleships, or our piston and jet-engined aircraft across and over the waves, without even giving thought to what might lie beneath?

I know I frequently do, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone; which is a shame, because the fact is that there is a vast underwater community within Second Life, many of whom use Blake Sea and provide a wealth of things to see and do if we simply put on our masks and snorkels and take a dive under the waves.

Hence why I was intrigued when Nber Medici passed me an announcement that one of the largest underwater communities in SL is throwing open its doors to everyone between Sunday, April 5th and Saturday April 11th, inviting people to come and explore their world and join in with a range of events and activities.

The welcome are offers information on a range of undersea attractions in and around Blake Sea
The welcome area offers information on a range of undersea attractions in and around Blake Sea

The week is being organised by, and is centred upon, the community of Fanci’s Deep, four regions of open water nestled between the residential islands located on the south-east side of Blake Sea proper.  The four regions  – Fanci’s Deep NW, Fanci’s Deep NE, Fanci’s Deep SW, and Fanci’s Deep SE – were established in late 2013, to commemorate the life and memory of Fanci Beebe-Leavitt who, prior to her passing, contributed a great deal to the mermaid community in Second Life.

The community caters to merfolk, and those wishing to spend some of their time as sirens, dolphins, whales and more, or who simply want to slip into their scuba gear and spend time under water, exploring, shopping, dancing and having fun. On offer throughout the week are a range of activities, including:

  • Dolphin rides
  • Mer dancing
  • Undersea tours
  • Pirate battles
  • The opportunity to visit the Safe Waters Foundation headquarters.
The week offers people an opportunity to interact with members of the Fanci's Deep community through a range of events, include a tour of undersea homes
The week offers people an opportunity to interact with members of the Fanci’s Deep community through a range of events, include a tour of undersea homes

In addition, visitors are invited to avail themsevles of one of Blake Sea’s wider attractions, a 13-region undersea tour of many locations and underwater sights, and will have to opportunity to visit the homes of members of the mer community and gain further insights to the community’s activities.

The best place to start out, should you be interested in discovering what it is like to be a merman or mermaid, is to drop into the Fanci’s Deep welcome area. Here you can obtain assorted freebies to help you feel at home – such as mertails or a diving helmet and even a mini-sub. More importantly, you can gain advice on the best viewer settings by which to enjoy your underwater experiences, find out where to go and what to visit, both within the Fanci’s Deep regions and beyond.

A short hop (or swim) from this is the Safe Waters Foundation, which offers further information, complete mer outfits and transformation kits, and their own travel agency, which presents a range of undersea tours, including (for this week at least) the  tour of merhomes in the Fanci’s Deep regions mentioned above.

For those who prefer, a wider-ranging
For those who prefer, a wider-ranging “on demand” undersea tour can be obtained at the Freeport Township of Flotsam, where Captain Nemo as a base of operations…

For those interested in a more broad-ranging tour, a 13-region “on demand” tour can be enjoyed, starting at Aley’s eye-catching Freeport Township of Flotsam– do watch out of the Kraken, however!

All told, the Fanci’s Deep weekend is geared to offering people the widest possible introduction to life under the waves. So if you’ve ever been curious about spending time as a mermaid or or merman, or would be interested in discovering some of the many things that go on and can be found under the waves of Blake Sea and the surrounding waters, the week of April 5th through April 11th could be the ideal opportunity for you to do so!

fd-6_2014
… and don’t miss out on the merkfolk’s beach and fun fair!

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