As promised, OnLive is going live this month. Right now, in fact. You could try it out for yourself if you wanted to. Early adopters get to enjoy the service (read: not the games) for free for a full year, and everyone else has to pay for admission. That's a little irksome — why punish people who weren't in the beta? — but it gets worse.
So, let's break this down. You pay both a fee for access to the service, as well as a fee for any rentals or game purchases you make. If you're already signed up for OnLive, that service fee is waived thanks to a sponsorship by AT&T. If you want to get in on it now, you'll have to shell out.
OnLive allows you to rent a game for $4 to $10 depending on the title, or buy it for $60. Once you do that, you don't download it and install it as you would from a digital distribution service such as Steam. Convenient, right? Sure is, but that means even the digital copy is never really yours. And OnLive knows that.
A quick scan of the service's Terms of Service reveals a rather startling policy. If at any time you want to stop paying OnLive's monthly fee for access, you can suspend your account. During this time, OnLive keeps all of your details, as well as the game library you've accrued. If, for whatever reason, you don't start paying again 12 months after your suspension, OnLive closes your account. Closing means you lose those titles you bought. As in, if you take a year off from the service, those new games you bought become $60 rentals. You're in it for life, sucka.
(For those interested in the legal mumbo-jumbo here, check out section 12 and 13 of OnLive's Terms of Service.)
I certainly hope I'm wrong. OnLive sounds like a hell of an idea. It eliminates the hardware requirements for games as it's all done in the cloud, and, in the future, will even be able to stream to other devices, such as the iPad (of course, that doesn't mean the controls for a game will translate to a new scheme, but you get the idea). Purchasing something and then not actually owning it, however, is just not something I can't abide by.