OnLive founder scuttled deals, alienated staff – rumour

By Brenna Hillier
29 August 2012 03:16 GMT

OnLive founder and former CEO Steve Perlman was the source of many of the companies difficulties, anonymous sources have said.

Multiple unnamed OnLive employees spoke to Polygon for a report on OnLive’s journey from promising start up to bankruptcy.

According to the site, a perceived rivalry between OnLive and Gaikai led Perlman to sabotage the former company’s relationships with publishers. Although Gaikai presented as a marketing tool rather than a consumer-facing service like OnLive, Perlman allegedly considered David Perry’s European start-up a serious enemy. He is said to have screamed at Perry at GDC 2009, and to have been livid when Gaikai announced a multi-year deal with EA at E32010.

“He went ballistic. We had to slam the conference room shut and crank up the music so people wouldn’t hear him,” a source said.

“We were instructed in no uncertain terms to pull the EA games at the very last minute,” another revealed.

The sources said that following this incident, any game launched on gaikai was barred from OnLive, including The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings and Bulleststorm – which should have been a chance at reconciliation with EA. Ubisoft’s arrangement with OnLive allegedly came under threat when the publisher refused to cut ties with Gaikai.

It sounds a bit mad from a business perspective, and Polygon’s sources also seem to feel Perlman was a bit of a tool on the homefront. Former staffers said they felt disgruntled by Perlman’s fancy tea collection, favouritism in hiring Etienne Handman as COO, “obsessive micro-managing” and public ridicule of employees.

“He would tell people they were stupid in front of the entire office,” one staffer said.

It sounds like character assassination, but is particularly interesting in light of yesterday’s rumour that Perlman was ousted from the new OnLive thanks to employee reluctance to continue working with him, as well as rumoured collusion with new owner Gary Lauder to sell OnLive’s assets on the cheap.

To give the other side of the story, in a letter to OnLiveFans, Perlman gave his own account of the reasons for his departure.

“It’s been a very long journey, starting over a decade ago, and for most of that time it’s been round-the-clock work, with almost no break at all,” he wrote.

“For me, the end of last week was the first time in a very long time where I could actually consider the possibility of moving on without having to worry about the company. As we said in our last post, Gary [Lauder, chief investor in the re-formed OnLive] did want me to stay, but OnLive is by far the longest project I’ve ever worked on, I have other projects long in need of my focus and attention, and Gary needed to lock down the structure for the new company. In the balance, it was a good time to move on, and Gary understood.

“For me, it’s hard to leave my creation behind, but there is also a huge sense of relief that I can finally step off the treadmill and know that OnLive is in good hands.”

The full Polygon report is well worth a read and charts much of OnLive’s history.

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