Earlier in the year, at CES 2014, Sony announced a brand new way to experience videogames with a new service called ‘Playstation Now’ set to launch later this year (in the US at least).
Described as a ‘cloud gaming service’ this move could be a truly revolutionary move from the console giant – but it’s fair to say at this point we have more questions than we do answers. That said, we thought we’d attempt to bring people up to speed with what we DO know about this service, what it might mean for the future and what are the potential pitfalls, stumbling blocks or spanners in the works.
What the hell is it?
Put simply, Playstation Now’s ‘Cloud Gaming Service’ is just like Netflix – but for videogames instead of movies. So you won’t ever own the physical copies of the games, nor will you have to worry about the size of your hard drive’s storage space as games will be ‘streamed’ to you via the internet. Sony has enormous plans for the service – which is clear by the amount of ways they intend to let you access the vast gaming library. Set to be released on PS4, PS3, PS Vita, Tablets, Smart Phones, Smart TVs and possibly partridges in pear trees – Sony have left no platform uncovered at this point.
Logic dictates that there will be limitations to the service, depending on which platform you choose to access Playstation Now. For example, assuming the games on offer range from modern PS3 games (a pretty sure bet as all the hype has been supported by The Last of Us being played on a Vita), down to PS1 classics from yesteryear, we can all but guarantee the PS3 games will be available on PS4, PS3 and PS Vita. It is, however, unlikely that you’ll be playing PS3 games that are streaming to your Smart Phone. PS2 and PS1 games, on the other hand, may well make the cut on phones. As for tablets and Smart TVs, that remains to be seen. Depending on the make and model, it may be too early to completely rule PS3 games out, even if it may seem like a pipe-dream right now.
Frankly, the whole idea of streaming games through your next-gen console is exciting enough and feels like the first step toward a delightfully unpredictable future for games consoles.
What this means for us as gamers and consumers is a seemingly limitless library of games to be accessed at a moment’s notice. A chance to play new games earlier, catch up with last generations missed classics, re-experience the games from your youth (if you’re old like me anyway). This could also give a chance for old games to regain popularity, leading to resurrected franchises.
Much like the Playstation Allstars Battle Royale experiment, that brought a variety of iconic characters together in a grudge match – the most popular of which stood the best chance of being brought back for their own game – Playstation Now will also provide a wealth of market research for Sony’s first party studios especially.
Imagine, the old PS1 title ‘MediEvil’ becomes one of the most popular titles being played on Playstation Now. You can bet that suddenly Sir Daniel Fortesque will get chance to make a comeback on PS4 (however unlikely this may sound, you see my point).
It could also mean the death of disc based games. It’s pretty much happened in the music industry, it’s happening as we speak with the TV and movie industry (services like Netflix are starting to become household brands and are spreading in popularity on a global level – even TV studios are starting up their own streaming services). Whilst I’m the first to admit I like owning the physical copies of the discs, however, there is only so much shelf space in my house – and the idea of storing 1000s of games in an imaginary ‘Cloud’ that exists on the internet DOES seem easier than putting up another half-dozen Ikea shelving units.
And it isn’t just the physical space that Playstation Now will save. When the next-gen consoles were announced, we all thought a 500GB HDD sounded awesome. Then we saw the gargantuan install size of the games (NBA 2K14 and Killzone: Shadowfall topping the lists at around 40GB each), that 500 GB just shrank right up! However, now imagine that the 500GB isn’t storing your games, just your profiles and games saves – and it seems epic again! Though it won’t launch with PS4 games available, Sony have already confirmed that it is definitely a part of their future plans for the service.
What we still want to know!
It all sounds too good to be true, but at the rate technology seems to evolving, it also actually sounds feasible!?
Of course, with anything this awesome, there comes a lot of worries, questions and potential confusion. The most burning question, to my mind at least, is: how much will this cost me? Sony will have to price this carefully to keep gamers interested, entice the new market that they MUST be going after given the intention to bring the service to TVs, tablets and phones – but also allow them to keep it afloat and developing.
I wouldn’t expect it to come with a monthly fee as low as Netflix’ £6.99 per month. However, I think the upper limit of monthly subscription games (about £14.99 per month) would be a good price to aim for. Any more than this and people may well be put off. Even if it does still represent incredible value for money.
Another question regarding price, is whether or not users of Playstation Now will ALSO have to maintain a Playstation Plus account (currently £39.99 per year), or if the service will be available as an entirely separate entity. If it IS separate, then will PS+ customers get some kind of discount?
There is another, burgeoning question, specifically for those in the UK or EU territories. Will Playstation Now see the light of day over here? Sony have been fairly transparent about their concerns over trying to launch Playstation Now in Europe. So much so, that we already know not to expect it here before 2015.
The current benchmark for the service has been suggested as needing a minimum of 5MB broadband speed. Good news for the UK, is that as of Dec 2013, the average broadband speed clocks in at 7.9MB – which puts us comfortably over the 5MB mark of viability. The downside for the rest of Europe (and possibly the UK as we’re generally viewed as one big happy market) is that the average EU broadband speed is a lowly 3.1MB. The upshot of this is that we could be hearing all about the miracle of Playstation Now for well over a year before we get a glimpse of it – thanks to the EU’s shoddy broadband infrastructure.
On the positive side, broadband speeds are improving all the time and the EU is a BIG market Sony will eventually want to tap into. We hope.
Currently, Beta testing is about to get underway in the US, with hope of seeing it formally launched in Summer 2014. Watch the video below to see someone suck at The Last of Us, but playing on a Vita!
Richard is a father, teacher, gamer and writer. He believes that The Last of Us and Olli Olli 2 are the finest games ever made, feels that the StarWars Saga should only be watched in ‘the Machete order’ and once cleared Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in one sitting. Took him 20 hours, four cups of tea and a sausage roll. You can follow him on twitter @TLOUFactionsMP or @VigilanteSanta and view his occasional twitch outbursts on twitch.tv/spooklebeans.