In many ways, it’s surprising that game streaming/on demand services haven’t been around for longer already, given the fact that games, and gamers, have always been slightly ahead of the curve when it comes to the potential and possibilities of the internet, and given that they’ve always been active, rather than passive, consumers of media. Almost every game comes with an online multiplayer these days – and they have done for a while. Even our consoles ship with access to media streaming services straight out of the box, yet the streaming revolution has been slow in coming in relation to actual games, particularly console ones.
At e3 this year, Sony announced that this was about to change for its console users thanks to the imminent arrival of PlayStation Now, their first major foray into what could be called a proper games-on-demand service. Set to enter open beta (in North America) on July 31st, and be rolled out (mostly) across the board shortly afterwards, PlayStation Now will provide access to “hundreds of titles” to rent, stream, and play.
As of yet, not too much is officially known about how this will work in terms of costs and prices, but it would be reasonable to guesstimate that it will either operate on a pay-per-play basis (like renting a film from iTunes), a general subscription basis (like Netflix), or some combination of the two (like most cable/satellite providers).
Quite how much PlayStation Now will benefit individual gamers is, in many ways, dependent on this, and also on how that individual gamer operates. If, like me, you’re the type of gamer who likes to collect everything, and explore everywhere for example, renting a sandbox game for a few days, or a week even, might not be enough. On the other hand, if it only costs a couple of pounds/euros/dollars for that week, it would be a great way to ascertain whether we do want to go out and buy the game.
This in itself is quite useful when you think about it, and if you compare games to, say, TV boxsets for example, it becomes apparent just how much of a disadvantage we’ve been at when it comes to the former. With TV Boxsets, we’re likely to go out and get it only after we’ve seen the programme and already know we love it, and will rewatch it, whereas with games, we’ve tended to have little option but to stump up £40 for a game of which we may have only seen a few, pre-released snippets.
On balance, in 20+ years of gaming I’d say I haven’t been burned that much, but there have definitely been times when I’ve uttered some variation of ‘I can’t believe I just spent a week’s grocery money on this shit…..‘, so anything that can reduce the chances of that happening is fine by me! Add onto that the fact that some games can be played through in a week or so, and despite being enjoyable, don’t offer that much in the way of re-playability, this too would be a great thing for gamers.
The other major boon is, of course, convenience, and anything that means I don’t have to put pants on and go outside is up there with winning the lottery. Used game stores are awesome, especially for getting great deals on older games that we may have missed, but that comes at the cost of me having to put down my controller and leave the house, as well as being lucky enough to catch the right deal. If PlayStation Now does have an extensive back-catalogue of games for me to rent/stream at the touch of a button, for a reasonable price, I’ll embrace it like I would a long-lost friend.
Again though, and bringing us full-circle, we arrive back at price and/or subscription practicalities, so I think it’s fair to say this is going to be key to the success, or failure, of PlayStation Now. If Sony are generous, or even just fair, in their approach, there’s every reason to think it will be embraced in much the same way that PS Plus has been. If, on the other hand, they treat it as a cash-cow, there’s the very distinct possibility that a savvy and vocal gaming community will reject it, in much the same way Xboxers rejected Microsoft’s attempts to exploit them.
Early indications are that games will probably cost between $4 and $20 (£3-£15) a pop, which, if we’re being honest, is the informational equivalent of knowing the length of a piece of string, especially because we don’t really know how long you’d have access to the game either. If, however, the vast majority of the games are closer to the $4 mark, we might well be on to something, but conversely, if anything worth playing is closer to being $20, I’m almost certainly not going to be as keen, and would rather give that amount of money to my local used-game store – even if it does mean braving sunlight.
Obviously, given the potential impact of it, we’ll be keeping a close eye on PlayStation Now, particularly on how Sony initially approach it, and if, and how, they’ll adapt it based on user feedback, so keep it at TwinStick for more information as and when we get it……