PlayStation Now, Questions Later

Sony has just announced PlayStation Now – their long-anticipated implementation of a cloud-based game streaming service. Utilising the Gaikai technology they purchased less than two years ago, gamers will be able to play PS3, PS2 and PS1 games on a number of devices – from the recently launched PS4 to tablets. After a flurry of initial enthusiasm, I have now started to reign myself in a bit. There are still quite a number of questions that will need to be answered before we can all start throwing away our old, dusty original PlayStations and PS2s.

The biggest elephant in the room has to be broadband connectivity. As mentioned at their recent gamescom appearance, Sony are fully aware that broadband infrastructure across Europe, as well as many of their other markets, is simply not up to snuff yet with what will be required to provide a reliable, consistent PlayStation Now service. While many of the reports coming out of the on-going CES 2014 are positive towards the service in play-tests, these cannot be seen as reflective of what Now will be like when available it is eventually released. While Sony can control how many server farms they use, how dispersed they are and what their internal network strength is, they will eventually have to connect to the wider world – and that is where all bets are off.


One of the implied revelations taken from Andrew House’s announcement and the companies’ follow-up press release is that a new subscription service may be required to avail of Now. No details were announced regarding how users will get access – beyond a vague reference to being able to either subscribe or rent titles on a game-by-game basis. While a standalone sub may be on the cards, I wouldn’t rule out the long-rumoured tiered PS+ subscription. Perhaps you will be able to pay slightly more to get PS++ membership or something which gives you the benefits of both payments. Regardless, for those with extensive libraries of older PlayStation titles, the thought of having to pay again to play titles they already own will undoubtedly wrinkle some noses.

The same users may also worry about what exactly they will get to play. Again, we simply do not know enough about what exactly will be available. From the vast catalogue of games in the PS library, you can guarantee that only a fraction of these titles will be available at any one time on the service. Whether through virtualised emulation or actual connected hardware, there will be a limit to the number of titles Sony can actually provide. You may be thinking “Well, now I will finally be able to play that rare game I never got around to” but the curation of games will be entirely in Sony’s hands so you can be sure that it will be mostly made up of the more popular games in the library.

PlayStation Vita

Finally, with Sony implementing a similar model to Netflix, it may be susceptible to the same gripes we hear regarding that service. For instance, in the UK, we get a fraction of the content our American cousins get. There will undoubtedly be segmentation between the regions too so we may not get access to the Japanese store, for example, which would be one of the primary draws of this service. There are many titles we did not have access to previously that we could get if the games PlayStation Now provided were made available across all markets.

In the past few years but especially during last year, Sony has garnered a lot of consumer goodwill through making smart, common sense decisions regarding their products and services. If this trend continues and they take care to implement PlayStation Now in a similarly consumer-focused way, they will be onto a winner. Time will tell if Now will wow.

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