When Sony took the stage at E3 in June 2013, gamers were expecting massive news — and Sony delivered. They announced the PlayStation 4’s release date, the price, and the fact that the PS4 would, in fact, play used games. They also mentioned that while the PS4 wasn’t backwards compatible, they were working on a solution. Recently at the 2014 CES, they’ve pulled the curtain back on PlayStation Now, changing the console war entirely.
PlayStation Now is a cloud-based solution to playing older games. If there’s a game that you can’t locate on an older system, just hop on the PlayStation 4 and play it over the Internet. The big deal here, though, is that it’s not limited to the PS4. You’ll also be able to play Sony’s back catalog on the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 3. In an unprecedented move, you’ll also be able to play the games on Bravia televisions, smartphones, and tablets — no system required.
In the summer of 2012, Sony acquired Gaikai, a company that specialized in server processing and streaming games, aka cloud gaming. With this technology, all the hard work, processing and storage is done on far away servers and streamed, via the internet, directly to your display, no local console needed, no downloading and there’s no installing. The catch here, though, is two-fold.
First, some Internet service providers place monthly data caps on their customers. This could be a huge issue for heavy users that have ISP’s that cap, as PlayStation Now will likely use a tremendous amount of data.
Second, some Internet service providers won’t be fast enough. It’s recommended that you have a 5Mb/s connection to fully utilize PlayStation Now. Fortunately, there’s a solution. If you have a Verizon FiOS connection, you’ll have more than enough speed, as well as no monthly data caps to worry about.
There are a couple of restraints to this service and a few unanswered questions. As of now, games that are streamed through PlayStation Now only run at 720p and for some twitch FPS’s and action games there’s likely to be minimally noticeable latency delays, which is likely to tighten up with time.
The main concerns that have been left unanswered as of now, are about availability and pricing. Obviously, everything won’t be available at once, and even if it is, it certainly won’t be free. They’ve talking about being able to rent the streaming games and not downloading digital copies, but exactly how long does a rent last for and for how much? Another thing that needs to be answered is will the servers for older online games be revived? (Anyone up for some Socom?) More details should be announced at this year’s E3.
It means, quite frankly, that they need to step their game up. Nintendo has, quite possibly, the most robust lineup of digital games currently at its disposal. They have a catalog full of Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64 and GameCube games all readily available. If the company wanted to, they could turn the Wii U into a virtual console powerhouse. For reasons currently unknown, they refuse to do so.
Nintendo has maintained a drip-feed approach to the virtual console. Each week, a small handful of games will be released on the virtual console. Sure, there are licensing issues on some games, but they will need to release them in much larger numbers, especially once PlayStation Now launches.
The Xbox 360 was, at least, partially backwards compatible with the original Xbox. The Xbox One isn’t backwards compatible with anything. That’s right — even the digital Xbox Live games you bought on the Xbox 360. With the PlayStation 4, if the game was available on both the PS3 and PS4 (like Flower), you didn’t have to purchase it again. Microsoft has a couple of thousands of titles available for older platforms and, as of this writing, has no current plans to make those titles available or playable on the Xbox One outside of possibly remastering them.
In the transition from the PS2 to the PS3, Sony lost a lot of their install base, from 150+ million PS2’s sold to around 80 million PS3’s sold. So for Sony, PlayStation Now is a huge nostalgia play to entice and hopefully regain millions of those who jumped ship to from PS2 to Xbox 360 back to the PlayStation eco system. Hypothetically, if Sony were to get every domestically released game for the Playstation, Playstation 2, and Playstation 3 onto the Playstation Now service, it would have well more than six thousand games available on the service, games of which 10’s of millions of gamers grew up with playing and would love to revisit and in-turn tip this generation in Sony’s favor.
This concludes my article on PlayStation Now and why it has the potential to be the ace in Sony’s sleeve. Do you agree or disagree with any of the points I have made? If so, please feel free to leave your comments on the subject below.