Sometimes even the leak-happy tech world gets a nice surprise.
Sony took the stage at CES and stunned the audience with its new gaming service PlayStation Now. A subscription to PSN (not PlayStation Network) earns you the ability to stream PlayStation games to any internet-enabled TV, tablet, or smartphone. It’s like Netflix for games.
No one has ever attempted something on this scale before. The idea of streaming console games is fraught with risks. OnLive tried to do it but was ultimately sunk. Can Sony pull it off?
The Good News? It Works
The most important question I had as a gamer is about performance. Input lag and how fast games play will absolutely make or break PlayStation Now. No one will use a laggy system.
The Verge writers tried out streaming God of War to a Sony TV and liked it. Despite noticeable input lag, the game was playable.
Sony stressed to the press that performance will depend on the strength of your internet connection.
The impression I’m getting is that while you can’t get 100% native performance, you can get a “decent” experience. That sounds awesome to me.
They Can Probably Pull It Off
Sony differs from OnLive in one important aspect. They have way, way more money. They can throw dollars at servers and hosting like OnLive never could.
Plus, the company has the technology and know-how to pull it off. It picked up Gaikai a while back, a business that made its name on streaming.
The audience is ready for an innovation like this. High-speed broadband internet has populated most developed nations, and it’ll only improve as fiber services roll out.
I also don’t see any pushback from the gaming community over this move. Instead of forcing it on users the way Microsoft did, Sony is offering this as a new, optional feature.
It’s a cool add-on instead of a mandatory requirement that limits your freedom as a user. Plus, Sony still enjoys some goodwill from the last E3 when it hung Microsoft out to dry.
The technology’s there, the infrastructure works, and the users will probably like it. Sony could really do this.
Pricing and Availability
The coolest part about PlayStation Now is that it streams to your phone, tablet, and connected TV. PCs were sadly missing from the supported platforms, though someone will find a way to do it.
The service will come to PS4 and PS3, then Vita, then some new Sony TVs, and then presumably mobile devices. The Android app is confirmed to be a temporary exclusive to Xperias.
Availability is a mixed bag. PlayStation Now will release a US-only closed beta and the full service by summer’s end.
European support remains unfinished, as the company is still working out details of PAL games and Europe’s mixed network strength.
Sony gave no word on pricing but said users can rent games or pay a subscription fee to play games.
Streaming console games to so many platforms will be great as long as users have a way to play those games.
I’ve seen no word on controls for the different platforms yet. Will you be able to connect a PS4 controller over Bluetooth to new Sony TVs?
Mobile devices offer mixed support. iOS 7 added official gamepad support, though I don’t think a PS4 controller works with that. Android devices can connect to PS3 controllers over Bluetooth or wired USB connection.
PlayStation Now sounds cool. The idea of playing The Last of Us on my tablet excites me. Console games everywhere is a hell of a goal… if it works.
Like I said, performance will be critical for PSN’s success. If Sony can deliver console games with an acceptable amount of lag, gamers will love them.