For some potential consumers, one of the biggest strikes against the PlayStation 4 is the system's inability to play your library of PlayStation 3 games. The issue is due to the huge difference in architecture between the two systems, but the final outcome is the same for consumers. When it was revealing the PlayStation 4, Sony mentioned the Gaikai cloud-streaming service as a way to possibly bring PS3 games to the new console, but then the company went silent.
At CES 2014, Sony Computer Entertainment president Andrew House announced PlayStation Now, which will stream PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 games to PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and other mobile devices. According to House, the renamed Gaikai will provide "instant access" to three generations of classic PlayStation titles. So that means PS1, PS2 and PS3 games. PlayStation Now will be launching on PS4, PS3, Sony's new Bravia line of televisions, with the service moving to further devices at a later date.
"We are thrilled to deliver entertainment experiences only possible from PlayStation through our new streaming game service," said House. "PS Now will allow users to engage in the world of PlayStation, whether they're existing fans or have never owned a PlayStation platform."
Vita Remote Play is already a strong proof-of-concept for Sony's game streaming. I've used the app and it works flawlessly for me, streaming PS4 games to my tiny Vita. In fact, I've been able to get the service to work well when connecting to my PS4 from another home's WiFi connection. If Sony can bring that quality to a wide variety of platforms, I'm definitely game. At CES, Sony showed off PlayStation Now on PlayStation Vita or Sony Bravia TV. The games demoed were Beyond: Two Souls, God of War: Ascension, The Last of Us, and Puppeteer.
Will this new service revolutionize gaming? Probably not over the short-term. Right out of the gate, it essentially enables you to play PS3 games on newer PlayStation systems and select tablets, TVs and smartphones. However, as older games are added and its library grows, PS Now will become a far more compelling prospect, and over the much longer term could well pave the way to a future we’ve been predicting for some years: where most games are streamed, rather than bought from a store or fully downloaded digitally.
Here's everything we know about PlayStation Now:
- The service will stream to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, Sony Bravia TVs, tablets and smartphones. No details about which tablets and phones have been announced, but one hopes it's not just Sony tablets and Xperia phones. iOS and Android devices with the appropriate power and bandwidth availability would be ideal candidates and really give the service some oomph. Funnily enough, there's no reason why this service wouldn't also work on PC's, Xbox One and Xbox 360 - but we think that's an unlikely prospect, highly tantalizing though it may be.
- PS Now is expected to go into Beta at the end of January, and only PS3 games will be available initially. If you're interested in signing up for info, you can do so here. However, this isn't a Beta signup - that will likely be a different process that we expect to be announced soon.
- At CES, Sony demoed playable streaming versions of The Last of Us, Puppeteer, Beyond: Two Souls and God of War: Ascension. So those and other first-party titles are pretty much a given.
- PlayStation Now will also support PSN features like online multiplayer, Trophies, and the messaging service.
- PlayStation One and PlayStation 2 games will roll out some time later this year.
- Games will stream at 720p – which is fine for PS One and PS2 games, and most PS3 games.
- If bandwidth drops, you can expect the same kind of artifacting and rez softening you get while watching a service like Netflix under similar conditions.
- Multiplayer games will be fully supported, and players will be able to connect regardless of whether they’re using an original disc or PS Now.
- If you’re playing a game and want to switch to another device, you can save your game on one screen and start playing immediately on the other.
- PS Now is likely to be tied to Sony’s upcoming cloud-based live and on demand TV/Movie streaming service, which was also announced at CES.
- The service will offer subscription and rental plans.
- PlayStation Now requires a consistent 5 Mbps connection to run effectively.