One of the most exciting announcements to come out of CES 2014 was Sony’s long-awaited confirmation of its new streaming gaming service, PlayStation Now. Based on the tech acquired via its $380m purchase of Gaikai in the summer of 2012, this online gaming service promises to (eventually) deliver three generations of PlayStation gaming directly to a device near you.
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.
So what exactly is PlayStation Now? Full details are scant at the moment, but here’s what we do know:
- 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 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.