Sony is currently ‘testing‘ its Playstation Now game streaming platform in the US. We should see it over here at some point next year, bringing a library of older PlayStation titles to your not-older Sony devices. If it's to succeed there are a few key areas we think Sony needs to get right:
1. Your prices are way off
Nobody was ever going to rent Final Fantasy XIII-2 for $30, you crazy crazy people. Yeah it’s better than the first one and alright, I do enjoy that the combat involves collecting Pokemon, but that won’t distract me from the fact that I can pick up a used copy of that game for about three quid. That used copy is also unlikely to disappear into nothingness after 90 days.
A subscription model is way more appealing. A set fee per month and access to a big list of games. People fall over themselves complimenting the value of Playstation Plus; it would great to see something similar with Playstation Now.
2. This is the future, I don’t want to wait around
After becoming so accustomed to installation times and checking for updates, the immediacy of streaming games still feels like cheating. Cheating is great!
You’re almost there with Playstation Now from what we’ve seen so far, but you can probably scrap this ‘Installing Trophies’ malarkey.
3. Big name games
Okay so Playstation Now doesn’t necessarily need to keep up with current releases - it’s in many ways Sony’s answer to the lack of backwards compatibility on the PS4. However, the Japanese firm does need to ensure that the library of games has some weight about it. For a start, the beta has a surprising lack of first party titles right now. They’re unlikely to make The Last of Us available while also selling a Remastered version on the Playstation 4, but where is the Uncharted series? The inFamous games? What about Heavy Rain? Little Big Planet?! Put some whopping first party names on the table Sony - you’ve got some rather good ones.
4. Try before you buy
Want to get more people talking about Playstation Now? Offer some way for people to try out the service before signing up. Streaming video games is a scary new prospect and plenty of people (myself included) are worried that it’s going to be a bit rubbish. Convince us otherwise!
5. Latency and video quality. Latency and video quality. Latency and video quality.
Without a doubt, the biggest hurdle PlayStation Now must overcome is input lag. Having to compensate for an obvious delay between a button press and the relevant action happening in-game isn’t fun; neither is having your playtime interrupted by an inconsistent video stream, or seeing a noticeable drop in quality as you admire your surroundings.
As a result, your experience with Playstation Now is going to very much depend on where you live and what sort of connection speed you have access to. Sony is currently recommending users have a "steady internet connection between 5-12Mbps", but that won’t guarantee you’ll avoid the same problems. A lot of the footage we’ve seen come out of the North American Beta looks promising, but we’ve also heard beta testers complain that the delay is making it difficult to play certain types of games. Most of that video has also come from outlets or individuals with better-than-your-average connections - is that a fair representation of the service that will eventually launch across multiple regions? Probably not.
Sony has certainly got the means to push video game streaming in a big way, and it's got the library of games to draw upon, but the final challenge will be that infrastructure. For the time being, PlayStation Now is unlikely to completely match the experience of playing the game locally, as nature intended, but how close can it get?