Among the handful of features still crawling their way into the PS4 ecosystem, all eagerly awaiting their spot in the next firmware update, Sony’s PlayStation Now service stands to be a potential game-changer once implemented. When announced, the streaming service lit a pyre of nostalgia and dreams of easy access; today, though, player focus is directed to a more pertinent aspect of Now: pricing.
As our own Matt Liebl reported, a new image from Gaikai—the systems and network expert backing Sony’s online endeavor—revealed price listings for streaming PlayStation 3 titles via PS Now. The games in question are Uncharted 3 with a price of $4.99, Far Cry 3 at $5.99, and The Last of Us and BioShock Infinite which lack the characteristic “play” icon of the former two titles, suggesting they are simply digital options (with mock-up prices, given their age) and not titles to be streamed—at least, not through this window.
Tell me more, Mr. House.
As is often the case with these delectable little teasers, little is known as to the direct implications of the prices shown. But brainstorming or not, there’s much to be inferred.
That prices differ between titles of the same console generation (Far Cry 3 to UC3) suggests that the age of a game, as well as its size, will play a role in its PS Now price. This will likely surprise users who expected a flat rate between generations—$X.xx for PS2, $X.xx for PS3, and so on—but the variance in pricing appears negligible enough as to not deter those interested. Rather, it simply supports the dual-payment structure of PlayStation Now: Saving a bit here and there on individually streamed titles will further incentivize users to just pick up the subscription and stream their bandwidth away.
There has also been no indication of how long titles may be accessed once purchased, although permanent ownership remains the most likely option given the rates of comparable rental services. With many PS3 titles selling for under $15 these days and names like GameFly loaning the same games indefinitely for just a few bucks, asking $4.99-$5.99 for temporary ownership of a digital title is a madman’s bargain.
Here's a question: When can I play The Last of Us on my phone?
Of course, given Gaikai’s lack of confirmation and the general infancy of PlayStation Now, the service just now finding a foothold in Beta, this all deserves the hesitancy treatment. The prices seen in the aforementioned image may indeed be placeholders and will likely change before going live. But even as tentative placeholders, a price range has now officially been suggested, and surprisingly, it’s not of the subscription variety that many expected to see. It’s nice to catch a glimpse at potential individual prices, but the more pressing issue is how the subscription side of Now will match up to PlayStation Plus.
Sony has repeatedly refused to comment on whether PlayStation Plus will include access to the Now. The cynic in me says this suggests that an additional paywall will be erected when the service launches, if only to support GaiKai and cover content management fees. After enforcing PS+ as the multiplayer gate for PS4, tacking another service, albeit a much more optional one, onto the PS4's monthly bill is a harrowing step. However, revenue has to reach GaiKai somehow, meaning putting a separate price tag on the Cloud may become necessary depending on Sony’s terms with the company.
In any case, PlayStation Now is now much less hypothetical, and the PlayStation Nation now has a tough question to answer: How much are you willing to pay to stream your childhood and last-gen favorites via PlayStation Now?