What was once nebulous is now slightly less so, as Sony has officially unveiled their game streaming plans — the fruits of their acquisition of Gaikai, a company that was able to get Mass Effect 3 running in your favorite web browser.
While the newly named PlayStation Now’s pricing and content plans haven’t been unveiled yet, early reports out of CES show that the service that allows you to play legacy PlayStation 1, 2, and 3 games is working just fine, with only the tiniest hint of lag. Players on the PlayStation 4 can play The Last of Us with minimal problems — and even enjoy multiplayer with their friends on the PlayStation 3 through this service.
With a subscription-based pricing model planned, there’s a lot of potential here for offering a curated glimpse into PlayStation’s past without Sony having to shell out a lot of money up front to put expensive hardware into an already expensive console. What’s most intriguing, however, isn’t what games they put on the service, but rather where you’ll be able to use it.
In a recent PlayStation blog post, Sid Shuman detailed that the first platforms to receive PlayStation Now would be the PlayStation 3 and 4, as well as the PS Vita. In the near future, Sony BRAVIA television sets would have have the software automatically installed inside them, with “a broad range of other Internet-connect devices” coming soon.
This is where it gets interesting.
Imagine, if you will, going on a trip with your family. You’re at a hotel, you’ve got your iOS or Android device, and you’re bored. Whip out your PlayStation 3 controller, sync it to your tablet, connect to the software, and — presto! — you’re playing bona fide console games via the magic of the information superhighway.
I mean look at all those devices!
That’s the beauty of this program — Sony is injecting their brand and an associated earnings potential into places that they normally wouldn’t have it. Imagine Apple TV, Roku boxes, Smart TVs — hell, even the Xbox One could potentially host a version of the program, as unlikely as that is — all being able to run your favorite games with little mess. All Sony would have to do is say “Call of Duty, against your friends, anywhere you have a device and the Internet” and they could conceivably win this generation hands-down.
It’s Sony’s race to lose at this point, so there are a couple things they need to keep in mind to make PlayStation Now a success.
Make sure your service works right out of the gate
There will likely be a few online hiccups when the service initially launches. If the last few major online-reliant game releases are any indication, it’s practically an inevitability. As long as Sony is able to keep glitches and downtime minimal, PlayStation Now can be successful as early as day one.
Sony needs to prove that this service is reliable, and any major SimCity-esque month-long server outages will severely hurt their credibility. They need to understand the demand for this is going to be initially high, and plan accordingly.
Don’t price your subscription model too high — or better yet, include it with Plus
Look at something like Netflix — they offer thousands of films and TV shows to instantly stream for under $10 per month. It’s not every movie or show, but it’s more than enough to make most people happy. $25 is probably the sweet spot for an all-you-can-play streaming buffet, if they decide to charge a separate amount for PlayStation Now. Games cost more than movies, and the network infrastructure is probably much more intense than simply piping video over to your screen. Any higher, and the value of the program comes into question.
Or better yet, add PlayStation Now to Sony’s already stellar PlayStation Plus program — or at the very least, offer some kind of discount to current subscribers. Something like PlayStation Now would essentially make plunking down $50 a year for Plus a complete non-issue.
Being able to play thousands of games anywhere I want to, on any device that will let me is what makes PlayStation Now such an exciting program, and could potentially turn Sony into the Netflix of video games. I’d love to be able to replay The Last of Us or Shadow of the Colossus, or even get to the countless games I never had a chance to play. If this means we never, ever have to hook up our PlayStation 3s again, Sony could very well win this race before the first lap is even over.