Sony surprised most people at CES 2014 with the announcement of PlayStation Now; a game streaming system that will stream your favorite PlayStation games to pretty much any device, including TVs, smartphones, tablets, and obviously the PlayStation. We spent some quality time with PS Now.
Hands-on with PlayStation Now
We spent some time – a lot of time – with Sony’s PlayStation Now streaming system at CES and also had the chance to talk with Sony’s experts. Here is what we learned during our hands-on sessions.
The PlayStation Now demo gave us a chance to try the system on a Bravia TV and the PlayStation Vita. No peripherals were connected to either device, and the TV was basically streaming games in real time over the internet through a TV app - pretty cool. We focused mainly on the TV, as games such as The Last of Us are meant to be played here.
What we saw was generally good. The picture was a bit too compressed at times, revealing picture artefacts, but it was clear that Sony used an adaptive streaming method to make playback completely smooth. At times the picture would drop a tier and appear too compressed and at times it would enter a less compressed tier and look fairly good, but certainly not as good as a PlayStation game installed on the console.
Sony explains that the current streaming technology – based on Gaikai’s technology that Sony has acquired - can go up to 720p, but did not provide details on the bitrate (5 Mbit/s is recommended as the minimum internet connection, though). However, 720p should be fine for streaming PS3 games.
We spent some time playing The Last of Us, and it was generally a good experience. Sony promises that the final experience will be virtually lag-free. They prioritize a lag-free experience very highly as it is one of the most important aspects of gaming. We tried hard to search for lag, but The Last of Us is not the best game to examine as it is often slow-paced and very smooth.
We did notice a bit of lag at times, but the game was certainly playable. Everyone seemed to agree during our time at the demo unit.
Initially, PlayStation Now will be supported on the PS3 and PS4 game consoles, but no PS4 games will be available via streaming. However, it will allow you to experience all of the great PS3 games on the PS4, which is great considering that the PS4 does not support PS3 game discs natively.
PS Now will also be supported on 2014 Sony’s Bravia TVs, the PS Vita, and select smartphones and tablets. No PC/Macs in the mix and do not expect it to arrive on the Xbox One either, Sony giggles.
We asked Sony if it would be possible to enjoy games that we already own, but Sony would not comment on that at this point.
Rent or subscribe
Gamers at CES also had a chance to play God of War: Ascension, Beyond: Two Souls, and Puppeteer, but Sony will not comment on the full game catalogue at this point. Sony has confirmed that gamers will be able to rent games by title or subscribe to a subscription package, but again, no words on pricing or what is included.
Features such as multi-player, trophies and messages will be supported, and your save-games will be carried over. You do not have to worry about game updates either. The remote cloud server takes care of all these things. However, we did experience a bit of loading times when starting a new game, but nothing too problematic.
“PS Now will allow users to engage in the world of PlayStation, whether they’re existing fans or have never owned a PlayStation platform.” says Andrew House, President of SCE, and it is an interesting concept indeed. PlayStation Now will open up completely new opportunities, and could revolutionize the gaming industry. Just imagine being able to play some of the best games in the industry on virtually every device. That is significant, and based on what we saw, Sony can do it if it manages to iron out a few quality issues and ensure a lag-free and stable connection to the servers.
This could be the future of gaming. These are early days, and Sony has 5-6 months to refine the system before it launches, but if this is the starting point we are pretty sure that this could revolutionize gaming in the years to come. We certainly look forward to hearing more.
PlayStation Now will enter a closed beta period in the US by the end of January, and will launch in the US this summer. No words on an international launch at this point.