The future is now…PlayStation Now!
After Sony announced the PS Now service at this year’s CES, I can honestly say I was fairly blown away. Scratch that, I was Terry Crews in those Old Spice commercials where my brain rockets out of my head before exploding in front of my face. While I expected things to get a little crazy when the next-generation of consoles finally rolled around, I don’t think anyone expected Sony to flip the script quite like this. While we go back and forth about PS4 this and Xbox One that, Sony is quietly crafting plans to render the console war completely irrelevant.
After all, what do system specs and hard drive space matter when PS Now requires nothing more than a Sony branded television?
By now, you’ve probably heard rumblings regarding Sony’s new venture. While we didn’t receive any new bombshells during this year’s E3, the wheels of progress have already been set in motion behind the scenes. The recent beta has seemingly rolled along fairly well, as Sony announced the service will now go into a “Pilot” period. This will provide users whom already own select Sony HDTVs (or the new Ultra 4K model) a chance to test drive several last-gen titles.
So when will it be available you might ask? Simple, it’s already live as you read this!
Here is a snippet from the official press release (posted to Sony’s blog) providing additional details: “…do you want to be able to stream select PlayStation®3 (PS3™) games directly to your TV and play using DUALSHOCK®3 wireless controller? Good news. Now you can do all of these things, and you can only do it with one of Sony’s new 4K Ultra HD TVs…Starting June 30, you’ll get a first glimpse at the upcoming PlayStation Now game streaming service with the launch of the Private Pilot Service. PlayStation Now allows you to play select PS3 games directly on your Sony TV, with no console required. It will begin in the continental US on select 2014 Sony TV models, including all our 4KTVs as well as some of our 1080p HDTVs. At the start of the Private Pilot Service, a selection of PS3 game titles covering a wide range of genres will be available for individual rental. Various rental periods and prices will be offered during the Pilot.”
So what does this first step mean in the longer journey that is Sony’s next-gen future?
While this is certainly an exciting time, people are already looking ahead to how the logistical side of Sony’s PS Now service will pan out. To be sure, the initial reaction upon anyone hearing its description is certainly an awe inspiring (and often jaw-dropping) moment for many. This child-like wonder does eventually give way to practicality in most cases, as we start hearing the same question posed on forums, blogs and in headlines alike, how much Sony? While other streaming services like Netflix grant access to an unlimited number of titles featured in their collection for one flat rate, PS Now will function more like a video rental store. The prices are expected to range anywhere from the ultra-cheap ($5-$10) to the middle of the road area of $20+ for older titles.
While I’m truly excited about what this new innovation can mean to the evolution of gaming, the monetary side of things is where it can get a bit tricky. Keeping prices reasonable (thus allowing gamers to feel as if the value of the service far outweighs the cost) is key here. They don’t want to start overcharging for games that many could easily pick up physical copies of at the bottom of a GameStop bargain bin. My suggestion? Adopting a Gamefly-esque approach (by say providing access to the entire PS3 library for a flat rate) would be an ingenious move. Also, how will this new delivery system affect Triple A releases moving forward (providing streaming takes precedent over purchasing disc-based copies at launch)? Those consequences are yet to be seen.
Ultimately, I’m thinking five years down the road here. Imagine a time when the PS4 is now “old hat,” with a huge influx of affordable Sony “Smart TVs” becoming the rage (all of which stream the entire PlayStation library into your home). I’m not sure how a rival such as the Xbox One even competes in that arena without developing an equivalent service of their own (which I could very likely see happening).
Once the PS Now service rolls out completely, we’ll all have to step back and re-evaluate what video gaming beyond 2014 truly means. Needless to say, this ain’t your Daddy’s industry anymore.