Sony just blew a lot of goodwill. How, you ask? Well then, clearly you haven't heard the bad news over which PS3, PS4 and Vita owners are lamenting and Microsoft and Nintendo fans are gloating. The PlayStation Now Beta is now a paid program, and the prices aren't cheap. To give a general idea, the basic price for a PS3 title that was originally sold at retail can range from $2.99-4.99 per 4 hours, $5.99-$7.99 for a week, and $14.99-$29.99 to have it for 90 days. Even PlayStation Store exclusives, like Crazy Taxi, follow the same pricing model as the low-end retail games.
To give you an idea of how ridiculous this is, let's look at Saints Row: The Third. It's a game that's been free before via PlayStation Plus and can be purchased for $19.99 new from a number of sources. It also happens to be one of the PlayStation Now games that's $29.99 for a three months. An especially thrifty person could probably get two games for the price of select 90 day PlayStation Plus. Judging by the official FAQ, these prices could remain in effect after the beta has ended.
It's a serious problem, to be sure. After all, many of the titles are last generation games and we're in an economic climate where people can't exactly afford to be spending $6-8 on a one week rental, when a full game may even be $10 more. Or, more importantly, when a service like GameFly is $15.95 or $22.95 a month, depending on if you go with a one or two game plan.
The high prices aren't the only problem with this change to the PlayStation Now beta. The fact that Sony expects people participating to pay is. The idea of a beta is to determine if a service is working. Charging at this stage is going to deter people from doing something very important: trying the games. If people aren't playing the PlayStation Now beta titles because they aren't willing to shell out $2.99-$4.99 for a few hours of a dated title, Sony won't know if the servers can stand the load. They also won't get valuable feedback on how the game is running for customers depending on the platform, internet provider and service plan.
Not to mention, charging for people to PlayStation Now beta games is going to damage the relationship with customers. Let me put it this way: people don't want to pay to be guinea pigs. It took a lot of audacity on Sony's part to expect people to already pay to stream various games, knowing that there's a good chance they'll experience all kinds of bugs, hiccups and delays.
We know PlayStation Now isn't some kind of magical gift from above. It's a new part of Sony's business plan, and of course they're going to charge for the games and offer subscription plans. It just isn't right or fair to be asking for money at this point in the service's lifespan. Sony's not only hurting the people who are paying their salaries, but this move will do a disservice to the program as well.