I play a lot of video games. That’s the least shocking statement I’ve ever made, but it’s a necessary starting point here. See, despite all the games I play (for business and pleasure), I have a lot of other obligations and responsibilities. I have a family, multiple work commitments, sometimes I travel, and somewhere in there I have to spend some time in bed. Consequentially, I’ve become much more of a handheld gaming aficionado in my adult years. There’s a problem with that, though! There’s only one dedicated, contemporary handheld gaming platform. I love the Nintendo Switch, but cutting myself off from so many games because I don’t like gaming on a TV much won’t work. With that said, I’d like to talk about an unlikely service I utilized in 2019. I’m talking about PS4 Remote Play.
When Sony first introduced Remote Play, it was a weird, little oddity tucked away on the PSP. You could stream your PS3 over to Sony’s debut handheld, but functionality was super limited. There were only a handful of games you could play, and you couldn’t play them well. But like the transition from Wii U to Switch (a stretch of a comparison, I know), Remote Play returned with a vengeance on the PS Vita. Sony clearly had a plan for an ecosystem, with multiple gaming platforms (including PlayStation Mobile) that intersected in some ways. This included Remote Play, which came to Vita and PS4 in a more fully-featured and functional way. But... it still wasn’t great. The Vita doesn’t play as well with Wi-Fi as it should, and it tries to make up for a lack of shoulder buttons with its touch pad.
Despite it still being more of a novelty than a feature in terms of actual live use, Sony didn’t give up on Remote Play. It did, however, give up on the PlayStation ecosystem in its initial form. PlayStation Mobile was shut down (taking all its games with it), and the Vita was treated like an unwanted stepchild. The PS4 became a more siloed platform, and software suites such as the PSOne Classics more or less found their official chapter in the history books. But as the idea of a multiplatform ecosystem faded into our memories, a new concept really started gaining steam: streaming. Streaming games has been around for a while now, but at this point we’re getting to where streaming is a viable service, with several fingers in that pie. So while having multiple hardware platforms working together didn’t pan out, a sort of software-based evolution of the concept is blooming.
Remote Play is no longer a feature. It has instead become an application. As the Vita fizzled out and streaming gained popularity, Sony spread out in new ways. Remote Play trickled out onto non-Sony gaming platforms, starting with the insular Xperia phones and coming to computers. There was also a strange, HDMI-based Vita platform called the PlayStaion TV, which ran a lower-end version of the Vita and with its ethernet port emerged as a great device for home-based Remote Play. But while these are all great options, what has really cemented Remote Play as a near-perfect TV replacement is the contemporary mobile port.
Sony brought Remote Play to iOS, then Apple updated iOS to support Bluetooth controllers. With the superior internet capabilities of today’s smartphones and now full DualShock 4 support, it’s almost as if the PS4 has become an impossible handheld gaming platform. As long as you have a decent internet connection, the barometers of which having come a long way since 2014, even input latency is almost a non-issue. Now if I need to play a PS4 game, I grab my spare DualShock 4 and use an adjustable mount device to attach my phone. I don’t miss a beat, thanks to the iPhone XS Max’s gorgeous screen and the ease of use provided by Bluetooth. In just roughly five years, Remote Play went from a janky novelty to a dream come true.
I do still play my PS4 on my TV, but only on rare occasions. It’s hard for me to sit down on my couch and focus on the TV screen, what with all of life’s responsibilities and distractions. But when I’m sitting at my desk, laying in bed, or lounging around on the floor, it’s much easier for me to sneak in some quality gaming time. All I have to do is grab my phone, boot up my PS TV, or sometimes just boot up the app on my computer. Soon, my Chromebook may even become a solid option, once the OS is able to fully support the DualShock. Sony’s new approach to the PlayStation “ecosystem” isn’t quite as cool and multifaceted as the original idea seemed to be. But as a method for convenient, accessible PS4 gaming regardless of what room you’re chilling in, Remote Play has finally found its groove. And with the PS5 on the way soon, things only stand to get better.