Playstation Now is quite the service. For $19.99 per month, you get access to over 100 PS3 games that you can play on your Playstation 4. If you don’t want to pay for all the games, you can alternatively pay to rent a single game for as short as a few hours or as much as a few months. Depending on your excitement level for older games, this is either a great new technology or an expensive waste of money.
I am not a subscriber to PlayStation Now, and I don’t think I ever will in its current form. I rarely go back to old games, so paying $20 every month for the privilege doesn’t seem worth it to me. I am, however, a huge supported of this type of service. Maybe I’m a hypocrite for not putting my money where my mouth is, but whatever.
Listening to this week’s episode of DLC, I heard Jeff Cannata, Christian Spicer, and Xav De Matos compare the importance of PlayStation Now and the Oculus Rift. They had an interesting discussion, and I have to say I side pretty hard with Christian on this topic: Oculus Rift is cool, and fun to play around with, but Playstation Now is the future of gaming.
For those who don’t know, Playstation Now (and other similar services) connects you to a remote gaming machine and runs the game on that. You are delivered a video feed of that game, but you get to control it from your PS4. Your actions are fed to the remote machine and you play the game over the internet. The better the network connection, the more it feels like you’re just playing a game on your local PS4. It’s really cool when it’s working just right.
You can already see where this is going.
Right now, the Playstation Now service only has PS3 games on offer. Admittedly, the prospect of playing old games on your new console is not that exciting, but this is where Sony had to start. They’ll expand this library of games to other classic titles, and then I hope we’ll see new games on there as well. I love digital downloads, but it is a royal pain to download a 50GB game even with modern internet connections. It takes freaking forever! I can imagine a world where the new Uncharted game comes out and I can play it within moments of purchasing it because the remote server already had it installed.
Or how about those of us with PCs that aren’t capable of playing games? Streaming services like this have huge potential! I got a taste of this a few years ago with OnLive. On my 2008 MacBook, which was completely incapable of playing any modern game, I was zipping through Crysis 2 with ease. That completely changed the game for what I was able to do on my computer. Sadly, OnLive is a shell of its former self and is not something I have looked at in a few years, but that experience of playing a super high end game at max settings on a woefully underpowered computer as stuck with me.
Looking 10 years down the road, I wonder if we’ll be streaming most of our games like this. What if instead of releasing a Playstation 5 that is a big, high powered computer that sits in your entertainment system, they release an app for your smart TV and maybe a Chromecast-style stick for those with dumb TVs? You would use that app/stick to stream all new games and would have no use for a large, hot box cluttering up your space-entertainment center. Yes, we have space-everything in 2025.
Imagine telling someone in 1999 that in just over a decade, most of their media watching will happen over internet streams. Yes, physical media and movie downloads exist, but most of use are just as happy to watch a movie on Netflix or a TV show on Hulu as opposed to buying a BluRay disc of the same media. Yes, the old media formats have their advantages, but the convenience and empowerment that streaming allows make it a strong contender to be your preferred gaming method.
Regardless of what you think of the pricing of Playstation Now (the economics will eventually work themselves out), it is an important step towards Sony reaching a whole new paradigm of gaming. It’s early success will determine how quickly other players dip their feet in this market, but I fully expect this to become more and more of a thing over the coming years.