Backwards compatibility has been a point of tension for those contemplating upgrading to a next generation video game system. Be it the PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, neither format supports the option of allowing past generation software to be played. Sony has had plans in motion to rectify this situation prior to even announcing the PS4, however, and today they finally gave fans a peek under the metaphorical curtain — announcing a new streaming service called PlayStation Now.
Effectively utilizing the cloud-based technology of Gaikai, a company that was purchased by Sony back in 2012, the newly announced PlayStation Now has the potential to allow gamers to stream legacy software from the PS1, PS2, and PS3 to a myriad of formats. Initially, however, only PS4 and PS3 users will only be given access to games from the PlayStation 3’s catalogue — with plans to include games from the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2 consoles coming to fruition at a later date.
Shortly after the service is established later this year and everything has been ironed out, Sony will begin offering PS Now on the Vita, with additional plans to also allow access to the cloud-based gaming service via an app built into select 2014 Sony Bravia television sets. Eventually, any Internet-connected devices (such as tablets and smartphones) will be capable of running games from the cloud.
While the spectrum of formats and library possibilities alone are enough to get excited about, there are even more great possibilities that are only capable thanks to Gaikai’s cloud-based technology. According to Sony, gamers will hypothetically be able to start a game on their PlayStation 4, pause the title, and then resume on an entirely different device such as their PS Vita. This method of accessing content is similar to Netflix and assures gamers that their content will always leave off where it was last left. Trophies and multiplayer for each game will also be supported, much to the delight of trophy hunters.
PlayStation Now’s subscription fees weren’t discussed during the big reveal, but two different options were detailed by Sony. Those who are keen on having access to a wide range of software will be able to pay a subscription to have access to more than a handful of titles. Likewise, gamers looking for one or two particular games can rent any given piece of software for an undisclosed fee.
As with any new service, especially one based solely on streaming games, it’s hard not to be cautious with buying into PS Now’s hype — even Microsoft doesn’t view streaming games as a viable alternative to backwards compatibility yet. That said, if Sony and Gaikai can pull off a relatively smooth launch for the service, and accumulate a number of satisfied customers in the process, then they may very well be on to something huge. Proceeding to then incorporate the service onto additional forms of hardware then opens up Sony and its new service to Netflix levels of success — something that any company worth its salt would love to replicate.
PlayStation Now is scheduled to offer a Beta program of sorts at the end of January to select PS3 users, and Sony plans on rolling the service out in full force for both the PS4 and PS3 at some point this Summer in North America.
What do you think of PlayStation Now? How much would you be willing to pay a month to access legacy PlayStation titles?
You can follow Riley on Twitter @TheRileyLittle.