Despite a few launch-day hiccups, most notably in the form of overloaded PSN servers, Sony’s PlayStation 4 console is off to a good start. The system sold over 1 million units in the first 24 hours and remains a hot commodity at retailers – as even the most unassuming outlets are having trouble keeping PS4 consoles on their shelves. Available games for the system have received (mostly) positive reviews; though, as with any console launch, certain titles are missing key features and/or “feel” like glorified tech demos (read our Killzone: Shadow Fall review).
In general, early adopters of new hardware are, above all else, purchasing on a promise that, over time, first and third party developers will deliver even better entertainment experiences down the line. The same can be said for the system, and its manufacturer, as Sony already claims that missing release day features, such as DVD, 3D Blu-ray, and MP3 support will be patched in the not-too-distant future. Now we have an official timeline for one of the PS4’s most-highly anticipated selling points, one that wasn’t anywhere near ready for the November 15 launch, Gaikai streaming support.
According to a report over at Eurogamer, Sony has set a timeline for when users can expect to enjoy game streaming through Gaikai on the PS4 – specifically, Q3 2014. Currently, that launch date is only for U.S. gamers and it could be well into 2015 before European markets can take advantage of the feature – at least until Sony can ensure that broadband services are capable of delivering a comparative quality experience.
As for what to expect from the service when it launches, Sony hasn’t been willing to offer too many concrete specifics – previously indicating that the goal was to simply provide gamers with a wide library of titles streamed directly to their consoles, which apparently also includes PS Vita and other platforms (at some undisclosed point). While at least some of the titles could conceivably be next-gen PS4 offerings, the report also supports prior speculation that Sony would also make PS3, PS2, and PS1 legacy titles available for streaming as a way to offer some form of backwards compatibility on the new console.
Check out what Andrew House, President and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, had to say about the company’s long and short term plans for the service:
“We’re on track to have a commercial service up and running in the US first within 2014. That remains the plan and we’re very much on track to reach that […] But what’s important is to understand the full scope of what we’re trying to achieve and why we felt the Gaikai acquisition was important. Our goal is to be able to have a new form of game distribution streamed from the server side, initially to PS4 consoles then gradually moving that out to Vita.
“But eventually, the endgame is to have this available on a multitude of network-connected devices, essentially delivering a console-quality gaming experience on devices which are not innately capable of doing that […] We think there’s a great opportunity to broaden the market, because you essentially remove the need to make the console purchase in order to have access to that experience. It may sound counter-intuitive, because, aren’t you replacing a business that is your bread and butter? But part of being an innovative company is being a pioneer in new forms of distribution of content, and we would like to be there first and take a leadership role.”
Given that the PS4 only comes with a 500GB hard drive (albeit an admittedly upgradable one), coupled with the size of most next-gen titles (such as Killzone: Shadow Fall‘s 40 GB install), the ability to stream content will likely be a very welcome feature one year from now.
Additionally, if Sony is able to maintain their long term vision for Gaikai, providing gamers with easier access to a larger library of games without need for a full “console purchase,” the PS4 is definitely positioned to make good on its promise of delivering, first and foremost, a gamer-focused console (where living room entertainment features are secondary). Still, Sony has a long way to go, and a lot to prove, before that vision is fully realized – especially since they’ve yet to even provide a clear idea of their intended pricing model and which category of games (PS1, PS2, PS3, and/or PS4, etc) will even be included in the service.
Purchasing Gaikai was absolutely a step in the right direction, one that could provide a clear leg-up on the Xbox One competition a few years from now, but until players can sit down and experience the streaming service for themselves, it’s hard to know just how revolutionary (and lucrative) the partnership will actually be in the long run. After all, a lot of factors could hinder the service – which will be extremely dependent on internet providers and in-home download/upload speeds, among other potential limitations.
Gaikai streaming is tentatively scheduled to debut on the PS4 in Q3 2013.
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