I’m as excited as anyone about the prospect of being able to play PS3 content on my PS4. Never having owned Sony’s last-gen console myself, there are a number of exclusive titles I’d love to get my hands on, including The Last of Us and Journey.
I can’t help but greet Sony’s Playstation Now announcement at this year’s CES with a healthy dose of skepticism though.
In his “Hands-on Impressions,” Scott Lowe summarizes the upcoming streaming service’s appeal, “For the unfamiliar, PlayStation Now, provides backwards compatibility to the PS4, but also extends PS3 games to the PS Vita and even devices not even intended for gaming, such as smartphones, tablets, and smart TVs.”
Basically, the PS3’s great library will become available to just about anyone with access to a higher-end gadget. Since all of the energy-intensive computing will be taking place at Gaikai centers far away, the problem of having devices natively emulate disappears. Still, one big issue remains: latency.
Nintendo spent a lot of time and money simply trying to reduce latency between the Wii U and GamePad, and it shows in the price of both. While Lowe notes that with Playstation Now, “Latency was also surprisingly low,” he’s quick to add that he’s still “curious to see how the system fairs with more precision-demanding games.”
This is especially significant since Sony claims that Playstation Now will allow players to play online matches with with one another across different platforms. While this is a great feature, its true value hangs on whether or not Gaikai has found a way to minimize latency while doing so. Even a split-second delay in a something like The Last of Us’ multiplayer can lead to it being, for all intents and purposes, unplayable.
Mostly though, it comes down to price. It’s possible that Sony has found a way to stream PS3 content to various platforms with truly minimal latency. In that case though it’s likely that Playstation Now will require users to pay a premium. I could easily see a monthly subscription costing upwards of $30, while individual rentals are something like $5 per day.
That’s not to say that the value won’t be there—$5 to $10 for forty eight hours with The Last of Us sounds like a great value proposition to me. It just might be a service which, depending on how limited the library that’s available to stream is, may or may not be something feasible for me personally to subscribe to over the long haul. Between Netflix, Hulu, Xbox Live and Playstation Plus, not to mention my Internet and wireless subscriptions, the bill start to pile up fast.
Either way though, once the service is finally available, what I’m most interested to see is how it ultimately jives with Sony’s current Playstation Plus initiative. It’s possible that both services could be maintained at the same time, complimenting one another and reinforcing the breadth and quality of Sony’s Playstation ecosystem. At the same time however, I feel like a service that allows users to pay a flat monthly fee to stream a library of content necessarily cuts against the discounts and freebies that have currently been flooding the store thanks to Playstation Plus. Why bother with actually buying games when I can just as easily rent them, beat them, and then move on?
Hopefully Sony will release more details prior to the service’s roll-out this summer. For now we’ll just have to wait and see.