Sony’s PlayStation Now streaming game service is set to release during the summer in North America.
This is the culmination of Sony’s purchase of Gaikai, a cloud-powered gaming framework, back in July 2012.
While Sony never specifically outlined its intentions after purchasing Gaikai for $380 million, it was widely assumed thatit would be used to stream video games as the company shared its desire to one day have its entire library available via the Internet.
Sony lifted the veil of mystery at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas as it detailed the PlayStation Now service. Players will be able to instantly access PlayStation 3 games on the PS3, PS4, PlayStation Vita, Sony Bravia television sets, smartphones and tablets. There was no information provided about original PlayStation or PlayStation 2 games, though that would seem like a certainty in the future.
PlayStation Now will feature a subscription model or players can rent games one at a time. This begs the question: To whom is this service supposed to appeal? There are a host of concerns for this monumental initiative.
Sony was quick to reiterate that PlayStation Now was not backwards compatibility for PlayStation 4 users. It is simply an alternative for users to experience PS3 games on the PS4 via streaming over the Internet, but there are many gamers who still own their PlayStation 3 with digital copies of games and older PlayStation consoles and games.
Physical media versus digital media became a hot button topic with the furor over Microsoft’s desire to move video game media towards digital only. Sony capitalized on the backlash by ensuring gamers that physical media would remain available for the PS4 even though Sony also desires to move into a digital-only future.
Although they may be in the minority, there are plenty of consumers — many of whom are PC gamers — that are ready for the digital switchover thanks to digital delivery services like Steam and Origin. PlayStation Now could certainly help Sony move away from physical media by providing streaming services to new releases in addition to their current library of games.
It is recommended that users have a five-megabyte-per-second Internet connection at minimum to ensure better performance.
The U.S., ranked 35 out of 148 countries in Internet bandwidth by The World Economic Forum, has consistently been behind other countries in offering high-speed Internet services to consumers.
High-speed Internet providers also cap users’ bandwidth in many areas and streaming PS3 games could easily eat up a user’s allotted bandwidth in a month.
Players who still maintain their consoles and games may prefer physical copies of games or may not meet the bandwidth requirement to experience streaming high-quality gaming effectively. These people are effectively alienated from the full capability of this service.
That is a problem when Sony is going to lean heavily on subscriptions to recoup the costs of buying Gaikai and maintaining the infrastructure to keep it running.
PlayStation Now’s real appeal might be in the ability to stream to alternate devices like smartphones and tablets. Even though a dual shock three controller will be required to play the games, PlayStation Now could conceivably be a colossal success if Sony is able to penetrate the mobile market, something none of the video game console manufacturers have been able to do effectively to this point.
The future for PlayStation Now is hard to predict. There are variables that alienate the current user base and casual gamers are not the early adopters of the PlayStation 4 but the potential for Sony to tap into an entirely new market share could prove very rewarding.
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