PlayStation Now: Updates

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PlayStationNow

Introduction to PlayStation Now

A lot can change in three years. Take, for example, PlayStation Now.

On July 2, 2012, Sony bought the then-barely-known cloud gaming service, GaiKai, to the tune of $380 million (£242 million, AU$518). The decision was met with tepid excitement and heaps of skepticism.

The excitement made sense. Though a foreign idea at the time, game-streaming sounded like an ambitious way to replace the derelict brick and mortar rental stores. (Sorry, Blockbuster!) The skepticism, however, was also understandable.

How could the average user expect a stable, quick connection for an entire gaming session? And how could Sony price it so that both consumers and developers get a fair deal?

Now, three years after the acquisition of GaiKai, one year after the service left beta testing in the US and several months after arriving in the UK, I can finally answer those questions.

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

PlayStation Now: what is it?

PlayStation Now is a digital game-streaming service from Sony. In simplest terms: you pay Sony some cash and they’ll let you borrow a game for a limited amount of time.

The system currently works in two ways: an a la carte, pay-for-what-you-want model where you pay only for the amount of time you want the game for; and a recurring subscription that’s similar, in some respects, to Netflix.

For a long time, PlayStation Now was exclusive to the PS4, but that’s slowly changed over the last year. Currently, you can find PlayStation Now on the PS3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation TV, select Sony 2014 and 2015 TVs, Sony Blu-ray players and some Samsung TVs.

Most of these systems require a PlayStation 4 DualShock 4 controller to work, but in some cases you’ll be able to save some money and use a DualShock 3 controller instead.

As far as what games you can expect, it’s probably best to keep expectations low. Sony has added over 100 titles in the past six months from renowned third-party publishers, like Ubisoft and Capcom, but there’s still plenty of gaps in the coverage.

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

Most games are from the PS3 era, but you can find a handful of PlayStation Vita titles there in the mix, as well as a few PS4 games. We recently caught wind of a PlayStation 2 emulator on the PS4, which could mean that games from that generation could arrive some time in 2016.

Once you pick a game, the service will connect you to a remote server that will host your session. There’s a bit of a wait, while Sony strings it all together, before you’re thrown into the action, no need to download the game.

Great expectations

There was a time that we hoped, perhaps somewhat naively, that PlayStation Now would be the Netflix of video game streaming. The hope was that we could shell out a paltry $8.99 (£6, AU$12) a month and access any game on the service forever – so long as we didn’t let our subscription lapse.

PlayStation Now hasn’t quite unfolded that way. That’s not to say that the service is bad, mind you. It’s just … different.

All a streaming video service has to do is push content from a server to your PC. It needs to know when you pause, obviously, but other than a few small commands, the service doesn’t really take any input.

That need to always be listening for commands and interpreting them in real time is what makes a service like PlayStation Now a nightmare to code. For you, this point can mean the difference between lag-free gameplay and an unplayable experience.

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

Before I get into the performance, one of PlayStation Now’s greatest strengths is that it’s worth focusing on its vision for the future.

The service, in its current state, supports over 260 games with no signs of slowing down in the near future. In fact, it looks like that rate might increase as soon as Sony widely releases that emulator it’s teased recently, which could happen as early as next year.

The service could carry over from platform to platform, and become a – pardon my language – game-changing feature for the future of Sony game consoles. Of course, we can’t review the future before it happens nor the promises Sony has made so far. Instead, what follows is a review of the service as I see it today.

Design, game library, pricing and performance

I’ll start at the beginning: the design and layout of the PlayStation Now app, specifically on PS4.

The interface is incredibly simplistic, maybe overly so. All you’ll see, after you get past the paywall are the games. The titles are separated into categories with featured titles, usually grouped by publisher or genre, at the top.

Scrolling down, you’ll find more discrete categories, like 2D fighting games or JRPGs, for example. There are about a dozen categories to pick from, with some titles appearing in multiple categories.

After you pick a game from the list and play it for the first time, the game will appear on the home screen so that you can easily pick it up again in the future.

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

Game library

At last count, PlayStation Now has a bit over 260 games available to stream. They range in value and prestige from some of the must-play games of the last generation, like the standalone DLC for The Last of Us or God of War: Ascension, to small indie darlings to some completely forgettable, bargain bin fodder.

But the decent titles are worth the price of entry. Games like Saints Row 3, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Darksiders and Catherine are all up for grabs, while Sony provides a few platform exclusives, like Ico, Shadow of the Colossus and Ratchet and Clank, that are excellent as well.

Sadly, not every game is worthwhile: Some of the 260 games are clearance pile fodder, and have been for the past few years. I don’t know anyone lining up to play Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear or Jimmie Johnson’s Anything with Wheels, and I’m sure while someone out there really enjoys Wheel of Fortune and Frogger HD, it’s not me.

But the variety offered here should be enough to please a diverse set of tastes.

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

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Pricing

PlayStation Now could offer the biggest and best games from the company’s 20-year foray into game consoles, but if the pricing is wrong, none of it will matter. Knowing full well that prices and dollar signs are what sinks ships, pricing is one area that Sony has given special attention to over the last year of PlayStation Now’s existence.

If you choose the subscription plan, pricing is relatively straightforward. One month of the service will run you $19.99/£12.99 (around AU$30 when it comes to Australia) or, if you see this becoming a long term love affair, there’s a three-month package that costs $44.99 (or about $15 per month). I’ve found the three-month plan to work better for me, but it’s obviously a “your mileage may vary” situation.

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

Should you decide to rent games a la carte from the PlayStation Now section of the PlayStation Store, you’ll find a greater selection of games (around 400, according Sony’s PlayStation Now FAQ), but games are divided into four rental periods: four hours, seven days, 30 days and 90 days. The price between the first two typically only differs by one to two dollars, but there’s a major jump in cost that happens between the 30 and 90-day levels.

However, once you purchase time with a game, you can’t buy additional time. Ideally, you should be able to buy a four-hour demo for $2.99 and, once you’ve decided you like it, unlock 7-day access by paying the difference.

As it stands, you’ll need to wait out the four hours and then pay the full 7-day price. There’s no way to transition from one to another without waiting out the time for which you paid.

Thankfully, the rental period begins the first time you play the game – not when you purchase it. However, you must start your game within 30 days of purchasing the rental or that money is wasted.

Here’s a table of three games, one PS3 game; one PSN game; and one more recent PS4 game that display not only the difference in price over each time period, but the difference between games from different platforms as well:

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

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Taken at face value, these don’t seem so bad. Reasonably, this is what brick and mortar stores used to charge for rentals, and while the upper-end seems a bit too high (Bound by Flame was on sale last week for $9.99) it’s something Sony has clearly given a lot of thought to.

Where I can see PlayStation Now finding some traction is with gamers supplementing their PS4 experience with rentals – or, crazier, users giving up their physical media collection completely. This depends largely on how quickly publishers get on board with game-streaming as a way to play. But, in a perfect world in which games launch simultaneously on retail and PS Now, you could be playing the week’s biggest game without leaving your couch for the pittance of $6.99.

There’s a lot of potential here, and obviously some room to improve, but that’s why the subscription option exists.

Stream quality

Another area that could use some sprucing up is the streaming quality. Not only do games take 30 to 45 seconds to load up, but any hiccup in the connection completely derails gameplay.

While Sony is only recommending connection speeds of 5Mbps, it’s not until 10 to 15Mbps that you’ll truly reach the promised land of uninterrupted gameplay.

Review: Updated: PlayStation Now

If you leave this review with one piece advice, have it be this: use an ethernet cable instead of the system’s Wi-Fi. A lost connection to your router will boot you from the game whether you’ve saved 10 seconds ago or 10 minutes ago. I get booted from games multiple times due to a bad connection.

Throughout my tests, I never quite had a perfect connection, despite doing everything in my power to create one. The best I could get was gameplay with infrequent jitters that were fine for platforming games like Braid, but made playing Borderlands tough.

This is an area Sony can improve on in time by optimizing servers and opening more server farms closer to major metropolitan areas. But, until that time, it’s probably best if you take advantage of the seven-day free trial before committing yourself long term to Sony’s new streaming platform.

Verdict

As it stands, what Sony has created with PlayStation Now is pretty amazing. It’s entered an arena in which so many have failed (remember OnLive?) and has emerged with a viable platform for the future of Sony’s gaming division.

That said, there are still some serious kinks to work out. Unless you’re rocking an insanely fast connection, you’ll always run up against lag, and the pricing still isn’t as logical as it should be. In addition to the library of games offered to customers, these are areas where the service has grown immensely in the last six months and continues to push forward.

Like I said before, if you’re unsure about the service, try out the seven-day free trial to see how you like it. The worst that will happen is one night of aggravatingly slow, jarring gameplay and a few minutes on Sony’s website unsubscribing. The best case scenario, and the more likely one, is that PlayStation Now will genuinely impress you as a proof of concept and a cheap way to binge-play some older games you might’ve missed on the PS3.

We liked

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As promised, Sony delivered a slew of games. Picking which one of the 260-plus games to download first is a difficult decision, and this is only the beginning. But don’t treat this like the end-all, be-all choice. Because rentals don’t take up any space on your hard drive and there’s zero download time, you can jump from one game to the next to your heart’s content.

Ideally, that means taking advantage of the reasonably priced subscription program, even if it’s only for the seven-day trial period. It’s not that I’m opposed to shelling out for content a la carte, I’m not, but you need to use caution and good judgement before you rent a game for 30 days that you could’ve bought outright for less.

We disliked

It would’ve been great to escape the slog of buying games and returning them for half their value, but that doesn’t seem possible with PlayStation Now in its current state. Publishers haven’t taken to the idea of putting their latest wares on the service, instead opting to put up classics of varying quality.

The other major problem is that, every once in awhile, streaming can take a huge dip and derail your perfect stream in a first-person shooter or send you careening into a wall in a driving game. Worst of all, if you get booted from your game, you can say goodbye to all the progress you made since your last save.

Final verdict

As a platform, PlayStation Now has vastly improved over the last 10 months. We’ve seen a marked increase in the amount of games (from 80 last year in July 2014 to about 260 in December 2015) as well as the addition of a subscription option that makes joining an easier decision.

There’s still room for Sony’s new service to grow, but considering that this technology has only been in its current state in the wild for a year, there’s a lot to be excited about.

Whether you should subscribe to PlayStation Now comes down to two questions: do you mind games that are a few years old and, more importantly, can you put up with small periods of imprecise controls in exchange for a massive, 260-plus game library?

If your answer is no to either of those, then you might want to press pause on your subscription until more third-party game makers get on-board or Sony at least fronts more recent first-party games on the subscription side of the service.

It’s clear that there’s a future in PlayStation Now not just for Sony, but for how we purchase games on the whole. However, as the service stands today, more needs to be done before it can be recommended outright.

Source: feedproxy.google.com

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32 thoughts on “PlayStation Now: Updates

  1. holy the pricing is outrages 44.99 for only three months to only gain access and then you have to rent to play games like grid or pS3 GAMES………….No thanks Would rather purchase games and play them on my ps3 if its going to stay this ridicules in pricing come on and their is only a limited amount of titles, I got excited at first when I saw you can play 100s of titles for only a subscription, but then they messed it up with the rent process bullshit… I hope this gets no attention and flops really hard to let sony know gamers are not gonna shell out thousands to play backlogged games.

  2. I don’t know where you live, but in the last 3 years at my house, my electric’s been out for a total of 7 seconds and my internet has been down for around 4 days… so is losing just over 1 day of gaming per year for the sake of saving nearly a $1000

  3. People like you are the death of video gaming consoles. Horrible idea. Did you just not read anything. The connection goes out how will you play any games. That is not

  4. This is a massive innovation! Removing the console completely and requiring only a TV is the logical next step. I would rather pay for this service than buy a console. Pay monthly but save on console cost, buying new games and electricity.

  5. Well, I wanted to try it before I read this article as I was flipping through the store. However when I wanted to rent and it asked me for paypal, it did not send me to the paypal serivices. DO you need to pay the monthly and this pricing? If so that is not good. I would be willing to pay for the 7 day to try out a game, If I like then I would buy the game. I don’t think there will be a lot of people playing it all the time unless the demand goes up and they lower the pricing. I mean $1.00 / 7 days can ads up to 1 million with 1 million playing. Just sayin

  6. sony should focus on fixing their connectivity issues on the PS4 then adding more services that are pricey, Most users are on LAN cables because the wifi on the system drops constantly and its annoying and needs a fix, drop this and FIX THE PSN NETWORK AND CONNECTIVITY

  7. I was just trying the free subscription. Here are the reasons ps now is not good. Number 1. If the game loses connection your game is over. I just was playing and i was about to save then the game loses connection. I lost progress in an adventure game. I am pissed. they are going through maintenance right now. So the network earlier was down meaning you have zero access to any of the ps now games. So it is essentially dead if no network. You can now buy a subscription and get free games like paying for netflicks but is not the entire catalogue. Overall they should just allow backwards compatibility it makes more sense.

  8. The only way I’d go for this is if – considering that its main use would be for PS3, PS2 and PSone games – it was akin to Netflix: under 00a310 per month for all you can eat.

  9. Its about 4 times the price it should be. If they were to lower the prices significantly, i’d buy in. Only recently i have started to buy digital games off their store. Especially in the sales.

  10. PSnow is damn amazing I’m using it right now to play a few PS3 games I’ve wanted to play but don’t feel like buying since I’ve moved to the PS4. Lag free pretty much wow.

  11. So I have a question about PS now! My kids both have the sony blu-ray player. I was hoping to just pay for one subscription and they use it kind of like Netflix where each of them have their own accounts. Or does it work alot like Hulu where it is everyones account but more than one person can be one it account at a time?

  12. …did you just say a negative thing about waiting 30+ sec for a game to load…that is streaming? lol No DL etc.. You’re crazy. Its practically magic…

  13. I love PSNOW. I will subscribe pretty much as much as I can and I’ve had a PS3 for 5 years. It saves me lots of money.

  14. I got 4 games that I wanted (ps3 exclusives) for 10 dollars for all at gamestop. Gamestop prices suck but why in the hell would i pay to rent a game when I can own it for cheaper or not much more. $20 fee for all access is great value for someone that never had a ps3 or havent played a majority of the exclusives but man I find it hard to spend over $5 to rent a game when I can buy it online/gamestop or buy it on steam if its a multiplatform game. Blockbuster went out of business for a reason. I do not understand why they didnt go for a hour, 4 hour, 12 hour, and let you do individual 24 hours up to a week. I imagine most people renting a game are focusing solely on the game they are renting if they are doing 1-3 games at a time, seems odd that someone would want to rent a game for any longer than a week or 2.

  15. Glad to hear the positive feedback. Agreed, the quality of the stream is consistently good. There were few, if any drops, during a regular session and, compared to OnLive, PlayStation Now is the hands-down victor. Thanks for reading!

  16. I honestly can’t understand the resistance to the pricing model. It gets a lot better as you rent for longer periods of time. $2.99 for 4 hours is ridiculous, I will readily admit that, but $7.99 for 30 days? Doesn’t bother me in the slightest, especially if I’m renting a game that I only want to play through, once. If you were to rent a game like this for 30 days from Blockbuster only a few years ago, you’d be paying well over the cost of the game. I’ll buy any games that I intend to keep for collection purposes and/or continuous play. For instance, it would be asinine to rent FF12, but I’d do it in a heartbeat for Killzone 3 (and I did). My first rental was in fact, Killzone 3, and aside from VERY rare FPS drops that lasted only a half-second, it was a buttery-smooth experience from start to finish. I had no trouble streaming this title. Granted, my internet connection is blazingly fast, but I still expected issues nonetheless. Not once did my gameplay get interrupted for my first 3 hour session, and I had no trouble at all. I’m looking forward to seeing what Now can really do. If pricing is a problem, then perhaps Sony will re-think their pricing structure. For now, it doesn’t bug me at all. I don’t consider the higher-term prices to be a big problem, but that’s just me. I’ve enjoyed my Now experience, so far.

  17. Why? So you can miss out on one platform’s exclusives to play a previous generation’s exclusives ?

  18. Honestly, if that happens I’d really consider selling my Xbox One.

  19. why bump up the price for ps plus, just add it in and keep the rent this way they can say ps now is included in PS PLUS and honestly its not really an amazing feature, its useless in fact playing backlogged games is not attracting me to play old titles that I can play for free or purchase them on a PS3 and they do not offer PS2 titles, so its a service that will most likely flop in a month or two more depends on sony if they wasted their time because the pricing is horrible for the rent process 7- day=3.99 lol thats outrages i can forget i had the game in the first place in that time period

  20. Bump up the price of ps plus and just include it, also whilst your there throw on music unlimited before spotify kills it off… Having those two in ps plus subscriptions would make the ps4 skyrocket

  21. Wrong in many cases not to sound sneer, but if you have a good internet connection (cat 5 cable), its great. Mine is more than enough at 50mb, with 150mb blast. I mean all the good PS3 exclusives, that haven’t been remastered others that have. On Xbox One there is pretty much nothing but arcade crap. Which I’ve played on 360 1000 times. At the moment there are nearly 500 games, and I’m just using the 7 day free trial. RE series, ALL of them, Bioshocks, Assassins Creeds, Batmans, Devil May Cry’s, God Of Wars, even basic stuff like Jeopardy, Wheel Of Fortune etc. The ones that require a 90 day sub, aren’t anything special. And they run great. Just got done playing Killzone 2, and I forgot how fun it is, and how good it looks. Even streaming. Not that XB1 isn’t innovative with what they’ve done, but come on, like 3 games a month. It’ll take 30 years to get over half of the 360 library at that rate!! I was a skeptic too, now I’m not. :)

  22. I will never use this service. It’s just a money grab intended to rob people who no longer own their ps3. I would much rather see backwards compatibility added to ps4. Last year my ps3 got the yellow light of death forcing me to buy a new one even though I own a ps4. Earlier this week my xbox 360 got the red dot of death but because of backwards compatibility on my xbox one I probably wont have to buy a new one. Even if they lowered the price of PS Now it will never be as good as backwards compatibility would be. I used to use Onlive. It failed because streaming games can be a very unpleasant experience. From Input lag to video compression artifacts and network problems. streaming can never be as good as having a game stored locally on a console.

  23. Love how the re-edited the article and put my connection drop = game over from comment. haha It didn’t say that in the beginning. Thanks for my input at least!!

  24. Seriously, is the price structure a joke? This is why I’ve had $18.00 credit sitting used on my Playstation account for 3 years! Everything is extremely overpriced, and this is even worse! Sadly, Sony is just trying to make money off all the suckers in the world.

  25. That’s awesome. Glad to hear you dig the service.

  26. I’ve just done a 1month long subscription and I have to admit its pretty cool, I finished uncharted, two God of War games and only tried out a few others within that time frame. I definitely plan to do it again but only once they increased the library b/c as of now there arent too many games I havent played or even want to play tbh. So once they have a larger library and hopefully a years long subscription plan i’d love to give Sony my money ^^

  27. I had onlive for a bit and was thrilled to be able to play the games literally anywhere you are and on cell phones no less. Crazy concept and I loved it except the delivery wasn’t that great. There were great games for sure but just not enough. Don’t get me wrong playing the witcher on a crappy deskstop and then darksiders on my phone was awesome.

  28. I made the same argument on another article! They’re not exactly one-to-one but they’re darn close. I’m working on a PS Now vs EA Access article coming soon, so any comments / questions / concerns you want answered, let me know!

  29. Yeah, hopefully they have a monthly subscription planned, otherwise I don’t know how they figured EA Access wasn’t a value to gamers while somehow PS Now is…

  30. I’m right there with you. It’s just too expensive at the moment. The pricing model may change once the service goes live, but right now it’s a tough sell.

  31. There is no way PS Now will survive with the current pricing model. The only people who this really offers anything for are those who do not still have their PS3s or switched from Xbox 360 and want to try some older games; anyone else can just purchase the game, new, for the same prices, if not less. There are only two pricing structures that make sense: 1. The price to rent a game for the longest available period of time (currently 90 days) should be no more than $10 or half the price of purchasing the game new. 2. A monthly subscription that allows unlimited access to all content. Shouldn’t be any more than $15 a month with a discount for PS Plus members ($7-8 a month).

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