The lights are on
Earlier today at CES, Sony announced its PlayStation Now service, which allows customers to stream games from the original PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 libraries onto a number of devices, including Bravia televisions, tablets, consoles, and the PlayStation Vita.
I had an extended play session where I demoed both The Last of Us and God of War: Ascension through a PS Vita and a Sony Bravia TV without using a console, and I walked away ready to purchase a subscription (though Sony hasn't released pricing details just yet).
What's exciting about this service is that you can play across platforms and your saves are all stored in the cloud. So if you start a game on your PS4 in your bedroom, you can continue that save from a friend's house on your Vita, and then finish it up when you get home on the Bravia TV in your living room.
I noticed a small amount of artifacting while playing both games, but the most important detail is the lag between hitting a button and watching your actions on screen, and in that area I experienced almost none. The latency was super low and didn't feel noticeable different from if I was playing on a TV hooked up to my PlayStation at home.
There are still a lot of questions. How much will Sony charge for this service? And how quickly will they be rolling out new games? But the groundwork is here for a great service.
The industry has experimented with services like this before (remember Sega Channel?), but if Sony can keep the latency this low when millions of users are streaming games across the county then it might have a service that could do for games what Netflix has done for movies.
PlayStation Now is also a good solution to the backwards compatibility problem. "We're trying to get as many PS3 games on there as we can," says Sony Computer Entertainment of America VP John Koller. "Because we look at that library, it's very diverse and it still current, it's still front of mind for a lot of people, and it allows you to play PS3 games on your PS4."
The service might even be able to save some consumers money. For example, if you already played a game, but just want to play the Game of The Year content when it comes out and don't want to buy the game again, PlayStation Now might be able to help you out. "There are a lot of opportunities to release Game of the Year editions through this platform or package DLC through PlayStation Now," says Koller. "If you're a publisher you can provide that content to players that way. It's really up to them, but I can tell you that the publisher are exceedingly bullish about this. I think for obvious reasons. It's bringing another way for players to experience their content. I'd say the industry is pretty excited about this overall."
We just hope that the system works as well when it comes out as it does during the CES demo.
(Editor's Note: The servers for this demo were close to the location of the demonstration. Real world performance may vary.)
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