Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Why I Am So Excited About PlayStation Now

With the announcement of PlayStation Now, Sony has the entire industry stirring with speculation about just how great the service will be. In case you didn’t know, PlayStation Now is what Sony is doing with the Gaikai streaming infrastructure the company bought in the summer of 2012. Announced at CES yesterday, Sony says the service will allow users to stream PSOne, PS2 and PS3 games on their PS4, PS Vita, smart phone, tablets and smart TVs. This will be a subscription based service, so there will be money involved, but regardless this is Sony future proofing itself on top of opening up some interesting possibilities for the PlayStation brand.

Bringing Back the Greatness
The PS4 is a great piece of technology and gaming on the system is so much fun. However, there are plenty of older games that are absolutely great, and with the PS4 not being backwards compatible, there are a lot of classics that many players (especially those who are first time PlayStation adapters with their PS4) who will miss out on these games.
This is Sony’s answer to that complaint, and though it will cost consumers extra money, the option is there. I love my older games. I still have my PSOne, PS2 and I plan to keep my PS3 when I buy the PS4, but I don’t always want to pull these consoles out just to show friends the history of a franchise or how great an older game is compared to its newer iteration. The ability to just load up the original Metal Gear Solid to show my roommate without having to buy the PSOne Classic off the PlayStation Store or pull out my old system is awesome.
Add that to the fact that I can play on the go with my Vita, and I am sold. But more on that further down…
Trying Out the Classics One at a Time
So the second major selling point of this service is that it will come in two iterations. The first is subscription based, in which users can pay a fee to stream unlimited games to their devices. This is probably the direction that most hard core gamers will go, which is great.
The second, and more interesting tier, is essentially a digital rental system, in which the user will pay to rent the game for a specific amount of time. This is genius for Sony, because there are plenty of people who play games that are not willing to pony up a monthly fee to play (hell, it’s the number one reason why I don’t play MMO’s). So with this rental system, it’ll be easy for that casual gamer to just pick a game that he/she heard was great and play it. Or maybe you want to play a classic game with an old friend over the weekend but aren’t a user of the service.  You can now just rent it for the weekend and when your friend leaves, so does the game. Sony is making some great strides to ensure that this particular service will be open to gamers and non-gamers alike.
Breathing Some Life into PS Vita
I love my PS Vita. It has everything I want in a handheld and some fantastic games that I can’t seem to put down. As a matter of fact, if you look at my trophy list, most of my Platinum trophies are from PS Vita games rather than PS3 games. But anyone who knows anything about PlayStation knows that the PS Vita is not selling as well as it deserves to be. Between some confusing marketing and a lack of real compelling games that are must plays found only on Vita, it’s frustrating to watch the system slowly wither away.
However, PlayStation Now could be another bonus for PS Vita owners. There are plenty of conversations about having iterations of console specific franchises on the Vita, such as The Last of Us and Bioshock, but no one company is willing to step up and prove that it can happen, not even Sony (please be good Borderlands 2!). But the streaming service could show just how great these games can play on the go. Now you can play The Last of Us while drinking a coffee at Starbucks, or kill a bunch of guys in Bioshock Infinite while waiting for class to start in school. Now when I go home to see my family for the holidays, I don’t have to worry about lugging my console with me if I’m in the mood for the games only found on PS3.
Plus, this should help stop the constant porting of console games on Vita. I love having Ninja Gaiden and Final Fantasy X on the go, but think of all the resources that could be put towards actually making games for the Vita rather than simply porting the same games we’ve played already. PlayStation Now could be the saving grace of the Vita, and I sure hope that’s the case, because I want it thrive. Handhelds are awesome, especially to hardcore gamers like me, but without great sales, there may not be another generation…
PlayStation Everywhere, Anytime
Which leads to my last point: playing games on the smart phone while out. This sounds amazing and terrifying all at once. I hate gaming on my phone. Most of the games that come out are not interesting to me what so ever and those that are control oddly enough and are not quite the experiences I want. I love stories and characters in games, and those are hard to come by in short, quick bursts that are found on the mobile frontier.
So streaming a PS3 game on my phone sounds awesome. Not only can I get that great experience of story I want, I can access a backlog of games I have yet to play that I really want to get to. These games are also linked to your PSN account, so you can obtain trophies for playing these games. And if the stream is similar to Netflix, you can stop anywhere and just pick back up midstream when you jump back on.
This is totally killer, if that’s how it works. Having to start back at a checkpoint because I lost service for a minute is not going to be fun. And finding a way to control these games on my 5 inch phone screen is going to be challenging. But if Sony can make it work, I’d love the ability to play real PlayStation games when I leave my Vita at home or am stuck somewhere.
Despite all these positives, there are still burning questions that need to be answered. How well will the stream work, both in house and on the go? What is the fee? Will it roll into PS Plus? How much do rentals cost and how long can you keep them? I have a lot of optimism in this program, because Sony finally seems to get what we the gamers want from the company, but that doesn’t mean we can forget that it is not infallible. The service is starting its beta next month and will launch later this year around summer. Don’t forget to comment below and keep the conversation going…

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