Sony announces PlayStation Now, its cloud gaming service for TVs, consoles, and phones
The PlayStation 4 may not be the most important part of Sony’s gaming strategy anymore. At CES 2014, Sony has just announced PlayStation Now, a service that will bring streaming PlayStation games not only to PS4, but also PS3, PlayStation Vita, and even televisions, tablets, and smartphones.
It’s the company’s public-facing brand for Gaikai, the cloud gaming technology it purchased in June of 2012, which the company previously said [URL=“http://www.theverge.com/2013/9/19/4748492/sony-will-stream-ps3-games-to-playstation-4-ps-vita-2014”]would bring PS3 games to the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita later this year. Sony says the technology is already working here at CES, with attendees able to try critically acclaimed action title The Last of Us here in Vegas. The full service will let users rent games or pay for a subscription that will let them “explore a range of titles.” Sony will launch a closed beta in the United States at the end of the month, and plans to roll out the service more broadly by the end of this summer.
"The tethers that have constrained consumption for decades... soon dissolve," said Sony CEO Kaz Hirai.
Gaikai works on practically any device — even smartphones — because the games don’t actually run locally at all. Cloud gaming services work more like a YouTube video, where powerful servers in remote data centers actually run the games, and stream compressed video frames of that game running to your local devices. They send the input from your touchscreen or game controller to the cloud. It doesn’t necessarily require an extremely fast internet connection, but it does require one with very low latency, so that the time between you pressing a button, and the time you see the reaction, is as short as possible.
Originally, Gaikai only streamed PC games to the web and to televisions, racking up deals with Samsung and LG to bring games like _The Witcher 2 _to their devices, but when Sony nabbed the technology it apparently figured out a way to have those servers emulate legacy PlayStation 3 titles as well. We haven’t yet heard how, but it’s one way to run PS3 games on PS4. Right now, [URL=“http://www.theverge.com/2013/2/20/4010604/PS4-will-not-support-PS3-games”]games from previous PlayStation systems don’t work if you stick them in the PS4’s disc drive.
In addition to games, [URL=“http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/7/5284530/sony-cloud-based-tv-service-live-tv-dvr-and-video-on-demand”]Sony also announced a cloud service aimed at television, which will offer live TV, video on demand, and even DVR recording functionality.
**Update: **Sony says that the PlayStation Now service will first roll out on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3, followed by the PlayStation Vita handheld, and that “most 2014 US models” of Sony’s Bravia TVs will support PlayStation Now. The service will stream full games, acccording to the company, and save your games in the cloud. You’ll be able to rent titles or pay for a subscription service.
European rollout may take a while, though. Sony writes that it is “not quite ready to confirm launch plans for PAL territories” yet:
“When it comes to broadband provision, Europe is a considerably more complex region, with a huge number of different providers and varying connection speeds from country to country. In short, we need a little more time to ensure a smooth and successful roll-out.”
**Update 2: **In a press release, Sony writes that PlayStation Now will support online multiplayer, trophies, and messages.
Matt Harper, Senior Manager of PlayStation Digital Platforms also spent some time talking more about other aspects of PlayStation Now, including renting and the subscription:
[INDENT]_With PS Now, you can rent by title for specific games, or you can choose a subscription that delivers additional value with a wide variety of genres. For example, you can try out a game by rental first, before deciding to actually purchase the full game and download it to your console. We believe this streaming game service will add tons of value to dedicated game consoles in addition to packaged and downloaded games, and in doing so, we will open up a new world of possibilities across PlayStation platforms.
Of course, one of the big reasons we are offering a closed beta is to get feedback on all aspects of the service, including of course the experience with rentals and subscriptions, so we look forward to hearing more feedback from our community as we move through the beta.
He then discussed how fast of a connection is optimal for PlayStation Now:
We recommend a 5MBPS+ connection. In our internal tests, users with this bandwidth or greater have been enjoying a low latency, high-quality gaming experience. PS Now tests your connection of each game and optimizes for quality if you are above the minimum requirements. We strive to make the gameplay experience feel as if the game is being played locally on their device – fast and responsive (including for FPS and games with twitch mechanics). The Closed Beta will definitely provide a great opportunity to test the experience with gamers with varying connection speeds and our developers will, of course, be working diligently to optimize the service based upon the feedback we receive from the community.
Update**: Matt Harper has continued to talk about PlayStation Now, revealing what may happen if your connection drops:
PS Now is a streaming service, but you of course will continue to be able to download titles to PlayStation devices from the PlayStation Store. If your connection drops while using PS Now, we may temporarily and adaptively reduce your resolution to maintain a responsive experience.
Harper then added, “We are laser focused on the gaming experience and making it great no matter what title you are playing. In our internal test, PS Now has been proven to provide a low latency gaming experience.”
He continued by confirming that you’ll be able to unlock Trophies through PlayStation Now, with the games always being the most up-to-date versions:
The stream is instant – no downloading, no installing, no patching. You get the most up-to-date version of the game streaming to your device from our remote servers. You also get Trophies, Friends List, and other PSN features._
While there are four playable games at CES 2014, Harper says they haven’t confirmed titles that will be available, with Beyond, God War: Ascension, The Last of Us, and Puppeteer being used for tech demo purposes only. If they don;t launch with games you want though, “We will definitely be adding games to the service over time based upon the requests we get from our community.”
Update 2: **If you decide to use PlayStation Now through a Bravia TV, “You will need a DualShock 3 and, of course, high-speed internet to play from the BRAVIA TV.” And if you were worried at all, “You will be able to play multiplayer games through PS Now.”