How Can Sony Improve PlayStation Now?
PlayStation Now Has Some Issues, How Can Sony Turn it Around?
When Sony announced that it was acquiring Gaikai, a cloud gaming company that allowed users to stream their games there was quite a bit of excitement. The prospect of streaming a catalogue of games in a Netflix-style subscription was, and still is, an enticing idea. However, PlayStation Now hasn’t exactly set the world on fire thanks to issues of bandwidth and latency, what some view as an overly expensive subscription fee and a lack of appeal. The landscape has also changed since 2012, with Xbox recently announcing their own competitor to PlayStation Now, Xbox Games Pass. Seeing each company’s differing approach to backwards compatibility has been an interesting side note this generation and will surely be a feature of the next generation of consoles too.
Last month Sony announced that it would be shuttering PlayStation Now on several devices including PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3 and several of their Bravia TV sets. This move according to Sony is to enable the publisher to “grow the service even further.” In what was presumably a response to Microsoft’s announcement of the Xbox Games Pass, Sony also announced this week that PS4 games would be coming to their service later this year. The timing of this announcement and the news itself tells you all you need to know about the current success of the service. Namely, there’s a distinct lack of games on offer with PlayStation Now and Xbox’s approach to backwards compatibility is much more elegant.
Before we even get to the games there’s the issue of PlayStation Now being somewhat ahead of its time. Streaming of film and TV is commonplace but streaming a game presents more issues such as latency, lag and sheer bandwidth limitations. The state of internet infrastructure varies from country to country and some of it depends on how much you spend on your internet service but either way it’s not where Sony or advocates of a digital gaming future would like it to be. Many PlayStation Now users have reported latency and other issues when using the service and depending on the game you play, this can have a detrimental impact on your gaming experience. Imagine playing a fighting game or first person shooter which are predicated on precision and accuracy and having to contend with such issues. There’s a reason some people resist an online only future and a big part of that is services aren’t reliable enough yet.
Another problem PlayStation Now has is a lack of appeal. The service is fairly expensive in relation to what’s on offer. Here in the U.K the service is £12.99 per month and as of right now only offers select PS3 games. As an Xbox player last generation it doesn’t include many titles I couldn’t have played on that console or as a remaster on PS4. Adding PS4 games offers some more value but right now the cost is too high for what you receive and it’s much easier and more reliable to play those games by buying physical or downloading from the store. By adding a host of PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 classics and Sony might pique the interest of more people.
PlayStation Now is endemic of how Sony has handled backwards compatibility this generation. It’s very much a scattershot approach with remasters, some emulation of pre-PS3 titles and of course PlayStation Now. While it’s debatable how important backwards compatibility is to a lot of gamers it’s definitely a plus point for any console. Xbox One’s greatest move this generation has been the addition of this feature and by initially saying it can’t be done, the announcement was a pleasant surprise for Xbox fans. The offer is a great marketing tool too as the company can say the number of games available on Xbox One is much higher than it was previously. Microsoft has effectively outmaneuvered Sony on this issue and continue to do so with the Xbox Games Pass. The pass is a very similar idea to PlayStation Now but with the simplicity of downloading games rather than streaming them removing any lag or latency issues due to limited bandwidth. The key difference is that PS4 continues to sell extremely well while Xbox One lags behind. Nevertheless, Sony shouldn’t be complacent in making gamer-friendly moves just because it’s ahead in the race.
It will be interesting to see how much faith Sony puts behind the technology of PlayStation Now in the future. Will the service still exist on the next generation of consoles? Will it have much more value than it does now? Will Sony cut the price in the near future to make it more appealing? Time will tell but for now, the service isn’t nearly as promising as it was back in 2012. PlayStation needs a clear and consistent approach to backwards compatibility in the future.
What do you think of PlayStation Now? What could Sony do to improve the service?
Tell me about your thoughts on the service in the comments below.