The end of CES 2014 is finally upon us. As is tradition with any big event, we’re here to sum it all up. Let’s focus on the important videogame news that came out of the show: PlayStation Now and the Steam Machines.
Here’s a rundown of what Sony announced about PlayStation Now:
PS Now will originally stream PS3 games. Those titles will be the main focus of the service, but Sony eventually hopes to stream PS1 and PS2 titles eventually. Games are stored and backed up on cloud storage, so you don’t need your console with you. It’ll be released in the summer -- immediate availability on the PS3 and PS4, but support for Vita and certain Sony Bravia TVs will follow. Eventually, tablet compatibility is desired; however, you’ll still need a DualShock3 controller (or DualShock4 on the PS4) to play away from your console, except in the case of Vita (for obvious reasons).
Sony has yet to announce an official game lineup, but they did demo The Last Of Us and Beyond Two Souls. It’s safe to expect AAA titles will be supported from launch, though lesser-known PS3 games will have a good chance if Sony extends support to 10- and 15-year-old PS1 and PS2 games.
The pitch is that no matter where you’re playing the game, you won’t lose any performance since all the computing is done remotely; if so, The Last Of Us will run as smoothly as The Bouncer did. There’s no confirmed pricing details just yet, but Sony promised the service will be available through payment plans, and users can rent or subscribe to multiple titles. The latter isn’t unlike a digital version of everyone's favorite bankrupt media retail store: Blockbuster.
All of the features and capabilities of Playstation Now sit nicely with Kazuo Hirai’s “One Sony” model -- he wants the company to be a part of all your media and tech experiences, wherever you go. Time will tell how successful Playstation Now is, but we’ll get our first glimpse of the full system by the summer.
On to the other important videogame story: Steam Machines. Fourteen of them, to be precise, ranging from entry level ($500) to stratospheric ($6,000). Gabe Newell led the keynote speech introducing all of the Steam Machines, confirming that he thinks Steam OS can compete against the major game consoles. Newell didn’t confirm Half-Life 3, unfortunately.
Valve don’t make any of the Machines themselves; instead, independent hardware makers like Alienware and Falcon Northwest have built their own machines to run on Valve’s Steam OS. The general idea of the Steam Machines is to bring a customizable computer into living rooms that connect to existing HDTVs, but also carry a library of Steam games to play with a controller.
The concept is a bit esoteric to established console gamers and the Steam Machines will have an undeniably difficult time competing with Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. All three of Valve’s main competitors already have mobile platforms for their games, either as standalone units (Nintendo & Sony) or part of other mobile technology (Microsoft). Playstation Now will also allow players to move to another television without a console, which might cut the demand for Steam OS.
Newell is confident that the “65 million Steam users will be well-served by Steam OS.”
If they’re not, Valve has the clout to survive a failed venture.