LAS VEGAS -- If you’ve ever wanted to experience PlayStation games, but didn’t want to spend money on a console, we’ve got good news: PlayStation Now. The downside: graphics take a huge hit on the cloud.
It’s basically an app that streams a library of PlayStation games directly your device, without the need for a gaming machine; as long as your equipment can run the Now app and your Internet connection is strong, you’re in business -- even if all you have is a TV or a blu-ray player. The app is rolling out first on Sony’s Bravia line and a few Samsung models, but other non-Sony TVs will eventually gain support.
There’s a library of 100+ games stored in the cloud; users will be able to choose any from the list and start streaming the game over their Internet connection within a minute or so. Think of it like Netflix or Amazon Prime for video games.
Sony touted PlayStation Now at their CES 2015 booth, so naturally we had to have a go.
The graphics aren’t perfect -- in fact, they take a huge hit. You’ll notice a lot of fuzziness and artifacting, especially in action-heavy titles. We tried "NBA 2K14," "Super Street Fighter IV," and "F1 2013," to varying degrees of success: "NBA 2K14" was passable, as long as you didn’t look at the action replay closeups. F1 2013 got messy, when the artifacting combined with the game’s motion blur. "Super Street Fighter IV" covered up a lot of the low fidelity moments with flashy super moves, but you still wouldn’t mistake the streamed version for a hard copy.
If you’re looking for high-fidelity playback, you’ll still have to play the games off a dedicated console; Sony’s obviously prioritizing smooth framerates over high-quality graphics.
That’s not to say this is a bad thing. Sony’s not dedicating that much bandwidth to graphics rendering, but the compromise means there’s very little input lag. It wasn’t noticeable in any of the games we played, even "Street Fighter IV." It’s almost as seamless as having a local copy of the games.
It’s certainly not the ideal way to play PS3 games -- and those are the majority of supported titles so far, as PS4 games will follow eventually -- but Playstation Now is still an intriguing alternative for someone on the go or for non-gamers who want to play a few titles without the big upfront cost of a console. Subscriptions to PlayStation Now will be $20 per month, or $45 for three months.
Owners of the beleaguered PlayStation Vita will also be able to stream games via PlayStation Now. We didn’t get to experience the streaming service on one, but it’s likely that the Vita’s small screen would cover up some of the graphics degradation (Sony used 40-inch plus televisions at CES, which showed all of the games’ flaws).
It’s an interesting idea by Sony -- and it might pull some Xbox One owners away from their consoles for a bit. If the service makes a good impression, it might even convince them to pick up dedicated Sony hardware.
Playstation Now goes live on January 13th, 2015. Sony will offer a free weeklong trial for potential customers.