Sony’s new PlayStation Now streaming service, announced at CES this week, is how Sony wants you to play PlayStation 3 games in the future—and that’s just the beginning.
Initially, the company says the service, which is launching in beta later this month and becoming available sometime over the summer, will allow users to play (currently just) PlayStation 3 games over the PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Sony Bravia TVs, and eventually phones and tablets—not just Sony phones, either. It’s an ambitious project that’s made possible thanks to the company’s acquisition of Gakai.
And you know what? It works, and quite well too. At least in a controlled environment on the show floor.
The experience of playing The Last of Us on the PS Vita is strange, like experiencing deja vu. We were just playing this on the PlayStation 3 a few months ago, and now Sony has made it possible to stream on a portable device. That strangeness eventually subsided into warm familiarity (if you’ve played TLoU, that is). Playing games on the PS Vita meant getting used to for those who played with a controller before, though Sony does try and make up for this by mapping buttons to the Vita’s rear touchpad. Once you get used to the change, however, it isn’t really an issue. From what I could tell, everything was mostly silky smooth, and worked surprisingly well—good enough to where I didn’t notice any substantial lag or freezing.
What makes PS Now so alluring is how Sony is giving users the ability to stream their favorite game from a host of different devices; you don’t need to install or download any huge files, and you don’t need to swap discs. If you already own a PS Vita or PlayStation 4, no extra hardware is required, just a healthy Internet connection.
A Sony rep told me the company is recommending users have a connection of 5Mbps down (at the very least), which should allow for a smooth experience. When asked if the bandwidth required would be like streaming a 1080p movie on Netflix, for example, the rep said that was a fair comparison, but warned it would vary depending on a number of factors, and even the game itself.
When you see a PlayStation 3 game beaming from a Bravia screen, it’s difficult to fathom that there isn’t actually a PS3 anywhere around. It’s simply coming right over an Internet connection, right into your TV. When streaming through the Bravia, you can connect a DualShock 3 controller via Bluetooth, essentially giving you a faithful PS3 experience.
God of War was being demoed on the Bravia, and it ran beautifully, though I did notice some occasional compressions artifacts, though it was by no means bad when it did happen. Overall, the graphics looked terrific—PS Now allowed the beautiful art and cinematic thrill of GoW shine through just fine.
The most important part of Sony’s new service will be the price, which the company hasn’t revealed just yet; it’ll definitely set the stage for how consumers respond, especially since PlayStation Now will be offered in both rental and subscription varieties. Even if you own a game like The Last of Us, you won’t be able to play it through PlayStation Now for free. Given that the PS4 doesn’t offer true backwards compatibility, this will likely upset quite a few people.
The beta will kick off later this month in the U.S., with a full release tentatively scheduled for this summer.