PlayStation Now What?
Posted on Wednesday, January 8 @ 12:45:00 Eastern by Nicholas Tan
Sony's announcement of PlayStation Now, apart from making the sentence "I want Playstation now!" ambiguous, rocked CES 2014 and set the gaming community ablaze yesterday. Finally, Gaikai is coming together and an industry giant is taking the helm to integrate cloud-based video game streaming into the modern era. OnLive should be looking out for that nail in the coffin.
The immediate impact of PlayStation Now was felt sharply by the plummeting of GameStop's stock price, dropping 8.37% by Tuesday's close. This isn't surprising: If PlayStation Now can deliver on its promise of providing stable streaming of virtually any PlayStation title to a wide variety of platforms, then what's the point of driving over to a retailer, sifting through racks and bargain bins, waiting in line, and answering redundant questions about insurance and magazine subscriptions? For sure, shopping for a physical product won't disappear completely, for all the same reasons why digital downloads haven't destroyed retailers yet. But it's still a looming death sentence.
Certainly, the overall impact of PlayStation Now will depend on its pricing model. Will it combine with PlayStation Plus in any way? Will users pay for each game they stream? Will we have access to the entire library off one subscription? Will users be able to activate and deactivate PlayStation Now based on their usage? And of course, how expensive will it be?
Whatever the case, it would seem that game rental services either from GameFly or Redbox will become obsolete, at least for PlayStation titles, and that emulators for PlayStation consoles (sorry, ePSXe) won't be as prominent if PlayStation Now's cost is low enough. Even full game downloads will seem unnecessary on PS3, taking up hard drive space when streaming games through PlayStation Now would be just as viable.
Many more people will have access to triple-A games on their tablets, deepening the video game market and lowering the hurdle for casual players to become hardcore players. (The service better allow us to pair PlayStation Now to a Dualshock controller on the tablet or smartphone.) [Edit: And, yes it does!] I also imagine that Final Fantasy PS1 titles or any turn-based RPG will be mighty popular with the service since they won't be as affected by latency as, say, a fighting game would.
At the same time, it won't be as necessary to search and hunt down for a hard copy of a title, which will reduce the size of our video game collections and save our shelf space for something else. The price of original PlayStation titles will likely drop as well with lower demand. Since this would also reduce the number of hard copies sold in the months following its release, it may take several years before Sony extends PlayStation Now to PS4 titles or recently released PS3 titles. You likely won't see the phrase "Day 1 PlayStation Now access" ever.
PlayStation Now also represents a strong move by Sony against its competitors. The Xbox brand doesn't have as extensive a catalogue as Sony's, so a "Xbox Now" service would be an uphill battle in a head-to-head match-up. On the flip side, Nintendo would do well to see how profitable PlayStation Now would be considering its numerous beloved retro titles, though its current hardware infrastructure would not be able to handle a "Nintendo Now" service.
In the long-term, PlayStation Now posits a familiar question: Does this spell the end of consoles? If we can stream all of our games and have all the hardware manipulations occur in a warehouse somewhere instead of our living rooms, then is there a need to have the hulking piece of machinery in our living room at all? It would certainly make internet providers want to charge us more for all the bandwidth (we're already using streaming Netflix and Hulu Plus). Of course, limits on broadband speeds and overall latency present only a few obstacles to this would-be doomsday of consoles, let alone the fact that Sony will still want its base to purchase PlayStation 5s, 6s, and 7s in the foreseeable future. That's why Sony is limiting PlayStation Now to its proprietary hardware and only a few other devices, ignoring to mention PC streaming in its CES presentation.
Turning the question on its head, PlayStation Now may actually spell a rebirth for the PlayStation Vita, greatly expanding its catalog and significantly boosting the worth of Remote Play and its high-resolution screen. It would place the struggling handheld much closer to the Nintendo 3DS in overall value. The ability to play the likes of The Last of Us and Gran Turismo 6 on Vita cannot be understated.
Through to GDC 2014 and E3 2014, we'll know more about PlayStation Now after its beta launches at the end of this month and after Sony officially launches the service sometime in the summer. Whatever the outcome, it's primed to revolutionize our gaming experience as we know it. What parts of PlayStation Now excites you the most?
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