When I recently tried out PlayStation Now in the UK beta, I came away with mixed feelings. From a technical standpoint, everything worked flawlessly, so it was difficult to be disappointed with the service itself. However, at the same time, I couldn’t help wondering exactly who PlayStation Now is actually aimed at. This seems like a good opportunity to play devil’s advocate.
Perhaps I’m in the minority, but even now my PlayStation 3 sits proudly beside my PlayStation 4, while my PS3 games still take up a worrying amount of shelf space. As such, all I need to do if I want to play one is swap my DualShock 4 for a DualShock 3 and press the PS button. I understand why people like the convenience of playing PS3 games on PS4, but why would someone in my position pay for that privilege, when they can simply play on their PS3 for free?
The way I see it, there are two main categories of PS4 owners who might be interested in PlayStation Now; people who once owned a PS3 but don’t anymore, or people who have never owned one. That way, former PS3 owners can still play games they miss, while newcomers get to experience a decent selection of PS3 exclusives, at a fraction of the cost of buying the last-gen console themselves.
However, that leads me to another significant flaw in Sony’s plan. It could be argued that PS Now is rendered almost redundant due to the vast number of PS3 remasters that continue to be released on PS4. Even Sony itself has released The Last of Us: Remastered on the console, which is soon to be followed up by God of War III: Remastered in July. Furthermore, there have also been rumours of other potential PS4 re-releases from SCE, including Beyond: Two Souls and the Uncharted trilogy.
True, buying a remastered game on PS4 is more expensive than renting the same game on PS Now, but there are a number of advantages to doing so. For example, the ability to play without a strong internet connection (or with no connection at all), a higher resolution and frame rate, improved textures and lighting, possibly even new gameplay features, and – crucially – the convenience of keeping it forever; not just until your subscription or rental period expires. It’s also nice to have a tangible product rather than something purely virtual, although maybe that’s just my personal preference.
And then we come to the all-important issue of price. Depending on the game, rental prices range from acceptable to ludicrous, but even the subscription plan (which gives you unlimited access to 100+ games for a monthly rate) isn’t exactly ideal. Currently, the most economical option is to subscribe for three months at a time, costing $45 in the US, which would total $180 for an entire year. I sincerely hope these USD prices are converted into other currencies appropriately; otherwise PlayStation Now could be dead on arrival in Europe.
As a contrast, PlayStation Plus costs $50 a year. I know it’s not a perfect comparison, but both services give subscribers access to games so, to the average person, PS Now comes across as the worst deal. Indeed, a price of nearly $200 per year for PS Now is a pretty high barrier to entry, so logic says that most gamers would only subscribe for a single month or three-month period at a time, rather than keep their subscription active indefinitely. In which case, you have to ask: is it really a sustainable business for Sony? After all, keeping an army of servers running can’t be cheap.
It’s also worth pointing out that a subscription doesn’t even give you access to every game available on the service, so you may be required to part with yet more cash if you want to play a specific title; this list shows just how many games are not included. In fact, while I’m on the subject, even the selection of games seems to be slightly strange. For example, what is the point of including the original Dead or Alive 5, when DOA5 Ultimate (an updated version of the same game) is also available?
When it comes to the technology behind it, PlayStation Now is undoubtedly very impressive, and I truly hope it’s a success. It is obviously still very early days for the service but, as it stands now, I can’t realistically see it becoming more than a mere curiosity for most gamers. Having said that, PS Now – like the PlayStation 4 itself – has been designed to evolve over time, so maybe one day it just might become the all-encompassing service Sony clearly wants it to be.