Videogame streaming has long been a dream of many gamers, it negates the need for powerful, and expensive, hardware and allows instant access to a library of games. A few companies have tried to make this dream a reality but they have all since folded or been bought by a bigger company.
Gaikai was one such company, it was absorbed by Sony in 2012 PS Now is Sony’s attempts to bring videogame streaming into the mainstream. It’s taken 3 years but PS Now has been released in BETA form in the U.K.
I was lucky enough to get on the closed BETA phase and at the time of writing I have been in the PS Now BETA trial for a little over a month. I’ve played with setups and tried a few games out. There’s good news, bad news and worse news.
Here’s what I’ve made of it so far.
The Worst News.
Let’s get this out-of-the-way relatively quickly. I wanted to test out PS Now in the way that many people have their PS4 set up. That meant I unplugged my network cable and played the program over my, admittedly very good, WiFi connection.
And it was a bloody disaster. Upon starting the program there is a notice that states “a connection of 5Mbps is recommended for PS Now”; which is fair enough it’s a network intensive program. I have a connection that never leaves 70Mbps download and 15Mbps upload and I could NOT get PS Now working with any sort of satisfaction. The picture was great, very little artifacting the resolution was nice and steady, but there was a great deal of input lag – we are talking, an average of, 2 seconds for any input to register on-screen.
Tbh though I experienced nothing on that guys scale, I can only imagine how shit his network management is. 1-2 seconds is completely unacceptable for gaming – in fact it made it impossible to play anything. I despair for anyone who intends to play Now over anything less than my connection.
The Bad News.
I proceeded to call it a day on the WiFi connection and plugged my ethernet cable back into my PS4 and tried again.
It was glorious. I played NBA 2k14 and it looked great, controlled perfectly and sounded excellent. This was what Sony were aiming for, an almost-perfect PS3 version being transmitted over the internet for my entertainment.
This comes with a few caveats however.
Firstly the resolution you are playing at is a compressed 720p – this is not a massive issue for me personally as I thought it looked fine, but there is some descrepency between the Now version and the physical copy and it is noticable. I feel that this is to be expected as compression is a necesity in all video playing sites on the internet, uncompressed images are just too big for our infrastructure. Further more, video is just incomprehensibly large.
I am sure there are some of you out there for which the resolution will be make-or-break and that’s fine. For most the picture quality that PS Now delivers is more than acceptable.
The second comes in the form of the library of games available. At time of writing it is ONLY PS3 titles, and a very limited range of them. This is still a BETA test and Sony do intend on releasing more legacy console games (including PS1 and 2) over time – I’m sure there’ll be a much more comprehensive list of PS3 games come release this Summer. In fact the US PS Now has over 100 PS3 titles already in the library and available to stream, impressive stuff from Sony.
The Good News.
If you have the connection, the setup and the need to play PS3 titles that you may have missed (and many of you did y’know) then PS Now is for you.
It works when connected to router via homeplugs (how I connect mine), it works when directly connected, it just works.
The UI is very similar in layout and looks to the PS4 store and as a result is very intuitive to use. It also responds quickly and is painless to use.
The DS4 also has a slight remapping to accomodate the DS3 controls, the share function is disabled and the touch pad becomes start (on the right side) and select (on the left). This works really well and it is a really nice little bit of attention to detail that many companies would neglect, some games also benefit from the better analogue sticks of the DS4, I’m thinking specifically of Beyond: Two Souls here, the character control was much more reactive and you could feel the difference in pads – truly impressive.
I cannot comment on the pricing structure as it wasn’t in place at time of writing, everything was free (which is why there was such a limited choice). However Sony “leaked” an initial pricing structure (individual prices for games). However as we’ve seen in the US that there is indeed a subscription. If we use the US as our base then we can make some predictions in cost:
The monthly cost of subscription is $19.99 which usually equates to around £15 and the three-month option is $44.99 which would be in the ball park of around £35.
At that price, as a PS3 owner, I wouldn’t bite just yet. There’s no real reason and £140 a year is a big outlay – if Sony were to introduce the PS2 library (a console I missed) then I would reconsider my stance. If Sony had a new PS Plus + Now sub cost for a year at say £100 I would sign up.
Is PS Now for you? Well many PS4 owners would have certainly missed out on the PS3 (being Xbox owners) and as a result have a number of outstanding PS3 exclusives to become acquainted with – if you are in this bracket PS Now is certainly a great way to access these games at a relatively low-cost.
If you own a PS3 then I’d give Sony the time to add more legacy console games to the service – barring a massive console failure – that’s what I’ll be doing.