PlayStation Now

by Michael Dzura
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PlayStation Now - Fresh Print Magazine

Another attempt is being made at unifying and merging the gap between games and the devices on which they are played. As I mentioned in my first article, What Is True Next Generation Gaming, I delved into how our newest generation of consoles are bringing us closer to uniformity by using standard PC architecture to make it quicker and easier to put out games on multiple platforms. While this has been the greatest step towards uniformity that we have ever seen, it’s only one method. Another method and relatively recent idea that has taken shape in the past 4 years is online streaming. In a general sense, streaming refers to the concept of having content that is readily available to view on demand on any device; very similar to digital downloads, and follows the same delivery model which you can refer to in my previous article. Except in the context of game streaming it is not just about viewing content, it’s also about interaction. Although you have to ask, why would you want to stream a game? Quite simply because it completely takes away the need to enforce having an equal software or hardware platform – meaning it doesn’t matter whether you game on a Windows PC, Mac, or even on a console. When streaming, the entire game is fully loaded and rendered on a host server, referred to as the cloud. You are not responsible for installing, configuring, or even making sure you fall into the bracket of compatible system requirement. All you have to do is click and play, and the game graphics are displayed on your screen as if it is running directly on your hardware. Already some tech companies have tried to take on this daunting task, and for the most part brought forth some impressive features and ways of delivering the games. However the biggest falling is that they are not content creators, they are just the carriers.

Although Sony is trying to take on this task themselves, but unlike others, they have much more promise. At E3 last June when Sony first unveiled the PlayStation 4, they talked about wanting to bring the PlayStation Network together with other devices and give gamers the ability to have their games on the go, as well as have access to play older games from previous generations. The entire idea was being built around the company Gaikai and their technology. Gaikai is a revolutionary leader in cloud gaming. They have past experience with streaming PC games to websites, with high quality and very little delay. They were bought by Sony for this very reason to help develop PlayStation Now, Sony’s attempt at creating an online gaming streaming service. The service sounds very much like another known as Onlive. Onlive, first publicly available in 2010, theoretically allows gamers to purchase games through a digital library and then play them over the Internet. These games can be accessed from any computer, even a basic $300 office PC. Unfortunately the service is only primarily supported within the United States, and beyond that the streaming quality is degraded and not even guaranteed to work. The service lacks many big titles because game developers have invested their time in mainstream platforms like PS4 and Xbox, and overall the general idea of having games streamed directly to you has not been adopted by the masses.

So could PlayStation Now end up being like Onlive, just another service that has potential but doesn’t lift off due to lack of understanding and need? Definitely not, and here’s why. Sony is both a content creator and carrier with a lot of clout. The PlayStation brand has been around for 15 years, with a large following, and has created their very own well known game titles loved by millions. They also have many third party developers on board with their platform, so any major changes as to how they deliver content will automatically become adopted and recognized, and ultimately will benefit both the gamer and developer. So it literally becomes a gradual change without much choice. On top of that the official PlayStation Blog site indicates that the intended vision is that PlayStation Now will one day be available on all Sony products including TV’s and other mobile devices. Doing so rightfully creates it’s purpose within the Sony ecosystem, making it an essential feature for any new product that Sony comes out with down the road. The next question thereafter is how far will Sony go to allow PlayStation Now on other non-Sony products. It’s too early to say at the moment. In the meantime, PlayStation Now is currently being tested in closed beta within the United States, and will begin rolling out publicly sometime this summer.

To get a head start within the cloud gaming scene, head over to Onlive’s website and create a free account to try out some demo’s. This will give a better understanding of how things work when games are streamed directly to you, and a rough idea of what to expect once PlayStation Now is ready.

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