PlayStation Now is Sony’s solution to backwards compatibility. The instant streaming subscription service is a reality, and it’s coming later this year.
The PS4’s lack of backwards compatibility had a lot of people disappointed. Having an extensive back catalog of games that just don’t work on the latest hardware is just a bummer. Sony has been working with Gaikai on a solution which they showed off for the first time at this year’s CES.
PlayStation Now is like Netflix, for games. You turn on your PlayStation certified device (PS4, PS Vita, some Bravia TVs and even some phones and tablets) and you can access a catalog of games that extend back to the PS1 era. Sony isn’t saying which games will be available but the process should be a lot easier than the PSOne and PS2 Classics that have been available on PSN in the past. The classics program involves creating individual software emulation for each title, while the PlayStation Now service is theoretically streaming the games from original hardware.
The biggest difference with streaming games versus just streaming video is that games typically require precision timing with input. Any noticeable delay in these inputs causes an undesirable experience. Reducing latency is Sony’s biggest hurdle, and they have cleared it — at least on the show floor of CES.
I played The Last of Us through PlayStation Now on a PS Vita with very little noticeable latency. It was just as responsive as playing with PS4’s remote play. Hopefully this isn’t just a result of the source of the stream only being a few rooms over at the show floor and that Sony and Gaikai have figured out a way to get the quick response time working with a variety of Internet providers.
Officially the requirements to stream the game at their maximum 720p resolution is just a 5Mb Internet connection. While at CES I could tell that the graphical fidelity of the game was being streamed. If you have ever used Netflix you know what I am talking about. Visible video compression in the form of blocky artifacts, especially noticeable in dark scenes. This isn’t a deal breaker. I only really noticed the artifacting when watching someone else play on a large Bravia display. This is another thing we will have to wait to judge until it is out in the wild.
PlayStation Now will be entering a closed beta in the coming months, and should see a proper release this year. Now we just have to wait and see what the subscription will cost and whether having a PS+ account will provide any benefits.