Has Sony Fixed PlayStation Now?
Sony was far ahead of its competitors when it released PlayStation Now in 2014.
The service was the first major foray into game streaming, but at the time it was laughably ineffective. Early reviews of the service point out its painful input lag and low bandwidth, but since then Sony has put a lot into improving the service. This has all come to a head with a half-off price cut on the service ahead of upcoming services like Google Stadia, xCloud, EA’s Project Atlas, and whatever else has yet to be revealed. In 2019, can PlayStation Now compete with these upcoming heavy hitters? It might just cut it.
The biggest gripe with any cloud gaming service is the connection. This is the entire basis upon which the service functions, and when PlayStation Now launched, theirs was far from the best. The connection affects nearly every single aspect of the service, most specifically: Quality and Latency. One meme-y image that was released explained a Redditor’s experience with PS Now.
Of course, this was, and still is, highly subjective. At launch, Sony recommended a 5 Mbps internet connection for a “good” experience, but if you have data caps this, can be a serious hassle. Based on the math, a complete (roughly 75 hour) playthrough of Skyrim on 5 Mbps will be nearly 200 GB of transferred data. Of course, this was where PS Now’s alternative main feature comes into play. If you can’t afford to stream your games, a decent amount of them can be downloaded directly onto your system. Not every game can be downloaded, but it puts the service in competition with things like Xbox Game Pass.
Speaking of library, Sony has just recently expanded the PS Now’s library, as well as enabled downloading on most PS2 and PS4 games. This is well and good, but what about downloads on PS3 titles? The PS3 and its generation are known for iconic titles like Red Dead Redemption, InFamous, Resistance 3, Twisted Metal, and more, but for some reason they chose PS2 games as the downloadable ones. Of course, this could all be changing, especially with the PS5 on the horizon.
And while a new system is on the horizon, Sony is not backing down from advertising and showing off PS Now. The price cut we previously mentioned brought the service down to $9.99 a month, $24.99 for three months, or $59.99 a year. These prices are the same as PlayStation Plus, which offers free games every month and the ability to play online multiplayer on PS4.
This connects into one of the most interesting aspects of PS Now. If you have an active PS Now subscription, free-trial or otherwise, you can stream or download any of the applicable games, and play online components if they are available without a PS+ subscription. This creates a very strange scenario: You could spend $59.99 a year on one of these services, but one of them offers over 700 different games to stream/download and play, online or offline, while one gives you access to playing online for disc and downloaded games from the store. In a value analysis, this makes PS Now seem like a no-brainer, but it has some caveats. For example, you aren’t going to get the newest titles right away. The service only just recently added games like Grand Theft Auto V, InFamous Second Son, Uncharted 4, and God of War (2018) to its library. Secondly, unless you can find every game you want as a download or you have wired gigabit networking, you have to worry about latency in your games. This can mean playing PS4 titles in 720p with input lag that could ruin your gameplay, if you’re careful.
Overall, PS Now has changed a great deal since it first launched, and this price cut makes it far more approachable than it has been ever before. PlayStation users who were enticed by Project Atlas, Google Stadia, or even xCloud now have something much more concrete to look at from their preferred manufacturer.