Sony took the opportunity of tens of thousands of tech enthusiasts gathered in Las Vegas for the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show to introduce the world to a feature that we've been expecting for years: PlayStation Now, the company's streaming games service.
Everyone knew it was coming, because it's the end result of Sony's acquisition of the streaming games service Gaikai. But for years Sony has refused to share details, and no one knew exactly what form the service would eventually take.
It turns out PlayStation Now will let users rent games or subscribe to the service and get access to multiple games, which will be processed on far-away servers and streamed over the internet to users' devices. Those devices include the PS3, PS4 and PS Vita, but also Sony Bravia TVs and, later, Sony smartphones and tablets as well.
There are interesting control solutions; for example on PS Vita, the R2/L2 and R3/L3 buttons are mapped to different quadrants on the handheld's rear-side touch pad. A diagram appears when you touch it and fades when you don't (see the second image above).
Initially PlayStation Now will only include PS3 games, but that will expand in the future as well.
Naturally there are a lot of questions to ask about this service. What games will be available when PlayStation Now launches this summer? Are there any restrictions on what games can be streamed? And how well does it actually work?
After attending a PlayStation event during CES we can answer the last question: it works surprisingly well. Sony showed off several games streaming to a PS Vita and a Sony Bravia TV, and besides a single, brief moment of perceptible stutterring in The Last Of Us, there was no noticable difference when playing using PlayStation Now.
For the other questions, we turned to Sony America Director of Strategic Planning Peter Jamshidi, who was on hand to chat while we messed around with PlayStation Now.
Complex: So what is PlayStation Now?
Peter Jamshidi: It's Sony's streaming game service. And we're really excited about it because it gives us the opportunity to really change how, when and where people experience PlayStation-quality games. So what PlayStation now does is it leverages the cloud technology from Sony and lets you stream PlayStation 3 games directly from servers to your PlayStation devices or even your non-PlayStation devices that are compatible.
Which non-PlayStation devices?
Currently we've announced 2014 Bravia TVs, and we're also working on expanding that list to other consumer electronic devices that you would be using in your day-to-day use.
What controller do you use with a Bravia TV?
On the Bravia TV right now it's hooked up to a DualShock 3, which is your PlayStation 3 controller.
So there's no console here right now?
There's no console. Just the controller and the ethernet connecting to the servers. You pair it once if you have Bluetooth, and then you can unhook it and play it just like you would a PlayStation 3.
This is cool.
We're very excited about it too and all the possibilities it brings. It's also great for introducing the PlayStation world to people who don't have a PlayStation console.
Why are we playing PS3 games and not PS4 games?
Great question. There's a huge install base of PS3 games and there's a huge install base of Ps3. So it seemed like a logical place to start. And of course, you know, longer term, we're looking at other platforms to support as well.
It seems like that would be a great way to introduce people to PS4 games.
Yeah, I think long term plan is to leverage as much of the PlayStation library that we can. Obviously we have a few under our belt that are available. So longer term we are looking at other platforms besides PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4 is one of them.
What about PS Vita games?
Again, that's one of those platforms that we're looking at in the future.
So this is the result of acquiring Gaikai? This is what it's all been leading toward?
Correct. This is years of work that they started and that we've leveraged our expertise and networking and obviously in games, and it's a great partnership. It's brought together a really well-executed service with some great games that really are a high caliber.
How many games will be available when it launches?
So we haven't discussed details on that yet but you can expect a broad range of quality titles across a variety of genres. We're really trying to aim to not just the PlayStation core consumer, but also folks who may have just a TV in their home. We haven't announced the lineup yet but we're looking to fully launch this in the U.S. in summer 2014.
Right now we're playing Puppeteer, God of War: Ascension, The Last of Us, and Beyond: Two Souls. Can we expect those to definitely be included in the service?
We haven't announced the lineup yet for starting but this is what we're exclusively showing at CES.
So the difference between PlayStation Now and other streaming services, like Onlive, is mainly that here we have PlayStation games.
I really can't speak to OnLive services. I'm not an expert in that area. But I think what we offer from PlayStation's perspective is PlayStation-quality games and the great exclusives that you've come to expect from PlayStation. And when you pair that up to the feel and feedback on a DualShock 3 controller I think it's a great match to a great experience.
Are there any restrictions on what games you can stream? Is there anything too advanced or too big?
I don't think so. Again, it's streaming technology, so if you can stream it…
Thanks, Peter! So will you give PlayStation Now a shot, or stick with "old-fashioned" digital downloads? Tell us what you think in the comments or on Twitter.
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