Soon, owning your own games won’t be necessary. It may not even be an option.
Earlier this week, PlayStation announced plans to add a much-sought after subscription plan to its PlayStation Now feature. PlayStation Now allows gamers to rent old PS3 titles from a catalog of games via PlayStation’s online network.
PlayStation Now games are streamed from cloud storage to the PS3, PS4, PS Vita, PS TV, some Sony smart TVs and some Samsung smart TVs. This eliminates the need to own a physical game, PS3 console or even download a digital version of a few hundred titles.
The service probably rose out of the backlash created when both Sony and Microsoft announced that their new consoles would not be backwards compatible, meaning they are unable to play games from the previous console generation.
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I think streaming services are actually the reason these consoles aren’t backwards compatible. With this new feature, PlayStation is going to make a boatload of cash off of old games it doesn’t have to re-release.
The concept of physical media going digital is nothing new. All forms of entertainment are going through different phases of this transformation, which looks at things like DVDs or CDs as prehistoric.
I’ve noticed some in the older generations resisted this change in movies or music. People prefer their vinyl over MP3s or hate reading a Kindle.
I guess it’s finally my turn. I like my old consoles. I like the games I have for them. Please don’t make me send them away.
Even I can see that this is the future, though. The PlayStation 4 suffers from significant hard drive space constraints. As games get larger and more advanced, cloud-based storage and streaming may be our only choice.
I have 20 PS4 games. Don’t judge me — half or so of them were for work and are seldom played. My console can’t store the required game install data for all of them. It’s pretty easy to upgrade to a bigger hard drive, but I am not thrilled about the prospect of spending extra cash or losing my saved game information. A streaming service like PlayStation Now eliminates this problem entirely.
The service has one massive problem: It relies entirely on the PlayStation Network.
Subservience to the network means that when it goes down — say, during a highly publicized attack on Christmas — you have no access to the service. My confidence in PlayStation Network was further shaken when it went down yet again earlier this week.
And that’s not to mention the massive hacks Sony has suffered through in recent years. We’ve all heard about the attack on Sony Pictures, but you may not remember a rather large hack a year or two ago that took down PlayStation Network for over a month and leaked credit card information.
I would certainly understand if someone had reservations about giving Sony a credit card and permission to charge them $20 a month for a PlayStation Now subscription.
Many gamers have taken to forums and comment sections to complain about the service’s prices, but I don’t see a huge flaw there. Individual rentals of high-end releases from the last few years cost $5 for a four-hour period, and I think that’s more than comparable to the film rental prices offered by cable companies and pay-per-view services.
What I do have a problem with is the subscription package not offering all of the PlayStation Now titles. In fact, it only includes about one-third of the library.
This shorn lineup of only about 100 games includes some rather strange omissions. “Infamous” is included in the subscription package, but “Infamous 2” is not. It includes “Madagascar 3: The Video Game” but not a single Mass Effect or Dead Space game.
This measure of cost efficiency is nowhere near what you get from film streaming services. The $20 for 100 games offered by PlayStation Now pales in comparison to the 10,000 or so movies and TV shows you get for $8 a month on Netflix, which almost never has network issues.
The game lineup issues should be eased in the coming months. PlayStation promised to add games to the library often, and I believe it can deliver given the advanced technology the company is working with.
I am not firmly opposed to PlayStation Now. It is clearly a major innovation. But it still has a few kinks to work out, which is why I am not exactly lining up for the new subscription service — yet.