It’s time to revisit an old saw. Hello, saw. How are you? It’s been a little while! Months, at least. Still predicting the end of the traditional console industry due to cloud-based game streaming services? Oh, that’s lovely. What do you think of Sony’s announcement of Playstation Now?
On Tuesday, we got our first look at Sony’s long-awaited game streaming service, Playstation Now. In its most ideal state, it would represent a total overhaul of games hardware as we know it. When it launches, the company says that players will be able to play PS2 and PS3 games on essentially any internet connected device, whether its the PS4, the Vita, a smartphone, or a Sony-TV. A far away server farm does all of the computational heavy lifting, and game plays in our hands like an interactive Youtube video.
If it works, that means the end of consoles. Local computing, and thus the need to have a $400 computer humming away beneath your flatscreen becomes obsolete. No PS4s, no Xbox Ones, just an internet connection piping games directly to your TV.
This is, of course, not the first time we’ve heard about this sort of thing. There are numerous obstacles to making this a reality, not the least of which are broadband speeds and latency. There’s naturally no mention of streaming PS4 games, and one wonders how well this will work with the most processor-intensive actions out there. The failure of Onlive reminds us that even though the world may theoretically have the technology required, reality still has some tricks up its sleeve.
And yet, things are different this time around. This is some possibly mismanaged startup taking aim at titans, this is Sony, an extant titan. It has the resources and the industry clout to make a serious stab at this, and while this would be far from the first time Sony has been wrong about something or over-promised, having the blessing of an international conglomerate still lends a certain legitimacy.
This summer we’ll be able to see if Playstation Now works as well as we want it to, and if Sony can develop a pricing system that makes sense for all involved. My guess is that it will crash and burn for the first few weeks, as all internet-based gaming services seem to, and then normalize to something perfectly fine. Not amazing, not a failure, but good enough to enjoy Uncharted on an iPad, if you so desire.
It will only get better. I don’t think that we’ll ever see a PS5, and in five years or so, this tech will be strong enough to support whatever we ask from it. Sony is right to get out ahead of this trend — while it would mean the death of its games hardware business, it gives it a chance at a much juicier prize. Playstation Now would allow Sony to sell blades without razors, and that’s a recipe for profit.