Sony unleashed the PS Now service into open beta recently – but what should’ve been a game-changing bang actually resulted in a whimper. Why more work is needed on Sony’s new game streaming rental service.
What is PS Now?
For the uninitiated, a recap: Sony purchased the game streaming service Gaikai, leading to speculation that Sony would try their hand at a new business model of game distribution. Doing away with backwards compatibility on the PS4 was the first step, but the announcement that PS Now would be available on more than just their most recent console surely turned heads. The prospect of playing older games on your Vita or a Sony-branded Smart TV is hard to deny.
Now… let’s try it…
Fast-forward to now and PS Now is available to the masses on the PS4, although currently only limited to PS3 games. There’s a small library of games available for rent, at increments of 4 hours, 7 days, 30 days, or 90 days. I decided to check out the service by renting Dead Rising 2 for a week, which cost me $6.
You access PS Now straight through the PS Store, which is a huge plus. The lack of a dedicated PS Now app makes the experience much more seamless. You purchase the rental and jump right into the game. To preserve the PS4’s share button, they mapped the select and start buttons to the left and right parts of the DS4 touchpad, but otherwise, the controller works the same way it was intended. Those who love the DS4 like I do will appreciate the ability to use the best console controller that Sony has ever produced, and arguably the best controller on consoles right now to play these classic games. That alone might be worth the cost of rental.
I played the game while my wife was on her laptop and there was no noticeable lag. Of course, she wasn’t streaming videos or using up much of the bandwidth, which could have affected gameplay. It’s difficult to discern whether some of the jankiness of the gameplay was due to the game itself, or because of the connection. There was one instance where I identified a bit of input lag and my character kept turning for about a second, but it was brief. Cutscenes ran well, and there were no audio/video sync issues. Trophies are also supported, for those of you who are into that sort of thing. Game saves are done in the cloud, so once your rental runs out, you’re assured that you can re-rent the game and continue off from where you were. Potentially on a different device too, once they roll out with the final product.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test out multiplayer, and I’m not quite sure whether multiplayer works in a cross-play scenario, or whether you can only play with other PS Now gamers.
The cost of streaming
As mentioned, there was a decent selection of games, ranging in price from $2.99 for 4 hours, up to $50 for 3 months of F1 2013 if that’s your speed. Prices are dependent on the title though, and thankfully most aren’t in the same ridiculous range as F1.
When looking at the pricing, it almost seems like it’s a tale of two services. At the extreme ends – both 4 hour and 90 day options – the pricing seems unrefined. Some games are priced at $5 for the 4 hour option, or over $20 for the 90 day options, which is steep considering you can probably head over to your local Gamestop and buy many of these games used for $15 or under. Of course, you’ll need a PS3 console, so that needs to be taken into consideration.
The sweet spot is for the 7 day and 30 day rentals, which for many of the games hovers around the $6-$9 range. That’s less than $1 a day of solid entertainment. For older gamers with hefty backlogs, it might be a good way to clear through some games. It’s especially good for games that can be finished in under 20 hours or so. Dead Rising 2 can be purchased on PS3 for about $20 used + tax in Canada. According to howlongtobeat.com, the game takes about 14-15 hours. If I was able to finish the game in the week that I rented it, then it would be of better value than buying the game used and then trading it back in for a couple bucks. The service is probably best used in those scenarios.
There are also some odd game selections thrown in. The Telltale Back to the Future and Sam & Max games come to mind. These are episodic in nature, and each episode is relatively short. They’ve also been available for much cheaper as a collection, so unless you really really want to play the PS3 version of each episode on your PS4, there’s really no point to shelling out on these type of games.
The Old Guy in me Says
PS Now is a good service that works. I admit, I was skeptical at first, and I definitely was taken aback by some of these prices. There really is no point in purchasing a 4 hour rental when the 7 day rental costs only a couple bucks more. The only time a 4 hour rental might be advisable is when you have kids over and don’t have any games for them to play. Or if there’s a particularly fun party game that you absolutely need to have when guests are over. Otherwise, it’s probably best to go with the slightly longer options.
But… my one biggest concern with the service isn’t in the service itself, but in how Sony handled the roll out. We’re currently using a beta version of the service, and yet Sony is charging what seems like full price for an unfinished product. After such an amazing beta experience playing Destiny, it’s off-putting that Sony is so gladly willing to charge customers to do their beta testing. At least give us a chance to try it out for free for a limited time. A free 4 hour rental to PS+ members would probably have made gamers more open to the idea of game streaming. There were also some rumours that Sony was looking into dropping the price of some of the games after the beta period is over, and I guess we’ll see what they do about that once they exit the beta phase and go gold.
Right now, I halfheartedly endorse the service. The technology is great, and the idea is good but I really am disappointed that not more was done by Sony to entice gamers to use it. It’s definitely not a “PS No”, but as long as you’re smart about your rentals, you can get the most bang for your buck. Now try it out, and let us know what you thought of Sony’s new service!
- No additional app required to play
- Smooth gameplay
- Seamless connection with no awkward menus
- DS4 is a much better controller than the DS3/Sixaxis
- Pay-per-play model, no subscription options (yet?)
- Why are we paying for a “beta”?
- Stereo sound
- Cost of 4 hour rentals, and some of the 90-day rental options makes no sense
- Potential slowdown depending on network connection