Sony just announced the new PlayStation Now game streaming service here at CES 2014. The new service looks to be the direct result of Sony’s acquisition of cloud-gaming pioneers Gaikai nearly two years ago.
Cloud gaming isn’t new, per se, but to date, no one has been able to make it a commercial success. Sony’s experience in the arena, much like with their upcoming attempt at becoming an IPTV provider, may be the key to finally making it work.
When the PlayStation 4 was officially unveiled early last year, backwards compatibility from the PS3 was notably absent. That wasn’t much of a surprise to those paying attenttion, as the two systems used substantially different chip architectures, which makes implementing such a service computationally prohibitive.
It was mentioned back then that Gaikai would be responsible for providing the PS3 library on the PS4, with PS4 users streaming the content directly to their game consoles.
Sony has clearly kept busy, with a closed beta ready for testing in just a couple of weeks; PlayStation Now’s full rollout will come sometime this summer.
Where PlayStation Now could really take off, however, isn’t on the PS4. Since cloud gaming basically sends pre-rendered game footage directly to your device, it isn’t limited to use on game consoles. We’ll likely see Sony push cloud gaming onto Sony Bravia televisions, Xperia and other Android (and possibly even iOS) smartphones, PlayStation Vitas, tablets and more.
You might even be able to play PS3 and PS4 games on your notebook. Imagine playing a high-end, cutting-edge game on your TV – your buddy calls and you head over to their house. They don’t have a PS3 or PS4, but you could hook up your Sony tablet or iPad to their television, and pick up right where you left off.
These are the sorts of experiences that cloud gaming could enable. We don’t know how much Sony plans to charge for access to PlayStation Now, but Sony seemed to hint at multiple targets. It’s likely that there will be hybrid access models which combine rentals, demos, ownership, and subscriptions.
We’ll find out later this year – but right now we need to go try The Last of Us, which Sony is streaming to Sony TVs and PlayStation Vitas here at CES.