Sony is launching a cloud service that will let users play Playstation games without needing a console. It will originally launch on Sony televisions but will later appear on other devices including tablets and smartphones.
Playstation Now will run using technology from cloud gaming firm Gaikai, which Sony bought in 2012. It’s much the same idea as services such as OnLive: the game will actually be running on Sony servers, with the user’s device used only for displaying the picture and sound and relaying the user’s controls.
Games will run at 720p resolution. You’ll be able to save games online and pick up at the same point on another device. With certain games you’ll be able to use multiplayer mode against other streaming users and those playing from disc.
Sony hasn’t detailed exactly how the pricing will work, but has said it will work similar to the OnLive model that lets users choose between paying a specific fee to be able to play a particular game permanently or paying a fixed monthly subscription for access to all games. It’s possible Sony could bundle a subscription with its existing Playstation Plus service.
The new offering is partly designed to try to make some money from people who don’t own a Sony console, particularly with Playstation-exclusive titles. However, the service will also be available on Playstation consoles themselves.
Most significantly, that means the PS4 will be able to run PS3 titles, which don’t work on the new console in disk version. There’s no word yet on whether customers will get any discount on the cloud version of a game if they’ve previously bought it as a retail disc or from the Playstation store, though it doesn’t appear likely.
The plan is to start testing the service on US-based Sony smart TVs later this month, then launch properly in the summer. At that point it will only work on the PS3, PS4 and some Bravia TVs and only PS3 games will be available. The timescale for adding other games, expanding to other countries and being available on other devices isn’t yet decided, though the goal seems to be everything, everywhere.
Based on hands-on demos, it appears the hardware side of things won’t be a problem: both a Bravia TV and a PlayStation Vita were fine displaying PS3 games including The Last of Us, albeit with some noticeable compression. Sony recommends a 5Mbps connection, which could limit mobile use. The main potential hitch seems to be input lag, particularly from locations where the data will take a lengthy route to Sony’s servers.