Two years after its purchase of game streaming service Gaikai, Sony has finally launched the fruits of that labor: PlayStation Now entered public beta Thursday. PlayStation Now is Sony's answer to backwards compatibility--a library of older PlayStation titles that can be streamed to your console.
Right now the beta consists of merely PlayStation 3 titles streamed to your PS4, with 100 titles for you to choose from. However, Sony has already said PlayStation Now support is coming to the Vita, PS3, and PlayStation TV at some point in the future. Also, it wouldn't be surprising to see Sony add other titles into the streaming catalogue--perhaps a selection of PS2/PS1 classics, or a handful of up-rezzed PSP games.
Sony also says the service includes cloud game saves, Trophy support, and full access to friend lists, leaderboards, and online multiplayer.
With streaming, Sony is able to provide "backwards compatibility" without needing to include extra hardware inside the PS4--cue a sigh of relief from Sony's engineers. As long as you have an Internet connection and Sony has the infrastructure, everything should work fine.
Of course, the realities of streaming are a bit more complicated. As someone who used OnLive extensively, let me tell you: The experience can definitely be hit-or-miss. I'm sure you've even experienced this with something like YouTube or Netflix--sometimes your experience is flawless, other times you're hit with low bitrate footage or a slow connection for seemingly no reason. And while that's frustrating while you're watching the latest episode of House of Cards, in a game it's virtual life or virtual death.
The bigger problem, though, is Sony's rental pricing structure--you can rent a single game $3 for four hours, $6 for a week, $8 for a month, and $15 for three months. Until you hit that $8/mo. price point, you're better off renting games from GameFly or RedBox. Charging $3 for four hours of access is a particularly poor deal, and even a rumored $2 price tier is a stretch.
Sony says it's still working out details of a subscription plan, which seems like a better value--after all, these are games from last console generation. According to PlayStation Now senior director Jack Buser, "We've heard you loud and clear for an update on a PS Now subscription option and want to reassure you that we are working on it."
The PlayStation Now beta is open to all PS4 owners in the US and Canada. Visit the PlayStation Now website for more details.