Were you one of the unfortunate few that had to give up their PlayStation 3 in order to get the PlayStation 4? Have you ever thought “Hey, I’d like to play that game but the chances of me finding it, because it’s not that popular or it’s out of print, are kind of slim”? Have you ever wanted to try a game on but you weren’t sure if you wanted to buy it and, like many cities in North America, renting physical copies of video games have become a thing of the past? Well, hop aboard, guys, let me tell you all about my first experiences as a PlayStation Now subscriber.
Now, you’re probably wondering what this is all about – in talking about it with just my local circle of gamer friends, there still seems to be a tiny bit of confusion surrounding the service and what it’s all about. As you’ve probably heard, PlayStation Now is a cloud-based service that allows you to stream some of your favorite games to your console of choice. All you need to do is install the application for PlayStation Now, pay a subscription fee of 20$ per month or 45$ for three months, and browse to your heart’s content. You’ll have to pass a connection test once all that is done to make sure your connection speed is up to the task – and, trust me, if my connection can do it where I’m at and which internet provider I’m with, you can, too – you’re all set to go.
If you’re familiar with Netflix then you’re already familiar with how PlayStation Now is set up: based on varying categories, you’re lined up with a selection of games to choose from. You find one that you like, you select it, it takes you through the initialization process which, for me, never took more than about 30-40 seconds. There’s a few things to note, here, though: the start and select buttons are done in a different way if you’re doing this with a PlayStation 4 controller or on your PlayStation Vita but they show you the differences in control and make no qualms about getting you set up as quickly as possible.
One of the main complaints about this service was the initial approach to payment: each game was individually paid for on a rental basis and, even then, the rental prices were crazy. All things considered, some of the prices were reminiscent of what places like Blockbuster used to charge; they had reason, though, as they had overhead to worry about and employees to pay. That was somewhat fixed by changing things to subscription method: while the price is still a tad steep, 20$ a month is still cheap, comparatively, for the ability to choose from and play the entire selection of games.
Speaking of game selection, while it’s still, pretty much, limited to games that you could play on the PlayStation 3 in one form or another, Sony is planning on continually expanding this as licensing allows – some third party companies might not want to jump ship on titles they’re still making retail sales on. I’ve gotten my subscription today and I wouldn’t be wholly disappointed if the selection stopped right in its tracks. The fact that it’s going to grow only keeps me wanting to stick around.
It should also be noted that of the platforms I’ve tested it on – the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation TV – only the PlayStation 4 worked in the way I’ll be describing below. It wouldn’t work in the same way on PlayStation TV as it’s still running an outdated version of the app and has the per-game rental charges still as the only way you can pay for the services. I was also unable to try it via Remote Play from my PlayStation TV to my PlayStation 4 because it blocked me from being able to do so, much like trying to Remote Play Netflix, which is nothing but aggravating. I can’t imagine it being any different on my PlayStation Vita but I’ll admit I haven’t tried it there, yet. That’s bound to change, though, as they bring the rest of the brand out of beta and go into full release.
PlayStation Now: The Experience
This is probably one of the most painless setups for an online streaming service that I’ve ever had: I literally took the time to add the funds to my account – the longest part of the process, I might add – and it wasn’t more than ten minutes after the service was paid for that I was well into the tutorial of the first game I brought up, Tokyo Jungle. Given, yes, I already had the app downloaded back from when I wanted to see the game selection for an article I was writing, at the time, but downloading it again for the PlayStation TV didn’t take more than three or four minutes so I can’t see that being much of a problem if you didn’t have the app prior.
Once you’re into a game, though, it feels just like the real deal, to be honest. I tested it for input lag and, sincerely, there’s very little, even on my shitty internet connection. Tokyo Jungle played very well and it was entirely a surprise right from start to finish. I felt, though, that Tokyo Jungle wasn’t exactly a demanding game, in terms of processing power and visual streaming so I opted to find something a little more so: that’s when I tried on Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2. Episode 2 was just as responsive and while there was a little visual stutter, it wasn’t unlike Remote Play between the Vita or PlayStation TV connecting to the PlayStation 4, where heavy network activity would cause that, sometimes, and at the times where I had a little stutter, there was some heavy network activity, so that explained that. Like I’d stated before, my current home network situation is not the best, so the fact that it ran as well as it did surpassed my expectations.
I’ll be honest: the day I tested all this was not one of my best days. I only tested a couple games because I wasn’t feeling entirely well but based on what I was able to try I’m actually excited to go back and play some more.
PlayStation Now: Should You Get It?
If you can spare the cash, monthly, honestly, you should get it. Even if you can’t, you should fork up for at least one month to try it on. It’s really something else. When I felt like it was Netflix for PlayStation games, that was based only on suggestion from the information I’d been hearing about the service but now that I’ve gotten the pleasure of trying it for myself, it sincerely feels like that’s a label that is very appropriate.
That being said, though, I think there are two main groups that would jump onto this service in the near future: those that had to give up their PlayStation 3 in order to get a PlayStation 4 and those who are new to the PlayStation brand or those who just would like to try games without having to purchase them first. I know the physical rental racket isn’t very lucrative since Netflix came around and killed Blockbuster, pretty much, so this kind of thing seems quite awesome to those who don’t want to get roped into purchasing a used game just to try it out, later finding they didn’t like it and it was a waste of money.
I’m positive that outlets like GameStop and EB Games are going to have a lot to say about this as they make a lot of money from refurbishing games and peripherals; not that I particularly care, honestly, because those kinds of stores have been cutting corners and ripping us off for a very long time, all while hiring the lowest common idiot to work at most of their stores…
It’s pretty great and you get a lot of bang for your buck. That’s about as neutral of an opinion as you’ll get out of this guy.