If streaming is the future of gaming, then PS Now is here, now.
Microsoft finally gave name and a form to its game streaming ambitions, something it had originally alluded to earlier this year at E3, earlier this week when it unveiled xCloud. It’s a very interesting proposition—the full Xbox library, playable on any device via streaming, allowing you the ability to take your games with you and play anywhere. Microsoft is even prepared for the traditional allegations of latency and lag that arise every time game streaming is brought up, spending a not inordinate amount of time in the reveal to talk about their global datacenters and servers that will allow them to counter that very problem.
And you know what, Microsoft is probably right. Given the expertise the company has in the cloud market thanks to Azure (where they’re the number two player globally), plus the sheer amount of infrastructure they have in place around the world, and the dissemination of Microsoft services and products across all forms of modern computing, they may actually be primed to move into what could very well be the future of gaming, a future beyond gaming consoles, and one that allows the medium to grow far beyond where it is at currently. There’s just one problem: Sony may have beaten them to the punch already.
A lot of analyses and opinion pieces on xCloud and what it could mean for the future of gaming have been written over the last week, with a great many of them actually taking the chance to put xCloud against Google’s Project Stream, and how the two may end up initiating a fresh round of platform wars in an altogether new sphere. The only issue is, they seem to be, curiously enough, neglecting mention of Sony and PS Now entirely.
"It’s a very interesting proposition—the full Xbox library, playable on any device via streaming, allowing you the ability to take your games with you and play anywhere."
I don’t quite understand why. I’m not the biggest fan of PS Now as it exists. The service isn’t available globally, requires often prohibitively high internet speeds for the mass market, has an absurd pricing model, and to my mind, does not adequately address concerns of latency for the bulk of games that are currently popular on the market. It’s available on a very limited range of devices (a range that has actually gotten narrower over the last few years, since Sony discontinued support for the PS Now client for a lot of hardware). And yet, in spite of these concerns, there’s an inescapable fact that anyone looking at game streaming as the future needs to confront: PS Now is here and now. It exists. It’s on the market. It has a library of over 500 games. It has a user base. It has a headstart on the competition, and has had time to iron the kinks that a streaming service entails out. It is, for all purposes, the incumbent in the current streaming market, such as it is.
I am not for a moment suggesting PS Now in its current form is good enough for the larger streaming market, an admission Sony themselves tacitly made when they announced they’ll let subscribers download games to play them locally ala Game Pass. But what I am saying is that Sony, now that it is aware of bigger names trying to move into the arena, is primed to act quickly and try to position PS Now as a far more attractive and alluring proposition, ironing out whatever problems still exist with it, and giving it a formidable lead by the time xCloud and Project Stream arrive on the market.
This is all a hypothetical, of course. But the thing is, Sony understands the value of game streaming—they clearly do, that’s what they invested in Gaikai, and launched PS Now to begin with. They obviously know it’s a play they have to make to secure a place for themselves in the future of gaming. And yet, they’ve been curiously reticent to actually act decisively on it so far. Presumably, that has been because they haven’t had any reason to, and they don’t want to detract from the core PS4 business—why would they, when it is doing so perfectly fine, after all?
"Sony, now that it is aware of bigger names trying to move into the arena, is primed to act quickly and try to position PS Now as a far more attractive and alluring proposition, ironing out whatever problems still exist with it, and giving it a formidable lead by the time xCloud arrives on the market."
But here’s the thing: now they have a reason to. The space is no longer their own, and Microsoft and Google are far better funded, far more technologically accomplished, far better outfitted companies than Sony is, and can easily claim the market for themselves if they want to. This is the kick up the hind side Sony needed to get their act together. If they are truly serious about game streaming, they can act swiftly, and make PS Now so widely disseminated that customers fail to see the value in approaching Microsoft and Google’s offerings.
Sony can get PS Now on multiple devices—put it on Android phones, put it on iOS phones, go back to offering it for Smart TVs (and not just their own). Lower the subscription price, bring it down to $10 a month. Open up more data centres around the world to combat the problem of latency and lag (a problem that would only get compounded once more people join the service). Maybe push PS Now for free for PS Plus subscribers (or vice versa). Add more games to the library, and don’t be afraid to offer new PS4 releases on there (even if Sony doesn’t let people download them). Just get more people subscribed to the service and streaming.
The thing is, Sony is primed to counter Microsoft and Google before they even get a chance to get their footing. If the future of gaming is streaming, then it’s worth acting swiftly now to secure it. They’ve already gotten the current generation of consoles sewn up for themselves. Now to eye the future.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.