It’s been a long time coming, but finally Sony has revealed exactly what they’re going to be using those Gaikai minions for that they bought up back in July 2012. Gaikai was a streaming service that delivered games commonly found on the PC platform and streamed them to a variety of devices and the experience, though bandwidth-dependant, was largely good, especially when compared to competitor OnLive.
When Sony revealed their plans for the future of PlayStation in February 2013, Gaikai’s services were tentatively touted as a way to get around the backwards compatibility issues stemming from the switch to x86 processors on the PlayStation 4. All through the year, however, they were very quiet on the streaming front aside from Remote Play on the PlayStation Vita handheld.
The new service is called PlayStation Now and it’s going to have a closed beta starting at the end of January 2014. Sony says they’ll be able to offer the full roster of PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 titles on a range of devices, but will be initially rolling out the service for the PS Vita and their line of Sony Bravia televisions first.
But it doesn’t stop there. Sony wants to have the service working for a range of approved tablets and smartphones and will also enable the service on PS3 and PS4 later in 2014. Towards the end of the year the service should be going live, offering Sony’s in-house titles first, moving to older PS1 and PS2 titles later. Third party involvement hasn’t been detailed but it is a possibility.
Sony adds that they’re still in the planning and testing stages for the rollout, but they will be able to offer games to players on a per-title renting basis or through a flat rate per month, similar to Netflix’s business model.
At CES 2014 there was a demo of the service running on a Bravia TV and a Vita. The Verge and Destructoid both tested the service out, which was being delivered over a local Wi-Fi hotspot connected via CAT 6 cable to a server in another part of the building a good hundred metres away. The Verge played The Last of Us on the Bravia TV and noted that while there were visual artifacts in some areas in the game, the full experience was being delivered in 720p resolution with minimal lag.
It appears that the service will also run better if played on a device with a lower internal resolution, as Destructoid found when they played The Last of Us on the PS Vita and saw no graphical glitches or lag. The experience for them was better overall and they also tried out Puppeteer on the Bravia TV, also with no issues of note.
One interesting thing that comes out of PlayStation Now, though, is completely latency-free multiplayer game syncing. Sony says that they’ve been testing how multiplayer gameplay in Journey works and it turns out that you can’t really make the distinction between someone playing it locally on a console or someone playing it online using PlayStation Now.
Are you hearing me, Sony? GIVE IT TO ME NAOW!! TAKE ALL MY MONIES!!