BY DALBERT P: The PlayStation 4 is arguably the most popular gaming console of this hardware generation, so it was never going to be long before Sony reacted to Microsoft’s announcement that they were allowing Xbox One Games to be played on PC. Aside from allowing gamers to stream from their PS4 to their PC, Sony also made it possible for PC gamers to access PlayStation Now without a PS4 console.
PlayStation Now was launched in open beta in the USA and Canada on PS4 on July 31, 2014, followed by PS3 on September 18, 2014. It gave gamers within the Sony eco-system the chance to pay a subscription to play a wide selection of games within the PlayStation catalog. While some require a console, many do not, meaning gamers who don’t even own a Sony console can get in on the action with exclusive titles.
Initially, the company presented only its PS3 games but as the service was evolving, the PS team added some PS2 and PS4 releases as well. The success of the platform has not gone unnoticed, as tech giants like Amazon and Google have shown their own interest in similar technology since.
Let’s take a look at the advantages and issues of the PlayStation Now platform. We’ll also guide you through technical specs, interface, and give some advice. If you are one of those players who don’t have a console but have a decent PC, PS Now is a great solution, allowing you to play directly from your PC. Whereas before PC gamers had to search for emulators or third-party tools to play console games (remember Xpadder?), now we have an official platform, built for purpose.
The beginning was kinda rough
While PlayStation Now is undoubtedly a stable platform, it wasn’t always that way. After the service was only released, users were seriously doubting whether the platform was even worth the price of the subscription ($19.99).
People expected to see the Netflix of gaming – a long catalog with content for a moderate price, but instead got a very limited range of available titles, most of which were either not too popular or simply outdated. Also, the service required an exceptional quality of the Internet connection.
The road to success
However, last September, the service decided to deviate from online-gaming only and allowed users to download games directly to their personal storage. This way, you don’t need a powerful Internet connection to stream and access your favorite titles.
At the beginning of 2018, the number of PlayStation Now users was only 700,000, but by the end of the year, Sony reported a 40% growth. Such numbers only prove that the company has been on the right track – and PlayStation Now just might have a bright future.
Sony attributed this improvement specifically to the launch of the download service, indicating that the number of downloaded files has doubled the total amount of users. It’s obvious that the change in the business model has benefited both the company and the platform’s users.
PlayStation Now main features
Here’s the information dump! The PlayStation Now service’s main features are:
- A library of 600+ games, both classic old releases, and newly published titles;
- Connected Cloud service where users can save their progress and seamlessly continue their experience on other devices;
- Automatic game updates and new version uploads;
- Compatible with wireless controllers, mainly DUALSHOCK via a simple USB port or with the help of an adapter;
- Free seven-day trial for new users.
How to start using PlayStation Now
The process is simple and can be done in three steps:
- Go the PlayStation Network website and create an account.
- Install the PS Now application on your computer.
- If you are playing with a wireless controller, connect it via a USB port or use the official USB cable.
Even though PlayStation Now positions itself as a hardware-agnostic service, there are still some specific specs that your PC must have to be capable to run the service properly:
- Operating system – at least Windows 7, ideally 8.1 or 10
- Core specs start from 2.0 and faster;
- At least 300 MB of free memory space;
- 2 GB of RAM;
- A functioning USB port and sound card.
The specs are admittedly pretty basic and should mean that the service is accessible to more people.
How to connect a controller?
The platform supports both wireless controllers and those that are connected via USB. In the latest versions of PS Now, the service supports DS4 and DS3 (DualShock 4 and DualShock 3 wireless controllers).
PS Now also allows using third-party controllers as long as they are compatible with PCs. However, these controllers may not provide the full motion controller and not be compatible with each title in the library.
The PS Now interface
The design of the platform is very simple. After a user has registered an account, the service automatically redirects them to the main page with the full game catalog. All titles are sorted by their genre and the date of release. The most popular games are listed in the separate top list – you can start from there and explore less popular titles later on.
All games that you’ve accessed are listed on a separate page. You can monitor your activity and always pick up where you left off. All of your progress is saved on a secure Cloud service.
So far, PlayStation has more than 650 games available for streaming, the majority of them can also be downloaded directly to your PC. The platform supports titles for PS2, PS3, and PS 4.
The variety of games is quite astonishing. You can find popular games of this and last generation (Red Dead Redemption is an absolute must-play) to less-known indie titles. There’s a wealth of big names, including Odyssey to the West, Saints Row 3, Until Dawn, Borderlands, and others.
However, not all games are AAA blockbusters. Some are clearly filler and seem to be published merely for the sake of the number. Still, if you often struggle with the choice of the next title, such various choice is definitely good news.
On top of that, the library has been significantly improving recently. Now service moderators monitor the popularity of titles and remove the least interesting games from the list. The theory is that the place of those filler titles is taken by worthwhile products.
Even though the service is overall similar Xbox Games Pass, it does not offer access to newly released games – you have to wait for a while to get ahold of the AAA games.
Even though the platform had some significant drawbacks, the pricing was never quite of them. It’s obvious that the PlayStation team put a lot of thought in creating an accessible subscription plan that would fully correspond with the quality of the platform.
Users can pay the monthly subscription for $19,99, or save up and buy an annual subscription for $99 (so, if you have long-term plans for the service, it’s better to pay for the full plan which is cheaper in the long run).
Ideally, in a couple of years, PlayStation could acquire a lot of subscribers and encourage the majority of its fans to fully give up their physical collection. So far, the platform doesn’t resemble Netflix for gaming all that much (although they are doing major improvements) but in the near future, PlayStation Now can become a gaming sensation.
PlayStation received significant criticism on its streaming quality, particularly in the early days. Games take almost half a minute to load up which is already annoying. The worst part begins as soon as you have some connection issues. The game stops immediately and you have to restart the process.
Although Sony states 5 Mbps as suitable speed for the platform, you really need at least 10-15 Mbps to obtain comfortable gaming experience. If you want to play some epic titles with a lot of action elements and gameplay that relies on twitch reactions, you’ll need even more than that.
It’s not going to be that much of a problem for those who use an ethernet cable rather than a WiFi connection. If something will go wrong with your router, you’ll be booted from the game and risk losing all the progress made during the session.
However, seeing the development vector that the company adopted lately, it’s obvious that Sony will make efforts to optimize the servers and speed up the streaming experience. Until it’s not the case, you can simply download the titles to your PC and play offline.
A final thought
SonyPlayStation still has a long way to go but it has improved significantly since its first release. The first version included only 80 games – and now it’s more than 650. The company added a download feature – now you can bypass the streaming difficulties and enjoy gaming experience offline directly from your PC.
Overall, the idea of hardware-agnostic game experience is definitely where the future of gaming lies. If you always wanted to try out some of the legendary PlayStation exclusive titles but couldn’t due to the lack of the console, PS Now offers you a chance.
Sony allows users to browse and access 650 games, both old and new ones. These games don’t take up space in your PC storage – all you need to access service are 300MB or storage space.
The platform allows starting with the free trial version for 7 days. It’s a perfect opportunity to try out the platform, see whether it’s a fit for you or not, and then opt for a more regular subscription.
Still, there is room to grow. The main problem of the platform is the shaky quality of the streaming It has been partly resolved with the addition of a download feature, however, it still remains a serious issue.
One thing is clear: PS Now represents the future of gaming. If you haven’t tried it out, you may be missing on the next big thing in the gaming industry.