Sony's much anticipated Playstation Now service is up and running as of this morning, much to the delight of the community. When the PS4 launched late last year, one of the features that was sorely lacking was backwards compatibility. Sony asked users to be patient, hinting at a future addition of the feature. Earlier this year at E3, Sony announced it's Playstation Now service. A service that allows users to stream older games from previous systems directly over the internet to their systems. No downloads, no discs, just pay & play.
The Playstation Now library at the time of this writing is at 122 titles. However, during the time I was play testing it this morning, 2 titles were added (from 120 to 122), so Sony is working to make even more content accessible. As of now, all of the available games are from the PS3 platform or PSPlus games. Back in February 2013, when Sony was making the announcement of the PlayStation 4, they also discussed their partnership with streaming service Gaikai (Gaikai was acquired by Sony in 2012). With the power of the cloud, Sony said, we'd all be able to stream PS1, PS2, and PS3 games. Well, the PSNow service is here, and it's ALL PS3.
Kotaku writer Jason Schreier discussed this with Jack Buser, senior director for PlayStation Now, and asked him about PS1 & 2 support:
Schreier: When you guys first announced PS Now, you announced that it wouldn't just be PS3 games, but it'd also be PS1 and PS2 games. Is that still something you guys are planning to add to the services?
Buser: Currently for open-beta on PlayStation 4 we're going to focus on PlayStation 3 games. This will be integrated into the PlayStation 4 in the US and Canada. In terms of devices that will support PlayStation Now, we'll then be expanding from PlayStation 4 and applying the open beta on PS3, PS TV, PS Vita. And then the ultimate vision of PlayStation Now is to support a wide variety of devices.
Schreier: Well I don't mean devices, I mean, the games that you'd be able to play.
Buser: During the open beta launch on PlayStation 4 we'll be focusing on PlayStation 3 titles. We don't have anything specific to announce at this time.
Schreier: The reason I'm asking, and kinda pressing you a little bit on this is because at first it was announced that it'd be PS1/PS2/PS3, and then I remember there was a rumor somewhere that you guys had changed plans about that. I know that a lot of my readers are big fans of retro games, and like the idea of being able to play all these old games on their fancy new PS4s, so I'm hoping for some clarification there.
Buser: One thing I wanna stress is that we're in the early days of the beta. We're gonna launch in open beta on PlayStation 4, we're gonna focus on PS3 titles. One of the things that's really exciting about that is that there are a lot of people that are gonna have PS4 that are new to the PlayStation ecosystem. We believe that the PlayStation 3 has a rich catalog of titles, and we wanna make sure we make that catalog available to people who are new to the PlayStation ecosystem via PlayStation 4. Again, we're in the early days, and it's all about the beta testing community to give us feedback—what kind of content do they want to see on the service, what kind of features, and on and on. I really encourage folks to give us that feedback on what they want to see in the future.
While it is clear Sony is focusing on PS3 during this open test, we certainly hope they hold to their original word on PS1 & 2 titles.
As far as the service itself, so far, it looks great.. Sony has revamped the ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS pricing model from the closed Alpha, and now the pricing structure makes sense, with prices at $3 for 4 hours, or $4 for 7 days, $6 per month, and $8 every 90 days. While the 4 hour pricing makes me scratch my head, the rest seems to fall right in line.
The service works exactly like you would think. Pop into PSNow, browse the library, select a game, rental period & test your connection, then pay and play. I selected an old favorite, Super Puzzle Fighter Turbo in this case. From selecting the game to playing it was approximately 2 minutes, which included paying and loading. Not bad. Quality in game is crisp and clear, and while SPFT:HD isnt a graphically demanding game, it played without a hitch. In fact, it plays and feels exactly like the original. Next, I tried Killzone 3, as it is one of the best looking games on the PS3, and also a demanding title with a lot more going on on screen. Loading was on par with the disc based version on the PS3, if MAYBE a couple seconds slower. Everything on PSNow has just a slight "streaming haze" to it, akin to the first 20 seconds of streaming video over Netflix or Hulu, while the system solidifies the connection. This "haze" looks a lot like you are watching a video recording of someone playing. While I am probably being picky, those graphical details stand out to me. But hey, I am playing a full PS3 game streamed over the internet. So I am still impressed. There were ever-so-minute moments of slight stutter occasionally, but only occasionally. I was actually shocked at the level of detail considering.
It remains to be seen if Sony will hold true and give us our beloved PS1 & PS2 titles through PSN, but the lineup of PS3 titles is solid and will surely only get better.