What is PlayStation Now and when can I get it?
Sony's CEO Andrew House took to the stage during the company's opening keynote for CES 2014 and, among other things, finally announced the confirmed name and details for its cloud gaming service first touted during the PlayStation 4 unveiling event last February. Called PlayStation Now, it is a major push by the gaming division of the Japanese firm and could well change the way we access and play games forever.
But while the games industry has been talking about the prospect of cloud PlayStation gaming since the company bought Gakai and its games streaming technology in 2012, some outside of that bubble might not know what PlayStation Now is or what it will offer. We hope to put that right here and, er, now.
What is PlayStation Now?
PS Now is a cloud-based service much like Netflix or Spotify, but for gaming. It will host a wide collection of PlayStation 3 archive titles initially, with the potential to include PSOne, PS2, PSP and PS Vita games too. You will be able to access them at your leisure, playing them instantly on any device that has access to the service and a half-decent internet connection.
It will use the technology acquired when Sony bought cloud gaming company Gakai, which allows you to play games that are not hosted on your own local consoles or other devices, but on massive servers elsewhere.
In a similar fashion to OnLive, the video of the game will stream over the internet to the display you are using, with controller commands and your actions sent the other way. This happens instantly, so the effect is the same as if you are running a disc at home, but with no need for physical media or long downloads.
Will they look and play exactly like the games we can play on the PS3 now?
Although some of the specifications are yet to be revealed, it is believed that the streamed video will be in 720p rather than 1080p. That won't matter on PSOne or PS2 titles, if and when they come along, but a dip in detail and picture sharpness will be noticeable for the PS3 line-up.
Interestingly though, there will be the ability to play multiplayer on certain titles and not just with other PlayStation Now users. Sony has said that you will be able to play against gamers using the disc version of the same game on their PlayStation 3 consoles.
PS Now games will also reward gamers with Trophies like their disc-based counterparts, and you will still be able to access messages about individual titles. And save games will be stored in the cloud too, so you will be able to pick up from where you left off no matter what device you played on last.
What devices will it be available on?
At launch, PS Now will be available on PS4 and PS3. They will soon be followed by PS Vita support and then, finally, Sony Bravia TVs released in 2014. Most of the US versions of those televisions will support the service. They will also support the DualShock 3 controller - the same as used by PS3 - in order to play the games.
READ: PlayStation 4 review
Eventually, Sony plans to expand access to PlayStation Now to other internet connected devices, mobile and tablets included. There is also a suggestion that this will include Apple products too, not just Android devices.
What internet connection do I need?
It is recommended that you have a broadband connection of at least 5Mbps.
What games will be available?
There's no telling what exact titles will be offered, but Sony showed it working with several triple-A first-party games at CES, including The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, God of War: Ascension and Puppeteer.
It has previously been suggested that the archive of playable games will be vast.
How much will it cost?
At present, Sony hasn't mentioned a price. There will be two options though. If you just want to play one game, you will be able to rent it at a flat fee, or if you plan to consume more games across a wide selection of genres, you will be able to pay a monthly subscription that will give you unlimited access to that package of games.
Sony hasn't been more specific than that, but rival service OnLive does something similar where, for £6.99 a month, you get unlimited access to a curated selection of games that changes on a regular basis, a bit like a Netflix subscription offers a finite number of films and TV shows to view, which occasionally adds new content and removes some that has been on the service for a while.
It could be this model that is planned for the subscription side of PS Now too.
When can I get it?
PS Now will enter a closed beta period in the States at the end of January, with gamers in certain regions of the US being invited to participated. A full public launch is planned for summer. Unfortunately, Pocket-lint was told that it was unlikely for the UK to get PlayStation Now access until 2015.
What are the alternatives?
If you can't wait for the service to launch in your area, particularly if you're a Brit and are looking at a full year until you get to try it out, there are sadly few alternatives to PS Now. However, the previously mentioned OnLive is still going strong even though it suffered from some financial issues in 2012.
The idea behind OnLive is very similar to PlayStation Now. You sign up for an account and can then play cloud-streamed games over the internet on a dedicated OnLive games system box, PC, Mac, some internet-connected televisions or Android tablets through a free application.
A separate universal controller is available, costing £39.99, which works with almost all devices. Some games are also touch-enabled for comfortable control on a tablet.
All games on offer are the PC versions and range in prices from £6.49 to £39.99. Once bought outright they remain in your digital locker to play whenever you want. Alternatively, there is the PlayPack Bundle which includes access to 200 plus games for £6.99 a month.
The benefit to OnLive is that it is available and running now, but the downside is that because of its former woes, the games library is far from up to date. The "New Releases" section is full of games two or even three years old.
You can find out more for yourself at games.onlive.com.