PlayStation Now hands-on: The future of gaming, the death of the console as we know it?
Welcome to the modern world. Gone are the days when popping to Blockbuster to grab a DVD was commonplace Friday night practice. Indeed disc-based formats could be on a slippery slope, even for gaming if PlayStation Now has anything to do with it.
PlayStation Now is a Netflix-type streaming service for gaming - and one of the results of the company's 2012 acquisition of Gaikai. No downloads, no nonsense, just dive straight in on your PlayStation Vita, PS3, PS4 or - and there will be more detail on this in the future - smart TV or tablet using the PS3's DualShock controller.
It's those last devices that are most interesting because it means console-free gaming. No initial purchase overheads except for needing that DualShock controller. Could the PS4 be the last physical Sony console we see as gaming moves to the cloud?
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These are the first steps that show it's possible. In its preview state at the Consumer Electronics Show 2014 in Las Vegas, Sony showed off just how well Now works ahead of the anticipate US launch this summer. We played God Of War: Ascension on the PlayStation Vita and The Last Of Us and both ran as if they were coming direct from the console.
At first we could barely believe our eyes. It seemed too good to be true because, first, there's no install necessary for titles and, second, it's common knowledge that all trade shows have awful Wi-Fi. But stream it did, and smoothly too.
How it's done isn’t really the thing here. It’s what it represents and the fact it works. You will need a decent internet connection to succeed with the service - Sony recommends 5Mbps minimum which is possible, but many households won't have access to it.
Because we’re not talking about Tetris here. These are graphically impressive, top-tier titles. And they respond without controller lag and play back as smoothly as anything we’ve seen from disc. There’s no compromise - if the right titles are available and the price is right - and those points are something Sony couldn't comment on as yet.
It is early days still, as even the demo we played had a custom-made UI just for the purpose of the show - we don’t yet know how the system will look and interact with your Sony online account.
As much as we miss renting titles from the now disbanded Blockbuster, the thought of pressing a button and playing the latest and greatest tiles in seconds has huge appeal. Hats off Sony, this is a big deal. And it’s an imminent reality.