Wednesday, February 26, 2014

How PlayStation Now Could be the Game Changer For This Generation

When it was announced Sony acquired Gaikai, we knew immediately how it would turn out: streaming PlayStation games. What we didn't know is how and to what. With Sony finally announcing it as the PlayStation Now service, and that we can stream PlayStation 1, 2, and 3 games, all to your PS4 (and the collective to your Vita), it blew open what was originally conceived as "being backwards compatible," something that we've taken for granted since the PS2, and have lost with the newest generation of consoles.

What PSNow offers is to make the catalogue of PlayStation games available anywhere, on your two main devices. What we've yet to learn is pricing, and structure. This is where Sony can take their mistakes - Microsoft and Nintendo's, included - and completely shit on everyone.

PlayStation Now, for what we know, allows you to play a catalogue of games either on a per-game basis, or a subscription. You'll be able to play the first three generations of PlayStation home console games on your PS3, PS4, Vita, mobile device (cell phone or tablet), and Bravia smart TVs; your PS4 and Vita will play all four generations of games. 

...and that's about it.

The one thing that needs to hit the sweet spot is pricing. Seeing as Sony loves their subscriptions to be separate - PlayStation Plus, Music Unlimited, Video Unlimited - it's likely we'll see PSNow as it's own entity, hopefully around Netflix prices (about $8/month). Your per-game pricing may be about $5 per game, per month. That's reasonable. 

PlayStation Now!
It almost writes itself.
To absolutely kill this, what Sony should do is make PSNow part of PlayStation Plus, but don't increase the price of the membership. Doing so, Sony just added so much more value to their own subscription, and it's still less than Xbox Live. Right there, you just made your subscription service the premiere service to go after.

To take a few steps further, learn from Microsoft's mistakes. Introduce a registration program that ties in with PSNow, but for your PS4 and Vita games. What will now happen is, very similar to the Xbox One's (now dead, but possibly revived) idea of Family Share, each physical copy of your PS4 or Vita game will register to your PlayStation Network account. This PS4 game of yours you just registered? Play it on the Vita, for free, regardless of your location, or if your PS4 isn't within range (this also just eliminated the aspect of Cross Buy; far less work for devs, and more cost efficient). Your Vita game? Don't have enough space on those expensive-as-fuck memory cards? No goddamned problem; stream that game that you already purchased and registered to your Vita! This helps alleviate traffic from your PS4 to your Vita; you won't have to rely on your PS4 and your home internet connection, but rather, Sony's servers. With this registration, you're building a digital library of your physical games. 

Had this button actually shared your
PS4 games to friends, you might
actually use it.
To even further emulate Microsoft (and Steam, as well), you'll be able to share your digital library with 10 friends you deem worthy. They'll be able to play your shared digital games with (or without) you. If they're playing the game, and you want in, you'll be given the option to send them a message, asking them to wrap their shit up so you can play. 

As it stands, this is a direct copy of the Xbox One's sharing of it's own digital library, but here's the goddamned kicker: you don't need to be connected to the internet if you have the physical copy in the system.

Let's say your internet is shot; you live in New England, and Hurricane Matilda just mollywhopped you with two feet of snow, and your internet goes out. You can play this digital library that's authenticated for however long Sony will allow it to stay authenticated (24 hours? 72 hours? A week? Whatever, no big deal). Uh oh, your time is up! "You need to connect to the internet to validate these digital copies." Well, hang on one second: you have the physical copy! Pop that shit in, and the PS4 gets all chummy on you. "Well then, looks like you have the physical copy! Go right on in, my mistake, good chum; play as long as you like!"

Right there, PlayStation Now doesn't stand for streaming PlayStation games from generations' past to a range of devices, but your library of games is available now on your PS4 and Vita. The same caveats apply to the physical copy that did with the Xbox One: if the physical copy is used on another system that you're not logged into, it will not work. Fuck it, you know what, if that does happen, a message will come through to you (be it to your PSN Inbox, a Notification on the PlayStation App on your cell phone, a text message, what have you) alerting you that someone else tried to use your physical copy on something other than your system. Did you by chance loan the physical copy to them? Maybe you sold it on eBay, but forgot to revoke your rights to the game. No big deal! The message will contain two links: one option saying "Yes, I allowed this; revoke my license to the game" or "No, this bitch stole that; do not let them play this game". Either way, it asks you again "Are you sure?" just to be 100% positive. 

You're goddamned right, you did.

PlayStation Now could be more than just "streaming the history of PlayStation right to your device." That already sound fantastic, but you need to stay ahead of the game. Pick up the pieces from Microsoft's fumble (well, more of Don Mattrick's fumble), put them back together, but gorilla glue that shit together to make it formidable. Make is something that even Valve goes "well...fuck". Finally do something that isn't imitating Nintendo; make it work so that Nintendo emulates you. Do this, and Microsoft has no other choice but to make better what they failed to deliver on. Hell, Nintendo might actually do something useful with their catalogue of games other than releasing three Virtual Console games a month that no one played on their respective systems when they originally launch. 

Competition is healthy. Give us the healthiest environment we've seen in the industry in years.