Sony announced during its CES keynote the PlayStation Now service which makes the PlayStation 4 backwards compatible. In addition to the PlayStation 4, the PS Vita, PlayStation3, Sony televisions, tablets and smartphones will be able to access the back catalog of Sony video games through the new service.
Based on a similar principal to Netflix, PlayStation Now will deliver PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 games via streaming to the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. The technology is the result of the acquisition of Gaikai in July 2012 by Sony which was originally developed to stream Windows PC games to other PC computers and televisions.
The Xbox One and PlayStation 4 launched without any means of playing games from their predecessors. This fact has left many gamers with a tough decision of hanging onto their current console library or selling it all to purchase the new hardware. However with the new PlayStation Now service, Sony is poised to make that decision easier for the gamer and even for those who do not own a gaming console.
Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House stated during the keynote that in addition to providing instant access to the massive back catalog of PlayStation titles for owners of the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4 and PS Vita that:
“…equally important, the service will introduce the world of PlayStation to even non-console owners via smartphones, televisions and other devices – soon, playing your favorite PS3 game on a tablet will be a reality.”
While playing PlayStation 3 games on a tablet sounds good on paper, the task of dealing with the 14 buttons from a controller on a touch screen will be a hurdle Sony will have to overcome. However, the public will get a chance to test the service as Sony has the technology available for demo at CES running 2013’s hit game, The Last of Us with PlayStation Now on the show floor with Sony’s Bravia TV and the PlayStation Vita.
The service will function on a subscription model or through individual rentals. The current subscription program, PlayStation Plus, provides free games every month to subscribers on the PS3, PS4 and PS Vita as well as other benefits such as cloud storage and mutli-player functionality on the PlayStation 4. It was not discussed if this subscription will be affected by the new service. Another detail that was not disclosed is if the entire back catalog of games will be available or only select titles based on market viability.
The PS Now program will enter a closed Beta program in the US at the end of January with a full launch expected in the US this summer.