The beta test for Sony's PlayStation Now service opened to the public this week, and PlayStation 4 owners now have access to dozens of PlayStation 3 games. For a few dollars, players can try out one of the games instantly without the need to download. You can choose to rent a game for a number of different time periods, from four hours to 90 days.
As a service, it seems to work well besides a few latency issues, but we've noticed that some of the current prices are very high. For example, you can buy many of the games outright for less than it costs to rent them for a week.
However, Sony has noted that this is a beta test and the service will continue to change. "We are listening to our customers, and if customers want to see features or functions as part of PlayStation Now, they should feel free to let us know," the company said. What, then, is necessary to make PlayStation Now worth it? We asked several GameSpot editors to share their thoughts.
Let Us Buy the Full Game for a Discounted Price After Renting It -- Chris Pereira
Beyond the obvious--having to pay more to rent a game than to buy it is dumb, beta or not--what I find most objectionable is the prospect of paying $7 for four hours of play. That's absurd, and paying $2-$3 for what amounts to a demo isn't much better. We need a subscription option. For now, seven days at $4-$7 is a reasonable value. That equals $1 or less per day, which feels almost astoundingly fair considering it's $50 for 90 days of F1 2013 or $20 for 30 days of Dirt 3.
What Now needs besides a subscription are discounted, full-game downloads. Sony has boasted about cloud saves letting you carry your save from a short rental to a long-term one (as if spending $5 and then $30 for Darksiders II is a great deal), but it should be trying to convert rentals into purchases. That's contrary to what seems like a trend toward services that take ownership out of our hands, but it would be a smart use of Now.
Make It Like Netflix -- Eddie Makuch
PlayStation Now rental prices, as they currently stand, are completely out of whack. Why would I spend $5 to play Metal Gear Solid 4 for four hours when I could buy it for $7 and play forever?
At the moment, I'm not likely to adopt or recommend Sony's streaming service anytime soon. I want to try it and I certainly plan to, but I don't anticipate being a regular PlayStation Now user until prices come down or Sony introduces a Netflix-style program.
We know a subscription option is coming; Sony has said as much. But it remains to be seen how much this pass will cost and if we'll be able to share our subscription with family members like you can on Netflix. That would be a compelling value-add feature that I think would be well-received. If Sony were to add original PlayStation or PlayStation 2 titles to the library, that is something I would get excited about as well. PlayStation Now is breaking new ground for Sony and for the industry itself. Some level of growing pains are to be expected, but in its current form, pricing leaves much to be desired.
PlayStation Plus Already Does Everything -- Shaun McInnis
To me, the biggest problem with PlayStation Now is PlayStation Plus. Every month, like Santa Claus working a year-round shift, Plus delivers a free batch of games for me to enjoy. Sometimes, those are games I've already played. But most often, they're either brand-new, or they're games that I never really considered when they first came out and now I can try them out at no risk because, hey, they're free!
"I already have that low-risk counterpart to my regular purchases of full-priced games. Why bother with streaming rentals?"
To me, that's similar to the value proposition that PlayStation Now offers: a low-risk alternative to purchasing a game outright. After all, the benefit of plunking down a few bucks for a four-hour rental is that you're able to get a taste for the thing before you fully commit to it. But with Plus, I already get a pretty great selection of free titles for nothing more than the cost of an annual subscription. So I already have that low-risk counterpart to my regular purchases of full-priced games. Why bother with streaming rentals?
Maybe I'd think differently if I didn't have a Plus subscription, but Plus is a great value and Now... well, I don't know about you, but I'm probably not going to pay $50 to rent F1 2013 for 90 days any time soon.
Why Isn't PS Now a Part of PS Plus? -- Alex Newhouse
What PS Now desperately needs is some correspondence with PS Plus. As Shaun argued, Plus is such a good deal that it makes Now feel outright unfriendly toward the consumer, even if it's a good service. The PlayStation brand is fragmented between two competing services that both aim to deliver good games quickly and cheaply. If I'm already a Plus subscriber and am getting at least two new PS3 games per month, why would I ever try out Now?
Sony should instead create a Now option heavily subsidized for existing Plus subscribers. It wouldn't be hard to add an $80 Plus tier that gives you PS Now perks. It doesn't even have to be unlimited Now access. It could simply give subscribers a certain amount of rental time to distribute among the games of their choice.
The individual rental prices can stay if they're significantly reduced, but Sony needs to work to entice its core audience. If these players get Now rentals included in their Plus subscription, that will feel more like a good deal. That'll also make Now seem more like a legitimate solution for backwards compatibility. Additionally, it will encourage Plus subscribers to try out the service and spread the word.
At the moment, PS Plus and PS Now reflect two wildly different business philosophies. For PS Now to be successful, it has to shift to be more consumer-friendly. Hopefully, as PS Now moves closer to a full release, we will see it merge in some way with PS Plus.
Be Bold With Your Prices, Sony, Don't Be a Dick -- Justin Haywald
When I think about the value I get from PlayStation Plus, the pricing for PlayStation Now seems absolutely baffling. With Plus, I feel like I come out ahead--I can access some great games (often games I was considering buying anyway), and the discounted price that I get for buying my Plus subscription on Black Friday makes the deal even better.
"Be bold, Sony. Charge $5 for a week-long game rental, or offer a subscription for Plus subscribers that's a flat $5/month for unlimited access."
But with rentals in Now broken out into four distinct time categories, prices that run as high as $49.99, and no way to access digital games you've purchased previously on PSN, Now feels like a greedy system solely designed to take your money. I know that PS Plus, along with Netflix and Steam Sales, are also organized just to make more money for companies, but I at least feel like I'm getting the better deal in those cases.
Sony says that it lets publishers set their own prices for this sort of content, but it's a place where Sony needs to step in and own its own service. Looking at the prices now, it feels like the company did market research during which it determined the max amount that people would spend on titles based on genre and time since release, then passed those numbers on to the publishers. But Sony needs to be like iTunes when that company pushed the boundaries of digital music with flat $1 song downloads and $10 for an album.
Be bold, Sony. Charge $5 for a week-long game rental, or offer a subscription for Plus subscribers that's a flat $5/month for unlimited access. That would make it the same price as EA Access, which, although it offers fewer games, isn't limited by streaming tech or restricted to last-gen titles.
If the future of "backwards compatibility" is renting games that I stream to my console at a premium price, I'm going to stick with shopping for bargains on Steam and just downloading my monthly free Plus games.
How would you change PS Now? Let us know in the comments!