Sony Discusses PlayStation Now Refinements, But Won't Comment on Subscriptions, Discounts, or Much Else

We talk with Sony about PlayStation Now, which enters open beta on PS4 on July 31.

Sony's streaming games service, PlayStation Now, launches into open beta tomorrow, July 31, on PlayStation 4 in the United States and Canada. If you're a PS4 owner in either of those countries, you'll be able to pay to play certain PlayStation 3 games without ever downloading them or putting a physical disc in the system. Even with so many new users about to begin using it in less than a day, there remain numerous questions about Now and how it'll work--questions Sony continues to avoid providing answers to.

GameSpot recently spoke with PlayStation Now senior director Jack Buser and Gaikai senior VP Robert Stevenson about the service, which they are happy to note is the first of its kind on consoles. Sony says more than 50 publishers have signed on to offer their games through Now, although an exact list of games planned for it has not been made available. (More will be added "all the time," according to Buser.) The company still won't give exact numbers for how much data you can expect Now to use--a real issue for those in dorms or with ISPs that have data caps--but Stevenson says, "You can think of it [as] very comparable to movie streaming. It's not exactly the same, but it's similar." We'd previously heard you will need a 5 megabits-per-second connection for a "good experience."

A closed beta that's been running since earlier this year has provided Sony with a lot of data to work with--more than 300,000 hours have been streamed so far--that it's already used to improve Now. "Some areas we've really focused on have been in the [user experience], making sure that users really understand the service as we go into open beta," Stevenson says. The Now beta has been using its own dedicated app, but the PlayStation Store itself will become the home for the service as it enters open beta, which presents new challenges. Sony has changed the messaging it uses and tried to ensure people aren't confused when they go to rent a game.

Stevenson also highlighted the addition of cloud saves partway through the closed beta, which allow users to save their game and then resume it on another device at a later time. There are also plans for a new $1.99 price option for certain rentals that is $1 less than the lowest price we've previously heard about. And Sony will make it clearer when streaming games offer DLC, which is said to be part of the reason why rentals during the closed beta could be more expensive than buying a brand-new physical copy.

These kinds of refinements are to be expected, and are no doubt critical to Now achieving a real degree of success. But just as important are many of the issues gamers have been wondering about since Now was announced in January: How will a subscription option work, and when will see one? Can I get free or discounted access to games that I can verify I already own (reportedly the answer is no)? Who is this for? Unfortunately, neither Buser nor Stevenson were willing to provide us with the kinds of answers we were looking for.

"I think, ultimately, you look to this vision of expanding to a wide number of devices and you can imagine that there is this very rich catalog of PlayStation 3 games available to them." -- Jack Buser

Repeatedly describing the service as being in "early days," the two shied away from answering questions about the particulars of a subscription option. Sony is aware of the interest in such an option, and Stevenson says it's "researching exactly how to deliver that. We've got some really strong ideas, but nothing to disclose today in terms of timeline or pricing or anything of that sort."

Fair enough, but how about the way Now will deal with users who own a supported game and would like to stream it to their PS4? "[We have] nothing to discuss at this time," Buser says. "As I mentioned, we are going into open beta on PS4. It will be a rental offering, you'll see a variety of different durations, and, again, a variety of different price points. You'll see durations as short as four hours for an evening of fun--something where maybe you maybe want to come in and just check out a game--you'll see longer durations, like 30 days, 90 days. And Robert talked a lot about the cloud save feature, where you can try out a game for a short duration, save your game to our cloud servers, decide you want to continue playing, rent for a longer duration, and pick up where you left off.

"You know, this is a beta, 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. And we'll be collecting that feedback as part of this open beta process."

You'll notice there was no specific mention of what we asked about, something which happened again when we asked about The Last of Us, which has been shown to be playable using Now but was released this week on PS4 as The Last of Us Remastered. Considering PS4 owners who never owned a PS3 now have a way to play the game, who is Sony targeting with the Now version of a game like this? "We're entering into open beta on PlayStation 4, so this particular period is all about the beta and hearing about people's experiences and how things are going," Buser answers. "I think, ultimately, you look to this vision of expanding to a wide number of devices and you can imagine that there is this very rich catalog of PlayStation 3 games available to them.

"It's all about giving the PlayStation community options on how they want to access content." -- Jack Buser

"We're making this available to the PlayStation 4 community. Many of these titles are going to be brand new to these folks, because they're new to the PlayStation ecosystem, and the PlayStation 4 is maybe their first PlayStation device. And as we expand beyond there, you can imagine an entirely new type of customer who maybe doesn't even have a game console of any sort, who is going to be experiencing this rich catalog for the very first time, and really understand the thing we, in the industry, have known for so long, which is how wonderful these experiences are. The different types of content will fill different kinds of needs depending upon who that target customer is as we move forward."

Stevenson reiterated the idea that Now presents PS4 owners who never got to play The Last of Us on PS3 with a way to do so. (He didn't mention that Remastered does this.) We brought up the fact that Sony is, in a way, competing with itself in a case like this; for a PS4 owner who can choose to pick up Remastered--an improved version of the game--what is the appeal of being able to stream the PS3 version? "Well I think, in general, we're just interested in providing options for our gamers, just to give them the freedom to discover and play games in ways never before possible," Buser says. "So I think we look at all these options as existing symbiotically with one another. It's all about giving the PlayStation community options on how they want to access content. And I think PlayStation Now is really a part of that larger vision for the platform itself."

This was similar to what Buser tells us when asked about the possibility of new games being released directly onto PlayStation Now. "I couldn't comment on that concept specifically," he says. "One thing that's exciting about PlayStation Now is that you have a whole bunch of people who are new to PlayStation in general who own a PlayStation 4, and they might have missed out on a lot of these great PlayStation 3 titles. I think that's one of the things that show some of the power of PlayStation Now as a game-streaming service. So both ourselves at PlayStation as well as publishing partners are really exciting about introducing these amazing PlayStation 3 games to customers who own PS4 but are maybe new to PlayStation. I think that's really exciting."

Even with the open beta kicking off on PS4 tomorrow, many issues will remain unanswered for the time being; the beta will only offer rentals and Sony can point to the beta label to explain why it has so few answers about the service.

But at least we'll have options.

Chris Pereira is a freelance writer for GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @TheSmokingManX
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

Written By

Twitter/Xbox Live/PSN/Nintendo Network: TheSmokingManX

Discussion

172 comments
kane6911
kane6911

poor sony fans getting screwed as always 

xboxinsanity
xboxinsanity

Wait. It's in Beta right now where you can play all the games for free!?

weed37
weed37

Too expensive.... Dirt 3 90 day rental $27.... streaming...... how is that a good value?  Don't want to do PS1 or PS2 games... fine... disappointing, but fine.  Don't want to allow us to stream our digital purchases... fine, once again disappointing, but at those price points, this doesn't make sense

MegaPhilX2
MegaPhilX2

I like how they're not even considering the option of playing PS3 games we already own on the PS4. Yeah, it's all about giving us options right? As long as we pay again for them.

hotwog21
hotwog21

regular multiplayer games lag bad enough as it is, and let us keep our free with plus games!!!!!! and fix the lag or atleast improve it, enough with the reskinned and repackaged crap each year and please stop with the updates claiming "stability improvements'' nothing has improved since 2008!!!! (in regards to online gaming) nothing has run as good as games back then. Go on, argue with me!!!!

UNCStriker88
UNCStriker88

yea i think Microsoft was right on this one when it first came up, the internet is just not stable enough to pull this off, maybe if you downloaded the game and had a rental period but the whole streaming thing is destined to fail

deadline-zero0
deadline-zero0

What concerns me about PSnow is that it's streaming. I've read many people who tried to play more graphically intensive games like DXHR, and the lag got really bad. 

I hope they can fix that.

stu_gamer
stu_gamer

I hope (but doubt) they will eventually include PS1 and PS2 games in addition to PS3 games

Bellum_Sacrum
Bellum_Sacrum

Welcome to the future. Now the service has 8 years or so to refine itself to the point of completely taking over once the PS4 has reached its retirement age. You won't even need to buy a Sony device to play Sony games.

Triton
Triton

I liked when it was all free and that was their selling point a few years ago.

prime_l
prime_l

Completely lost faith in PlayStation Now. Now they are ahead in the console war I feel they're too confident and think they can get away with this ridiculous pricing. Which is a shame because I got a PS4 and Vita with hopes it would be a good service. Until there is a well priced subscription option, I won't even bother with it.

Ironically, yesterday Sony was publicly bashing EA Access as bad value for money...Someone should point that out to the suits @ Sony.

dmblum1799
dmblum1799

Not something I need. Just bought 3 ps4 games (of course Last of Us) and still have a bunch 2013 ps3 titles sitting there.Anyway, not available where I live .

semi74
semi74

Soooo,  a 3 page article that doesn´t answer a single question about the subject matter.  Sheep journalism at it´s finest.

Flyus
Flyus

I have two observations. Firstly, the pricing (its hopefully going to change but not exactly good PR) IS RIDICULOUSLY HIGH.


Secondly, I don't agree with the mentality that thinks we should be entitled to stream what we already own. You already own it? Play that version.

linthes999
linthes999

It's like listening to a political rally. Never a direct answer to the main concerns.

xcollector
xcollector

Download rentals like what EA is doing is better than Streaming rentals. It will take some time to download but then you don't have to worry about the graphic quality dipping every so often when your Internet gets retarded.

oflow
oflow

When Morpheus comes out they'll have a virtual Japanese guy stealing your wallet at gunpoint.

FastRobby
FastRobby

PS Now is great value! Only 3 dollars for 4 hours of an old game

chaazin
chaazin

People are really retarded, do you know how expensive it is to hold a streaming service especially for games? It's in beta, do you little kids on here know what beta means? It's not a final product and the servers probably cost a lot more during beta. So just calm down and play your monthly free games. I'm pretty sure PS Now will work out fine for everyone.

oflow
oflow

you can buy my first gen PS3 with a 500GB HDD and a bunch of games for $250.  I got an Eye, the Move and two guns

Thanatos2k
Thanatos2k

"You'll notice there was no specific mention of what we asked about"

Well sure, Sony is only going to answer credible websites.

Slyster1181
Slyster1181

PSNOW should be included in PS+ to be honest but it isnt going to be. No sub fee = PSNow dead before it even starts.


On top of that there are many console owners that dont even have access to the required internet speeds to use it. It wasnt to long ago when the average internet speed in the US was 1.5mb.. a number last I saw that had risen to 3mb which is still lower than what is needed for PSNow.

illage2
illage2

To be honest I think if PS Now does go subscription based it should be included in PS+  anyone agree?

jts1891
jts1891

@weed37 Too expensive? You do realize that's less than 3 cents a day to stream the game, right?

night_drifter05
night_drifter05

@weed37 Well if you read those aren't set prices. They already said those prices are going to change dramatically and will be a slow as $2 for some games. If they offer a $20 a month or $30 a month plan with unlimited rentals that's a extremely fair price.

Bellum_Sacrum
Bellum_Sacrum

@stu_gamer It will include everything, it is intended to take over after this, the last generation of consoles, ends.

leakingdogmilk
leakingdogmilk

@linthes999

Except the difference is that they will need the support of the majority for a long period of time if they want people to pay for this. This sounds like they are still working things out and don't have a definite answer,

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@xcollector Well if you see the poll on gamefaqs, you are the minority who thinks this. I have all previous PS consoles so i wont use this. Also it seems that PS1 and PS2 disc games could be playable with an update near the end of the years. PS3 did it with fat model, its nothing to do with the hardware, its just emulation software thats been left out so they could re sell classic PS games on PSN. Cant blame them, i mean its business after all and the goal of it is to make money

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@FastRobby I have all previous PS consoles so i wont use this. Also it seems that PS1 and PS2 disc games could be playable with an update near the end of the years. PS3 did it with fat model, its nothing to do with the hardware, its just emulation software thats been left out so they could re sell classic PS games on PSN. Cant blame them, i mean its business after all and the goal of it is to make money

oflow
oflow

@chaazin the ol' 'its only beta excuse'.  You do know the prices in the beta were even higher right?

prime_l
prime_l

And yet, here you are... Commenting.

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@Slyster1181 I have all previous PS consoles so i wont use this. Also it seems that PS1 and PS2 disc games could be playable with an update near the end of the years. PS3 did it with fat model, its nothing to do with the hardware, its just emulation software thats been left out so they could re sell classic PS games on PSN. Cant blame them, i mean its business after all and the goal of it is to make money

xboxinsanity
xboxinsanity

@rob19ny @xboxinsanity 

I was going to say, best Beta ever. They should have just done that for a week, would have been super hype for it. So much buzz and everyone would be using it.

WolfgarTheQuiet
WolfgarTheQuiet

@oflow @chaazin I have all previous PS consoles so i wont use this. Also it seems that PS1 and PS2 disc games could be playable with an update near the end of the years. PS3 did it with fat model, its nothing to do with the hardware, its just emulation software thats been left out so they could re sell classic PS games on PSN. Cant blame them, i mean its business after all and the goal of it is to make money

illage2
illage2

@chaazin @illage2 And that actually wouldn't bother me too much.  Its better than paying £80 a year for both Xbox Live and EA Access.

mjonk2pc
mjonk2pc

@mr_nee @illage2 He's right, it would be a lot more a month. Sony has to pay the publishers and devs of these games out of the subscription fee too.

xantufrog
xantufrog

@b74kd3th @illage2 @chaazin exactly, doesn't matter if it would be a "sweet deal" for us. Point is if they lose money on the product (which they probably would big time if they offered both bundled at only $60 a year) then they won't do it. They are a business. Lord knows they have enough trouble making money as it is...