Over CES last week, we had the usual announcements of sharper televisions, fitness bands, weird computers, and normal computers (branded as Steam Machines). The most interesting announcement, though, came from Sony’s PlayStation division: PlayStation Now, a complete game streaming platform serving up potentially any game from the PlayStation brand’s history, right up to the PS3. Despite PS Now being demoed by playing The Last of Us on a PS Vita and Bravia televisions (without attached gaming hardware), Microsoft doesn’t think game-streaming is the future just yet.
Whether or not PlayStation Now is able to serve up video games without latency, the idea behind the service — streaming video games through some sort of app, not requiring specialized hardware — is indeed most likely the future. Almost every other form of entertainment has been moving toward a complete streaming platform. Movies and TV shows have moved to services like Netflix and Amazon Instant, and music has moved to services like Spotify and Pandora. A large portion of current-day video games require check-ins to a central server (console, PC, and mobile included), so it’s not like video games don’t require you to have an internet connection. However, Microsoft vice president Phil Spencer stated in a tweet that he doesn’t think streaming is the way video games are going, at least not anytime soon.
It’s not surprising that Sony’s competition would state that Sony’s very-hyped and extremely intriguing PlayStation Now service isn’t the wave of the future. If Microsoft announced Xbox Now, Sony would probably do the same. Spencer stated that he thinks a machine that can handle local computing will “be important for a long time.” If the noble-but-imperfect OnLive game-streaming service was any indication, then Spencer would be right — the service was frequently crippled by latency. However, Sony has considerable more power to throw around than most gaming tech companies in the world. Furthermore, Sony is attempting PlayStation Now four years after OnLive launched — which means it has four years of improved internet to utilize. As I wrote last week, if Sony uses PS Now’s 2014 launch as an effective beta until the PS5 releases, then the company will have almost a decade to perfect the service, which could potentially be the PS5 itself.
Spencer may be right that fully streaming games are a long way off — technically he may consider that length of time one console generation, since a decade is indeed a while — but in the scheme of things, an all-streaming games platform is inevitable, and likely sooner rather than later.
So, let me get this straight. After an entire summer of being bombarded with all this talk of Cloud and the THOUSANDS OF AZURE SERVERS, all MS can come up with as a rebuttal is this? They really have no clear vision of what they are doing with the XBox and gaming. Drivatars and Titanfall hype aside, they have delivered nothing. Meanwhile, Sony puts in place something relevant and gets it out for beta testing in short order.