Feature Article

PlayStation Now Review

PlayStation 3, now.

Sony's game streaming service, PlayStation Now, is live on PlayStation 4. Using technology acquired from its purchase of Gaikai in 2012, Sony's made it possible to play retail and digital PlayStation 3 games on your PlayStation 4, something the system couldn't do before. Though PlayStation Now will work on a slew of devices, including the PS Vita, Sony Bravia TVs and Blu-ray players, PlayStation 4 is the first device to graduate out of beta status, and our early tests indicate that Sony's off to a great start.

PlayStation Now can be used in two ways: monthly subscriptions and individual game rentals. There are currently two subscription tiers that offer unlimited access to over 100 PlayStation 3 games; you can spend $20 for a single month subscription, or save $15 with a three month commitment for $45. If you want a taste of PlayStation Now before committing to a subscription, Sony also offers a free weeklong trial.

Rental pricing is more complicated and it varies from game to game. This is because publishers ultimately have control over pricing and rental periods. In most cases, expect to pay $2 for a four hour rental. Most games offer 90 day rentals for $15 or less, but there are a handful that come in at higher price points. Oddly, racing games seem to be the most expensive of the lot. Nascar '14 costs $40 for 90 days, MotoGP 13 will set you back $30 for the same period, and F1 2013 costs $50 for 90 days. Some games, such as XCOM: Enemy Within, don't offer 90 day rentals at all. It's also the most expensive game per day at $30 per month.

No Caption Provided

Because you're streaming games over the internet from Sony's servers, it's imperative that you not only have a good internet connection, but also that your network at home is up to the task. According to Sony, you need to be able to download data at a rate of at least 5 mbps. Anything less and you may experience choppy audio and video, rendering some games unplayable. You unfortunately can't control your geographic location, which can have an effect on the number of hops the stream has to make before it lands in your living room. According to Sony, this shouldn't be an issue for the "majority of users."

I tested PlayStation Now on a wired network connection rated at 35 mbps and on a Wi-Fi network rated at 10 mbps. Given that GameSpot's office is in a highly populated area, and not too far from SCEA's San Mateo headquarters, it's a good bet that there's a data center nearby. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that PlayStation Now works really well, even on Wi-Fi.

We have data centers distributed all over North America, so the vast majority of users are within close distance to at least one data center. - SCEA Support

I can't say that I had high hopes of games both looking and playing well, but they did, including latency-sensitive games like Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition, which felt every bit as responsive as I needed it to be. Granted, I don't play on a competitive level, but I play enough Street Fighter to understand the speed and rhythm of certain characters, and favorites like Ibuki, Ryu, and El Fuerte felt the same as they always have, even on the technically slower Wi-Fi connection. I also put Final Fantasy XIII and Motorstorm Apocalypse to the test, and apart from a couple of audio glitches, I didn't experience anything that I would consider a barrier to my enjoyment. It was also difficult to identify any difference in performance between our wired and wireless network tests.

Does that mean PlayStation Now is a seamless experience that's as good as playing games straight from a disc? It may be close, but it's not the same. Every game we played exhibited video compression artifacts; groups of blurry pixels that result from Sony reducing the bit-rate of a raw video feed so that it's fit for streaming online. However, it was noticeable, but not overwhelming. The effect was most notable during scenes with predominant mid-tones, but generally speaking, the quality of Sony's video stream is adequate, even if it's not as good as the real thing.

The blurry spots in the image above are the result of video compression, not motion blur.
The blurry spots in the image above are the result of video compression, not motion blur.

If you're worried about online multiplayer, fear not, because it works exactly as it would if you were playing on an actual PlayStation 3. Whether there are still people playing older games online is another discussion, but on Sony's end, its done a good job of preserving the experience you have with an actual PlayStation 3, compression artifacts aside.

From a technical perspective, Sony's made PlayStation Now a service worth considering. It works as promised, and there are a lot of great games just waiting to be played. Is this something that every PlayStation 4 owner needs to take advantage of though? The simple answer is "no," but I'm willing to bet most people will at least end up renting a game at some point down the road. It's hard to ignore the appeal of having so many games at your fingertips, especially if you never owned a PlayStation 3 or you sold off your library of games to upgrade to a PlayStation 4. For the cost of lunch, you can rent a game for a week, all without leaving your home. Of course, you could also track down and purchase pre-owned physical copies of some of these games and keep them forever rather than for just a few days. If you have a PlayStation 3 and don't feel the need to shelve it just yet, then that's probably the better route to take, but for the PlayStation 4 owner without ready access to Sony's last console, PlayStation Now is a service worth looking into.

It's hard to ignore the appeal of having so many games at your fingertips, especially if you never owned a PlayStation 3.

There are downsides to relying on an always-connected service. You may find yourself in a situation where you've rented a game for a day and Sony gets pummeled with traffic from people trying to overwhelm its servers, potentially making PSN, and PlayStation Now, inaccessible. This happened during the course of our tests, for example. Some people don't blame Sony, but it will be interesting to see how customer service reps respond to people that feel as they've been cheated in some way, even if the issue didn't originate from Sony.

While I won't be subscribing to PlayStation Now on a long term basis, I do plan on using the rental service. There are simply too many great games there that I haven't played, and in my case, there's no room for the PlayStation 3 near my TV. The convenience of streaming, which also negates nasty blu-ray-to-hard-drive installation times, provides instant gratification at mostly reasonable prices. For the moment, PlayStation Now is a solid addition to PlayStation 4. If it can resolve its network stability issues, resurrect older PlayStation libraries, and perhaps integrate a version of the service into PlayStation Plus, Sony could take a major step forward that Microsoft and Nintendo would find hard to match.

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doc-brown

Peter Brown

Peter is Managing Editor at GameSpot, and when he's not covering the latest games, he's desperately trying to recapture his youth by playing the classics that made him happy as a kid.
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Bullet86

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My big problem with PS Now is that I cant walk away from a game for ten minuts without it forcing me out and making me lose all of my progress. If you've got to take a phone call, tend to a kid, or do anything, it screws you.

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Bullet86

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My big problem with PS Now is that I cant walk away from a game for ten minuts without it forcing me out and making me lose all of my progress. If you've got to take a phone call, tend to a kid, or do anything, it screws you.

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jlenoconel

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The subscription doesn't allow you to play all games on the PS Now service, or that's how it is with the free trial. If Sony expect people to pay $20 a month yet still charge people extra for certain games, they've got a another think coming.

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IMegaJohn

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I tried this with the 7 day trial a couple of months ago. It was, ok, at best for me. I tried first with WiFi on PS4, and it was low res stuttering, and completely shutting down all the time. I then tried on my Vita, and it worked better. The 3rd attempt, I hard wired my PS4, and the experience was a bit better. Since the WiFi in the PS4 is atrocious, the only real way for me to connect it is hard wire. My connection from Wire to Wireless goes from 25mbps all the way down to 1.5mbps. Whilst mu Xbox One only drops from 29mbps to 17mbps.

I tried God of War Ascension, Dead Island, and Killzone 3 Multiplayer. While the first 2 worked ok, the Multiplayer in Killzone 3 was impossible to play. The input lag while turning was about 2 seconds after I had let go of the right thumbstick. So needless to say, the streaming service for Multiplayer games is a huge hurdle for this type of streaming service, and understandably so. Also the Single Player side is ok, as long as you are playing a game that doesn't require lightning quick reflexes, as even the smallest latency is a hindrance.

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bob_dylan1420

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Guess I'll stick with emulation and PC ports. I understand its new hardware, but they could have taken the time to implement some kind of software emulation for backwards compatability. The Sega Dreamcast had something similar that allowed you to play ps1 games on it with slightly improved graphics. Maybe I'm just being a whiny bitch here, but I feel like both my wallet and childhood are being raped. Feel free to send me hate mail.

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omniphile

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I still don't understand why it's inconvenient to download a game to your hard drive... I guess with 10GB+ games, it would be nice if you could download the game in pieces, and start playing the beginning of the game while the later parts are being downloaded... streaming is just not reliable enough, even for a company that doesn't get hacked every few months... so we can rent games for $15 for 3 months? They should be offering full game purchases at those prices...

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KimCheeWarriorX

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its a bit annoying that people still use "bits" to measure certain data instead of "bytes". for instance, my connection speed is 8 megaBITS per second according to the phone company but i always look at it as just 1 megaBYTE. seems sleazy that most companies prefer to measure speeds by megabits just because the numbers are bigger. seems like a sleazy business practice if you ask me.

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KimCheeWarriorX

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i dont think many people realize that ps now has been out in beta form for awhile now and ive personally been using it with my slow dsl connection to play ps3 games since september at least and when they say "beta", they mean the term very loosely. i had no idea ps now was still in beta form until last month because there have been no issues for me, not even back in september. granted i had lower quality visuals than they were on an actual ps3 but thats only because of my 1 megabyte or slower dsl connection. i got to play games like catherine and record of agarest war 2 for the first time using "now". i can vouch for its great service and i cant see anyway that they could improve it anymore other than making it free or build in backwards compatibility in the hardware itself.

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deactivated-5d14bade6a0c4

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I love my PS3. It plays every PS1, PS2, and PS3 game I own. It plays the dozens of games I've bought on PSN. PS4 can't do any of that. They actually want to charge me on the PS4 to play Sonic 4 Episode 1. That is a game that I purchased on PSN on the PS3. Really? I don't even see how that is legal. I'll stick with PC.

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exco29

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They're just trying to get more money out of people. They could have just made the PS4 backward compatible.

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spidey223

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I've been renting games at my local video store for years. That's how I check games out before I buy them and prevent myself from wasting my money on a crappy game. Seriously ... How is that not a reasonable thing to do?

I go to the retailer (in my case, Hastings), I rent the game for a week, and try it out. If I like it, I buy it. If I don't like it, I don't buy it. This has been a process going on in stores for well over a 2 decades (depending on where I live). Heck, I remember renting SEGA, PS1 and N64 games back in the day. Now I use Gamefly. I don't see what the problem is with the basic conceptual rental-plan here? It's a system that is simple, and works.


Personally, I think PSN should also have PS4 current releases available for rent. And a PS+ incentive. And open up the archives for crying out loud! Playstation DOMINATED the SRPGs in the days of old. Let's have access to it!

So, why not now? I would and do check out many of these games before I shell out 60 bucks. I'm positive I'm not alone in that. And having a back catalog of everything else under the Sony umbrella, with Trophy integration, saves and the other bells and whistles, would be phenomenal for a reasonable fee.

I think someone, of course, is allowed to decide that renting games isn't for them. Absolutely. And yet this new business model does not pursue cutting physical discs out entirely; that is not necessarily the goal. My overall point is that the "rental" vehicle for gamers isn't a new one, and it's actually fairly affordable. If they match the value with the price, it makes a lot of sense to a lot of consumers. And possibly not even just to older ones like me?
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deactivated-5d14bade6a0c4

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<< LINK REMOVED >> How much does it cost to rent PS4 games on there? Exactly.

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KimCheeWarriorX

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> it varies from game to game...well, at least when it was in beta thats how it was, i havent used it since they officially went out of beta.

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mjonk2pc

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Just use Shareplay to try games out.

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Flyin3lvl

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read afew good reviews so far


for me i would use this to rent something like alien islolation, the game has caught my attention only thing stoping me is not the usual game id play, and see some "frustration" if felt like caught unfairly when thinking its clear ... rent to see then buy if i enjoy .... but what about europe plans have i missed the news on that one?

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simon1812

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I was going to give it a shot via the 7 days free trial, at certain step it asks me to chose a payment plan in order to start the free trial at the end of the 7 days trial the plan should go in effect of course, but "you can choose to cancel the plan before the trial is over" Im paraphrasing it a little bit, but it looks like sony is placing a bet against me missing the deadline and paying when my only intention is to give the trial a shot and nothing else . I was reluctant to keep going, so I didnt.


rather wait a to see if sony sweetens the deal a little bit.

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chitowngamer85

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You can cancel the auto renewal literally right after you sign up, and still have access to the week trial.

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Xevro

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Why isn't it possible to use PS3 games on PS4 that you already own, but it is possible to play the very same games through this subscription-based feature where you actually re-buy/pay for everything?

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blackace

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Because the game is being streamed off a server with the PS3, PS2 and PS1 hardware on it. All you're doing is using the PS4 control to control the games. The game isn't actually on the PS4 HDD, so it's not using the PS4 tech.

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cantloginnow

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Ridiculous price. Gamespot would create a crapstorm around this service if it was somebody other than Sony charging this much for backwards compatibility.

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chitowngamer85

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Ridiculous price? Unlimited use for $15 per month? You need a better job. That price is completely fair. Just another cheap entitled gamer wjobeants everything for free.

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mjonk2pc

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I got the the 3 month subscription and I am going to keep it. Once the subscription is done on PS4, it works on both my PS3's and my Vita.

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blackace

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<< LINK REMOVED >> If this was on the XBox One, Sony fanboys will be having a field day bashing it to death. That's a fact. Because it's on their console of choice, they all of a sudden love it, even though it's over priced and milking their user base.

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deathstream

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Not a real review if it was done exclusively in a major population center. Go to Bumskull, Iowa and give it a go and then let us know how it works. Not everyone lives next door to a server or has an internet connection that good.

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x_chan

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Wow, just wow. The option to subscribe for 15USD a month is all I ever wanted.


I'm constantly travelling and moving, so owning a home console has been impossible for me since PS2. There's been so many games I wanted to play from last gen that I have missed due to that, and now (well, in a near future) Sony offers me a chance to play them whenever I want on my PSVita. Yes, the quality won't be the same, and I'll have to be connected all the time to be able to stream them, but having access to hundreds of games instantly for 15 USD, is just a dream come true.

Thanks Sony!!

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Puckhog27

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I can't seem to bring myself to "rent" games. I think if there ever comes a point where games are all rented for a certain period of time then I'll just stop gaming and do something else. I really wanted to play the Uncharted series on this service, but when I went to do it Uncharted only said rent. Let people buy the games like you can buy digital streaming movies on Amazon.com.

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Unknownerror171

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Some of us grew up in the age of renting games at our local video rental store, but I get your point. This subscription service is just like Netflix for games though..a lot of people are fine with paying for Netflix even though it's technically a renting service since you don't own the movies, why is psnow a bad Idea? I think it's a fantastic option, especially for those that never owned a ps3.

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Jameson420

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There should be an option to buy these older games as well as have DLC available which most games don't, I'm sorry but I can get all the God of War or Uncharted series for 20 bucks owned through Gamestop and I own them forever. I got a PS4 expecting Planetside 2 to be out by now and PS now to not be a rip-off. Why would anyone rent a game for 20 bucks for the month when the game is 5 bucks at the local Gamestop? Solution- PS3's at Gamestop= 180 bucks used with a Controller or use your PS4 controller, PS Now= 45 bucks every 3 months for 12 months= 180 bucks, you decide...

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swantn5

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<< LINK REMOVED >> i would rather buy them and be able to play them offline rather then having to depend on a internet connection to run the emulator

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Boddicker

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I'm baffled as to why Sony would choose to go this route instead of allowing us to permanently download the games. $10-$15 is more than a fair price for 90% of the PS3 offerings. The current pricing is just bizarre.


Someone really needs to come out with an emulator so that we can play PS1&2 games.

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MigGui

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so if you own a ps3 game and wants to sell the console itself, your only option still is to sell the game and rent it back.

but what bugs me is the xcom thing. if I got it right, you can pay $20 and stream any game you want for one month, or pay $30 and stream xcom for one month? why on earth would anyone pay $30?

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greaseman1985

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"It's hard to ignore the appeal of having so many games at your fingertips, especially if you never owned a PlayStation 3" How can you ignore the fact almost all the games are multiplat?

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theKSMM

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Most games today are multiplatform, but they're not usually multigenerational. That means that if you missed a PS3 game from years ago and don't feel like buying a PS3, you may still have an option to play it via PS Now.

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Alucard_Prime

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I really hope Microsoft does not do this, zero interest in playing last Gen games over an internet connection.

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chitowngamer85

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Well that's YOUR opinion. But I own a ps4 and xb1 after only having a ps3 last gen, and would love a chance to play gears, fable, and some other series.

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SpiderLuke

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<< LINK REMOVED >> That's like saying you don't want a grocery store you shop at to sell Kale. Just don't buy it, like the other guy said. Let people have what they want and not have the world revolve around you.

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esqueejy

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<< LINK REMOVED >> So don't buy it and it will in now way, shape or form ever effect you. Problem. Solved.

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blackace

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> It solved my problem. lol!! I'll just stick with my PS3 that plays PS1, PS2 and PS3 games.

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maitkarro

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<< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >><< LINK REMOVED >> Ah you have the best version of PS3, though it sounds like a vacuum compared to slim and super slim.

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marcheegsr

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So if you still have a ps3 like me with over 60 games and half of them you haven't beat yet, is this service even useful? I mean you can get games in the store for 5-10 dollars these days. I guess it appeals to people that don't have a ps3.

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Dav_id83

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<< LINK REMOVED >> Its more for people who were other consoles only and or didnt buy a PS3 and if they have a PS4 it's a great chances to play some PS3 classics, but for me if you look hard enough you can find some classics for seriously cheap money if you wanted and get a PS3 2nd for cheap. So for a one off payment you can get a PS3 console and as stated cheap classics

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theKSMM

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<< LINK REMOVED >> I don't believe that you're the ideal gamer for this type of service, though if there's a game that you wanted to try out before buying it, you might find a short-term rental appealing.

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