Playstation Now (May Not Be) The PS4 Backwards Compatibility You’re Looking For

Sony recently announced their solution to allowing PS3 games to be played on the PS4. Called Playstation Now, the service uses the infrastructure they acquired from Gaikai. For those who don’t know what any of this means, here’s the skinny.

  1. Because the PS4 uses a different kind of CPU to the PS3, games made for the PS3 can’t run natively on the PS4. In short; the PS4 lacks backwards compatibility with PS3 games.
  2. Gaikai was a company that allowed people to stream games from a PC to other devices, such as an iPad or iPhone. It did this by running games on a remote system and then streaming a video feed of the game being played by the user back to that users device, a concept also known as Cloud Gaming. It was a novel concept, but rumors swirled that it wasn’t doing as big a business as the owners had expected. In 2012 Sony bought Gaikai for $380 million USD, far below the $500 million USD Gaikai had expected to sell for.

Playstation Now is the end result of Sony’s purchase of Gaikai. It allows Sony to offer a form of backwards compatibility on the PS4 by streaming a video feed of PS3 games being played on remote systems direct to your console. Interestingly, Playstation Now will also be offered on other devices including the Playstation Vita as well as iPads, iPhones and even PS3s.

It’s a nice feature for Sony to add, but there’s a reason Gaikai wasn’t as successful as it could have been. It was a costly service that required a fast, reliable internet connection to work, and outside of the US and some Asian-Pacific countries, a fast, reliable internet connection isn’t always easy to find. This is especially the case here in Australia, where the best internet connection the vast majority of us have available is ADSL2. Sony says a 5Mbps connection would achieve “good” performance, yet according to CNET, the average Australian connection speed is 4.7Mbps. With the NBN becoming a pipe dream for most thanks to new Government policies, it’s unlikely that many Australian PS4 owners will have a connection reliable enough to support Playstation Now.

Add to that the significant impact Playstation Now is likely to have on your monthly download quotas, and many mainstream Australian internet plans offering more data for exorbitant fees, and you can see how Playstation Now could pose a significant problem for the Australian PS4 gamer.

But this might even end up being a moot point, because when Playstation Now will actually launch in Australia is currently anyone’s guess. The service is being rolled out in the US first, with a European launch expected (but by no means confirmed) in late 2014. Whether or not Australia will be bundled up into the  European launch (as it often is) or whether we get pushed back into 2015 (if we get it at all) is simply not known right now.

Pricing is another concern. This recently leaked image (via Reddit) offers some hints, but it could just be a placeholder image. It’s likely Playstation Plus subscribers will get some kind of discount, but when you’re paying up to $70 per year for a Playstation Plus subscription, any extra cost for potentially problematic PS3 backwards compatibility is a concerning proposition, regardless of the obvious value Playstation Plus otherwise offers.

But ultimately, this is probably the best solution to a tricky problem. Unless Sony and numerous third parties committed to costly PS4 ports of existing PS3 games (never gonna happen), Playstation Now (may not be) the backwards compatibility solution many of us were looking, or at least hoping for. Yet the fact remains, until Sony announces more concrete details on how much it’ll cost and whether or not Australia will get the service, Playstation Now remains a daunting, imperfect solution.


Categories: opinion

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