Alright Sony, time to get down to brass tacks: what are you big plans for PS Now?
The PlayStation Now video game streaming service launched back in 2014 and, despite showing some initial promise, has never really stood out as a must-have addition to owning a PlayStation console, even after the launch of PS5. The number of subscribers has steadily increased over time yet Sony are only making baby steps in this space, at least when compared to the speedy strides of Microsoft with their Xbox Pass Game Pass.
PS Now recently attracted attention when it was announced Sony would be shutting down their online stores for PS3, PS Vita, and PSP, effectively removing their digital game libraries from sale. If this decision (which has since been overturned) went ahead, PlayStation Now would be the only way of accessing many older PS3 games, some of which never saw a physical release. It could easily be sold to PlayStation gamers as a backwards compatibility solution but this isn’t how Sony markets their overlooked streaming service. After 7 years on the market, it’s time for Sony to decide what they want PlayStation Now to be.
That’s the main issue here: messaging. Where Xbox Game Pass styles itself as “the Netflix of video games” with a rotating array of new and eye-catching hits, PlayStation Now trails behind.
Is it supposed to be Sony’s backwards compatibility option, since it spans over three console generations? If so, then there’s plenty about that aspect of the service which needs to change. For example, there are only 16 PS2 games available on PlayStation Now which is laughable when considering how large the power-selling console’s game library is. When playing PS3 games on newer hardware they can only be streamed, offering a subpar experience to those without a solid, high-speed internet connection. The PS4 library fares a little better by allowing you to download your PS Now titles, but that’s just one of console generation.
Maybe I’m thinking about it wrong though, perhaps PlayStation Now is really supposed to be about PS4 games, and having access to a wide collection of them. This would be okay for now, if the PS5 had been delayed and hadn’t released yet. Now that the PS5 is here though, those lucky few with the console already have a library of well curated PS4 games available to them through the PS Plus Collection. This greatest hits catalogue comes complementary to your PlayStation Plus subscription on PS5. Another complication making PlayStation Now less desirable to PS5 owners is that there are no PS5 games available via the service – when playing new additions such as Marvel’s Avengers or Borderlands 3, you’ll be playing the PS4 versions.
It’s been 7 years, and PlayStation Now still lacks a truly compelling reason to entice subscribers. With the recent launch of PS5, there was an opportunity there to greatly enhance its value, either by offering an up-to-date selection of games or wading further backwards into the PlayStation archives. Right now it’s caught in an awkward spot, straddling too many lanes, any shortcoming only amplified by the ongoing growth and popularity of Xbox Game Pass.