PlayStation Now open beta comes to the UK
Everything you need to know about Sony's upcoming PlayStation Now game streaming service, including current rental prices and included games
PlayStation Now, Sony's game streaming subscription service, has finally moved into open beta in the UK. As long as you have a PS4, PS3 or one of Sony's compatible Bravia TVs or Blu-ray players (as well as a DualShock 4 or DualShock 3 controller), you'll be able to stream a whole host of top PS3 titles instantly with no need to buy a disc or download massive files. At the moment, you're only able to rent titles, but subscriptions will be available later this summer.
What is PlayStation Now?
PlayStation Now started off life as Gaikai, a game streaming platform Sony purchased in 2012, which runs games on high-powered servers and beams low-bandwidth video to players rather than massive game files. Without the need for a physical disc, or actually downloading a digital version of the game, players are able to play the full version of a supported game over the service using their broadband connection and a PS4, 2014 Bravia TV or PS Vita handheld.
Currently, the service is using modified PS3 hardware to run games in its datacentres. The processing power of eight PS3 consoles is shrunk onto a single motherboard, which then renders a particular game for users to stream over a broadband internet connection. It could eventually expand to include PS2 and original PlayStation games, as well as PS4 titles, but for now Sony is concentrating on PS3 games only. It effectively adds full backwards compatibility to the PS4, which launched without the ability to play PS3 games.
How much does it cost?
In the UK open beta, rental prices range from £2.99 for 48 hours to £7.99 for 30 days. However, Sony says that prices of individual titles will vary according to the title in question, so popular titles may well cost more.
For reference, the current US prices are as follows: it costs $2.99 to rent any title in the library for a four hour period, with prices increasing as the length of time goes up: that means $5.99 for a week, $7.99 for a month and $14.99 for 90 days. Sony has said in the past that prices may fluctuate, though, so the final version of PlayStation Now may have very different prices to what's currently on offer at the moment.
What games are included?
Right now, the UK open beta has the following games in its catalogue: Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension, Bioshock Infinite, Final Fantasy XIII, Tomb Raider Underworld, Ultra Street Fighter IV, Dead Space 3 and Mirror's Edge. These games will change from time to time, though, so you'll be notified well in advance when certain titles are coming to the end of their current rental period.
The streamed versions of each game behaves exactly like the full retail or digitally downloaded version, meaning you'll be able to play them online against people playing with their own disc versions. You can also save your game progress to the cloud and continue playing where you left off.
Sony's also running a promotion across selected Bravia TVs until 31st August, which includes a free DualShock 4 controller and a free 30 day rental of six games on PlayStation Now (Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, The Last of Us, Motorstorm Apocalypse, Everybody's Golf, Ratchet & Clank: Nexus and Lemmings). TVs include the X94 series (55in, 65in, and 75in), the X90 series (55in and 65in), the S85 series (55in and 65in), the X85 series (55in, 65in and 75in) and the X83 series (43in and 49in).
How does it play?
Lag is the biggest concern with game streaming, but during our hands on play session it felt practically as responsive as a local game and we had no problems controlling it. The graphics looked great too, unless we came across a particularly detailed scene with plenty of motion or we panned the camera too quickly. This introduced noticeable artefacts - not enough to ruin the experience, but enough to make you feel like you're watching a video stream rather than playing a game. The faster your home internet connection, the better quality of the stream. You'll need a 5Mbit/s connection as a minimum to start playing.
When can I get it?
The UK open beta of PlayStation Now is now available for all PS4 and PS3 owners, as well as on select Bravia TVs and Sony Blu-ray players. All you need to do is fire up the app and you're ready to go. PlayStation TV and PS Vita owners, however, will have to wait a little longer.
Unsurprisingly, nearly all of Sony's 2015 TV line-up is compatible with PlayStation Now, including the X94C, X93C, X90C, S85C, X85C, X83C, W85C, W80C, W75C and W70C series.
2014 TVs will be added later, but only the X95B, X90B, S90B, X85B, W95B, W85B, W80B, W70B, W60B and W58B series will receive support for it.
As for compatible Blu-ray players, you'll need either the BDP-S6500, BDP-S5500, BDP-S4500, BDP-S3500 or BDP-S1500.