Sony PlayStation Now European release date and UK beta news
Everything you need to know about Sony's upcoming PlayStation Now game streaming service, which is coming the UK next year
Sony has been working on PlayStation Now, the game streaming subscription service that will let PS4 players get any title instantly on their console with no need to buy a disc or download massive files, for some time, but we're finally one step closer to getting our hands on it here in the UK: the company confirmed at Gamescom this week that PlayStation Now will be arriving in Europe in 2015, with the UK first to get a beta.
PlayStation Now - What is it?
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.
PlayStation Now - What games are included?
The initial selection of PlayStation Now titles included The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension, Puppeteer and Beyond: Two Souls, but by the time the open beta arrived in the UK that list had already grown to over 100 titles, including Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Metal Gear Solid HD collection and Guacomelee.
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.
PlayStation Now - How does it play?
Lag is the biggest concern with game streaming, but during our 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.
PlayStation Now - How much does it cost?
Sony has been running a closed beta for North American PS4 owners for some time, but has recently opened up to accept any user - not just those lucky enough to score an invite. 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.
Those prices are almost certainly set to change, as Sony admits it is still testing the waters, and is still in the planning stages of launching a monthly subscription similar to PlayStation Plus. What they will translate to here in the UK is also unclear, but we would imagine they would be carried over almost directly - meaning £2.99 for four hours of play.
PlayStation Now - When can I get it?
Following confirmation at Gamescom, European PlayStation fans will be able to access the service at some point in 2015. The UK will be the first to give it a try, when a public beta takes place, although SCEE president Jim Ryan didn't confirm a specific date. That likely means we'll be waiting until at least summer next year, but we'll keep our fingers crossed for an earlier launch.