Hands on With the PlayStation Now Beta
I'd like to preface this article by stating that I currently have my PS4 connected to Wi-Fi, my average download speeds even out around 45mb/s-50mb/s.
Even though my PS4 was not connected directly using an ethernet port I was stunned with the quality of the games I was streaming. It takes about two seconds to download the PS Now app, once you get it installed and launched it brings you into the equivalent of the PlayStation Store where you can see the titles that are currently offered for streaming.
When I first started the beta pricing was marked as "free" for all of the games that were available to me and I could choose to rent the game for a few hours, one week, 30 days or 90 days. Seeing as how they were all free, I saw no benefit to renting the games I was interested in for any less than 90 days. I went through selecting a few of the titles that interested me, added them to a Netflix-style queue so that I could play them later.
I picked up Oddworld: Stranger's Wrath HD, Dead Island Riptide, Legasista, Overlord: Raising Hell, and Way of the Samurai 3. I was reasonably pleased with the selection of games offered to me and I liked that they had some obscure titles that I had always wanted to try but never wanted to pay for.
I fired up Oddworld first and was blown away by how quickly I was into the game and playing. When you first start up a title, PS Now will test your internet to make sure it's capable of handling the service. Once you've cleared that process, there is a short countdown of fifteen seconds before launching your selected game. I was pretty impressed with how quickly the service launched and I was even more impressed with how good the game looked once it was fired up.
It appeared to be streaming in HD, I can't confirm whether it was 1080p or 720p, it did appear to me that it was in 720p. Regardless, the game did look crisp and clear, it controlled beautifully with no noticeable lag between button presses and my character taking action on screen. When I told Stranger to jump, he jumped, when I told him to shoot, he shot, and all without any lag or even a hint of delay.
If I hadn't loaded up the game from PlayStation Now myself I wouldn't have believed that I was playing a game that was streaming over the internet. Before getting into this beta I didn't believe that streaming games was a possibility and I certainly didn't think that I was going to be able to do it so flawlessly over Wi-Fi.
I logged a few hours in Oddworld before switching over to Way of the Samurai 3 followed by Dead Island. The service continued to impress, delivering the same quality experience I had while playing Oddworld. I even caught myself thinking this: depending on the games the final version of the service would offer, my PS3 might be out of a job once PS Now went live.
The service was nearly flawless, but there was a noticeable drop in quality once someone else started using the Wi-Fi in my house. Gameplay would stutter and skip from time to time and the video quality would also drop below HD. In some rare cases the game I was playing would even crash and bring me back out to the PS4 menu.
This is to be expected though, I'm sure it takes a tremendous amount of bandwidth to stream a game and on top of that I wasn't even hardwired in over the ethernet port, which Sony recommends for the best gameplay experience. When you factor in these variables it feels completely forgivable that the service would lag a little under such high demands.
Everything was great with the beta, I really couldn't have been more pleased with the service until this week. Sony finally introduced pricing to their rentals and I have to say they aren't great options. Sony stated in an email to PS Now beta users that, "These prices are ultimately decided on by the participating developers and publishers."
The move to let developers and publishers set their own prices for rentals may ultimately be PS Now's downfall. Almost every game on the service has a different price for all four time periods. For instance, Guacamelee! costs $2.99 for 4 hours, $5.99 for 7 days, $7.99 for 30 days and $14.99 for 90 days; while Deus Ex: Human Revolution costs $4.99 for 4 hours, $6.99 for 7 days, $14.99 for 30 days and $29.99 for 90 days. Saints Row the Third, however can only be rented for 4 hours at $4.99 or 90 days at $29.99.
Thrid parties are setting the amount they charge for rentals and the time periods available to users unrealistically high. Maybe if there weren't hundreds of copies of Deus Ex sitting in Game Stop $5 bins all over the world you could get away with charging $29.99 for a 90 day rental. But as the market currently stands I could go out almost anywhere, buy that game for next to nothing and keep it forever.
Guacamelee! is another example of poor pricing. Why would I pay to rent that game for 90 days when I can purchase it from the PlayStation Store for the same exact price? I am not making this up, you can literally go to PlayStation's website and download that exact same game for $14.99 and keep it forever.
What Sony needs to do is eliminate pricing from the individual games all together. If you could sign up for the service and pay a lump sum every month, say somewhere between $9.99-$14.99, and then be able to play all the games you want the service would become a lot more attractive.
It isn't enough for the service to work fantastically, no one in their right mind is going to pay to rent a game when they can own it for either the same price or far less. Luckily PS Now is still in its beta, hopefully Sony will see that Netflix already has people trained to expect an insane amount of content for one lump sum. Otherwise, when they move out of beta testing later this year they may find that there are millions of other gamers who agree with me.