PlayStation Now has been a fixture in the Sony furniture for some time now, and that's left it a little misunderstood. In absence of true backward compatibility on the PlayStation 4, many see it as a solution for PlayStation 3 gameplay on the Japanese giant's new-gen machine. But, as its recent release on the PC testifies, the platform holder has bigger plans than that.
Instead, it's clear that the manufacturer sees this as the long-term replacement for consoles themselves; there'll come a time when we don't need hardware under our televisions, and we do all of our gaming in the cloud. That future's still a good decade or two away, but it's coming, and PlayStation Now will ensure that the organisation's prepared.
For now, though, the service represents a means to play PS3 games on your PS4, PC, or Vita – and it works better than you could ever imagine. You'll need a speedy Internet connection and controller lag varies depending on the release, but it's not as noticeable as you may imagine, and it's possible to play pretty much any type of game competently.
Sure, you won't be tearing up the online lobbies of Ultra Street Fighter IV, but first-person shooters like Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel or platformers like Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time equip themselves well. Moreover, arcade experiences such as Crazy Taxi and Super Hang-On perform perfectly fine, too – the latter feels like you're playing it natively.
But it's worth remembering that these are still PS3 games – warts and all. Performance issues and presentation problems that were present in the originals are maintained here – you're quite literally playing a PS3 game in the cloud. Fortunately, because all of the processing is offloaded on Sony's servers, you don't need particularly powerful hardware to run the games.
And this is the real genius of the service: it can run on anything with an Internet connection really. Long-term, it's not hard to imagine a future where the entire PlayStation back catalogue – spanning PSone right the way through to PS4 – could be playable on-demand on your phone, tablet, or any other electronics device. And that's pretty darn exciting.
It's just not there yet. In fact, despite being called PlayStation Now, it doesn't feel like a product truly for the present – it works well, as mentioned, but it'll probably end up costing less purchasing a used PS3 if you want to access its ageing library. With constant iteration and investment, though, this service will gradually get more and more attractive.
We'll see how far it's come when we revisit it next year.
Have you tried PlayStation Now yet? Are you impressed with the cloud-based gaming service? Stream some thoughts into the comments section below.