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Sony has a vision. The embattled manufacturer has gone through a torrid time of late, and has found itself muscled out of the markets that it helped to pioneer as a result – but it’s clear that under the leadership of former PlayStation president Kaz Hirai, it’s found (to use an old cliché) a man with a plan. There was a confidence to the executive’s keynote today that demonstrated just why the company has placed so much faith in him, and we’re beginning to understand his ambitious outlook on the future.

Back when he was appointed CEO in April 2012, one of the Ridge Racer aficionado’s first tasks was to devise a rescue strategy for the beleaguered and unfocused firm. His solution centred on the idea of unification, a concept that he dubbed ‘One Sony’. Hirai suggested that in order for the ailing organisation to recapture its former glories, it first needed to leverage all of its strengths. We’ve since started to see the nuggets of that operation, with Music Unlimited and Video Unlimited built upon the foundations of the PlayStation Network, and a greater sense of unison between the giant’s colossal roster of different divisions.

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However, it’s clear that the idea of ‘One Sony’ expands beyond improved corporate communication. When the company purchased Gaikai for $380 million a couple of months into the former music mogul’s reign, many pondered why the outfit had made such a significant investment when it was facing such dire financial straits. That’s a quandary that wasn’t really answered until today, with the unveiling of cloud streaming service PlayStation Now providing the bandwidth-heavy retort: ubiquity.

Kaz Hirai’s vision is to deliver and centralise your entire entertainment life across a suite of hardware platforms that apply to various different scenarios

Group gaffer Andrew House explained that the goal for the platform holder's latest innovation is to ensure that your games are accessible wherever you are, on whatever hardware that you have available. The on-demand gaming library will start life on systems such as the PlayStation 4 and Vita, but will eventually expand to tablets, smartphones, and Bravia televisions. It will allow you to access a catalogue of content derived from the lineups of three critically acclaimed consoles, with options to rent software or subscribe. And according to early reports from the CES showfloor, the functionality is already running efficiently under controlled conditions.

There are flaws, of course. Despite the surprise announcement that the platform holder will be rolling out a public beta this month in North America, there’s no sign that the solution will be expand to European shores anytime soon. The firm has cautioned that there are real infrastructural issues around the continent that are resulting in a number of obstructions in its plans, but that it’s working hard to bring the service to the “region as quickly as possible”. The fact that it’s not shying away from the product without any real public roadmap suggests that it’s determined to solve the setbacks.

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And that’s acceptable, because this is clearly the company’s vision of the future. The service may be dubbed PlayStation Now in reference to its immediacy, but really it’s much more a snapshot of PlayStation Tomorrow. As the abovementioned issues evidence, we’re not there yet, but it’s obvious that Sony sees a time in which its gaming brand will not exist as a sleek black box beneath your television, but as an application on your smartphone and a tab on your tablet computer. And it’s there that it will sit alongside all of your favourite movies, music, and television shows, on-demand whenever you want to access them.

Is it a pipedream? Possibly – but five or six years ago, we never imagined that the majority of our television consumption would stem from streaming platforms such as Netflix, the BBC iPlayer, and more. Kaz Hirai’s vision is to deliver and centralise your entire entertainment life across a suite of hardware platforms that apply to various different lifestyle scenarios. And as one of the pillars of the executive’s ‘One Sony’, the PlayStation brand represents a pivotal part of that. It’s a somewhat idealistic interpretation of the future, but the switch to cloud-based content is inevitable irrespective of the provider. If the Japanese company can spearhead that transition over the coming years, then it may just be in a position to recapture the triumphs of its glory days.

Do you agree that PlayStation Now hints at a future whereby Sony’s gaming brand lives exclusively online, or do you think that it’s merely an endeavour to profit off legacy content? Do you find all of the streaming chatter a bit harrowing, or are you eager for an on-demand future? Stump up your subscription fee in the comments section below.

What are your initial impressions of PlayStation Now? (54 votes)

  1. The idea of on-demand software appeals to me greatly41%
  2. I like the concept, but need to know more50%
  3. I’m still not convinced that this is actually going to work9%

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