PlayStation Now's been misinterpreted by many. The cloud-streaming solution – often incorrectly labelled as Sony's answer to backward compatibility – is clearly an initiative in its infancy; the service that's available today represents the building blocks of a much bigger ambition, where PlayStation hardware is replaced by an app that exists everywhere.
That future may well frighten many of you, and that's because it's a long way away – but technology evolves fast, and we'll be ready for it when the moment eventually arrives. By beginning to lay the foundations of its long-term vision today, Sony hopes that it will be similarly prepared when the tech catches up as well.
Of course, that all leaves PlayStation Now in the strange sort of limbo that it finds itself in today; the technology is impressive – it always has been – but with little to offer other than a small selection of the PlayStation 3's library, it's unclear who it's actually for. These are questions that the platform holder will need to answer in time; for now, we'll focus on the experience that the PC client provides.
Which, lo and behold, works rather well. We went hands on with a dozen or so games via PlayStation Now today, and came away rather impressed; the bit-rate destroys the image quality in places and the lag is noticeable in games that demand a perfect input response, but allow yourself a few moments to adjust, and it's possible to play most titles without even realising you're streaming them from the cloud.
And that's incredible when you really stop and think about it. We took God of War III for a test drive first, and found that its action-heavy gameplay held up when played with a USB connected DualShock 4 on our PC. We noticed a few stutters and audio errors here and there, but overall its mind-blowing visual spectacle was maintained.
One thing that's worth remembering is that, despite the cloud streaming technology, you're still playing PS3 games – warts and all. So while the recently remastered version of God of War III on PS4 may have boasted perfect 60 frames-per-second performance, that's not shared here; the game sheds frames – not because of the streaming, but because that's how it played last-gen.
Your mileage may vary depending on the game, too. We found Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time's clean visual style was crushed a little by macroblocking, while SEGA's emulated version of Super Hang-On looked crystal clear. Interestingly, while lag was perceivable in Super Street Fighter IV, Yu Suzuki's legendary motorcycle sim worked as though it was running natively.
Loading times are an issue, with games taking upwards of one minute to boot, but once you're in, everything operates exactly as you'd expect. With over 300 games available, the service represents a treasure trove at £12.99 per month – but only if you've never played any of the titles before.
And that's really the biggest problem with PlayStation Now, as alluded before: we're not sure who it's for right now. It definitely works – impressively so – but how many people desperately want to stream PS3 games to their PC?
It's a long-term initiative, then – something that'll increasingly come to the fore in the decades to come. The challenge for Sony is finding a way to keep the service afloat in the short-term.
If you live in a participating nation, you can try PlayStation Now for yourself on your PC by downloading the client through here. Are you willing to give it a go? Have you tested the service before on the PS4? Stream some thoughts into the comments section below.