Following Sony’s acquisition of game streaming service Gaikai, it seemed as though the company had an idea as to where the industry was headed. They [Sony], and other companies (like Square Enix) are betting that in the future, games will be more of a service and less of a physical product you own. Whether it’s a sentiment you agree with or not, more signs continuously point to that reality. With the PlayStation Now service, Sony is hoping that the games-as-a-service future it’s envisioning becomes a reality sooner than you think.
The thing about being “first” is that success can’t be driven by a niche customer or consumer. Relegating PlayStation Now as a service that stays within Sony’s walls pretty much shoots down its chances for mass market success. Sure, the PlayStation faithful will be all over it, but those are the customers that Sony already knows that they have in the bag. For PlayStation Now to be a real runaway hit, they need to reach those outside of their own confines. To do this, PlayStation Now cannot (and will not) thrive being on every Sony screen (PlayStation 4/3, Vita, and Bravia TVs).
For it to truly be a success, PlayStation Now needs to be on every screen. Especially on Android and iOS. But it’s going to need buttons.
Unfortunately, all of the advancements in mobile touch displays over the last decade won’t be enough to push the service to the forefront. PlayStation Now players on the go will need the most overlooked feature in mobile gaming: buttons. With that in mind, Sony should introduce their own mobile controller hardware to jump start the PlayStation Now platform on mobile.
Any add-on hardware released by Sony needs to be clean, easy, and versatile. One device that can connect to either iOS and Android devices and do so seamlessly.
For those thinking to themselves “well, what about the PlayStation Vita”? It’s nothing against the handheld, but Sony has (arguably) not priced it reasonably enough to push a new (and mostly unproven) service model. The lack of any Vita mentions at Gamescom in Germany this year, to me, served as a subtle indicator that the handheld is not at the top of the priority list at Sony. In my opinion, the Vita will likely live out its days serving its (new found) role as the best $199 peripheral available for the PlayStation 4.
Sure, there’s still a Vita audience out there, but Sony can’t rely on that one device to be only the mobile solution that PlayStation Now uses to push the platform forward (unless they start giving them away with some kind of yearly service subscription, but the current rental model throws that option right out of the window).
Now, it’s pretty obvious that these mobile controller add-ons have been done many times before. And while even prominent players such as Logitech and Power have both tried to make a splash with mobile controllers, neither of the two have the brand power that is PlayStation. We’re talking about a company that is approaching 20 years in the gaming space. The word PlayStation, like Nintendo and Xbox, is deeply embedded in pop-culture. It’s a word that comes up and goes hand-in-hand when one thinks gaming. I can easily see a company like Sony being able to successfully push (and market) something like this in a way that their casual gaming competitors simply can’t match; along with a 20 year old library of titles available through the service that puts others to shame.
Speaking of games libraries, if we were to compare what’s available on Android and iOS to what you could potentially get from PlayStation Now, it’s not even close. Mobile games have had their share of gems and time-wasters, but stack those games up next to something like The Last of Us and it’s almost laughable at that point. Personally, I haven’t played a mobile game in months, but if you were to put something like Jak and Daxter or Uncharted on my phone or iPad, that will change immediately.
When I read Playstation Now, I expect the service to be now — available on any device whenever you want it. The way Sony will most likely market it is as a service only for your Sony device, and in my opinion, that is a losing proposition. For gamers on the go, It should be the PlayStation Now service bundled with PlayStation Now controller that comes out of the box compatible with the smart device(s) consumers already own.
Now if we’re going to discuss PlayStation Now pricing, well… that’s a completely different story. In fact, News Editor Giuseppe Nelva recently delved into how Sony can price the Playstation Now service competitively in another piece, which can be read here.