When I was a kid, we had an NES emulator on a disc with 700 games. I don’t know how we came about this disc, but I loved exploring the NES game library, launching random games to see what they were, and discovering favorites. I discovered Rescue: The Embassy Mission this way, as well as Spy Hunter and Crystalis. This is one potential of cloud game streaming: a diverse library of titles just waiting to be explored. Games can be launched in a moment and experienced without downtime or performance concerns. PlayStation Now fulfills this promise. It has stunned me. The game library is impressive, and the performance is spectacular.
PlayStation Now boasts an enormous game library, filled with PS2, PS3, and PS4 titles. There are over 800 games available. All games can be streamed. And additionally, over 300 PS4 games can be downloaded onto your PS4 and played locally. Furthermore, PS Now can be streamed to PCs, and it seems that most standard controllers are supported by the PC app, even the DualShock 3 and Xbox One controller.
PS Now streams in 720p, and, if you find that acceptable, then I highly recommend it. In my experience, the stream is smooth and the image quality is fairly crisp. On my 1080p monitor, I frequently forget that I’m playing a game over the cloud and simply sink into the experience, as you would locally. My connection isn’t particularly strong, either. I just checked after testing out Mudrunner, and my download speed was only 11 MB/s. And yet Mudrunner ran wonderfully (and is really fun, by the way).
But if streaming is problematic for you, because of latency issues or data cap concerns, you can simply download games onto your PS4, and they’ll run in 1080p or 4K if you have a PS4 Pro. I’m playing Control that way, and it performs perfectly. One thing to note, though, is that you’ll need to additionally subscribe to PlayStation Plus to be able to transfer your save files from the cloud to your machine. Without PlayStation Plus, your save file will not transfer from the streaming service to your machine.
To me, this service is comparable to Xbox Game Pass, and for the same price, but PS Now receives a fraction of the accolades Xbox Game Pass gets. Maybe Microsoft has been better about marketing Xbox Game Pass, but PS Now deserves a lot more credit than it’s received.
The PC app runs flawlessly. It recognizes my DualShock 3 instantly and runs games just as well as on PS4. The interface is simple, much like Netflix or other movie streaming services, but it’s adequate. Games are sorted into genres and also by letter, alphabetically. PS Now is missing a search function, though, but games can be added to a play list for easy access later (once you’ve found them).
One feature missing from PS Now is mobile play. You can’t currently stream games to your phone (such as with Project xCloud), nor does the PS Remote Play app support streaming. We’ll have to wait and see how Sony continues to expand the capabilities of PS Now.
The issues with all cloud game services are present with PS Now as well. Most people have data caps on their cable service (for example, mine is 1024 GB per month), and cloud gaming is a data-intensive activity. I ran a network diagnostic tool while playing PS Now to monitor my bandwidth usage. Playing PS Now costs me a whopping 5 GB per hour. I’d be interested to see if other players experience the same level of data usage. In my mind, data costs are the greatest limiting factor to cloud gaming, and it’s disappointing that PS Now is so bandwidth heavy while streaming at only 720p.
Another problem with cloud gaming is that, sometimes, you’re out of luck. If you’re connection isn’t good that day; sorry, you can’t play. If you live with other people, and they happen to enjoy streaming movies on their own devices, you’ll be up a creek when it’s time to play games. It’s a hugely limiting factor.
PS Now offers a 7-day free trial. After that, it costs $9.99 a month, if you pay month to month. If you sign up for three months, it’s $24.99, and it’s $59.99 for an entire year. Go ahead and try out the trial for yourself; I recommend it.