The video game industry is in the midst of the next step in its evolution. The future of gaming looks to be cloud-based, with some traditional hardware potentially being left behind and companies promoting Netflix-style streaming services in their stead. Most of the big players in console gaming have already embraced the medium to varying degrees, with other powerhouses looking set to join the fray soon enough.
Yet, the services on offer still remain a mystery to many gamers. It can be difficult to know, without doing the research, what the advantages of game streaming are and how these programs differ from established services like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live.
With that in mind, we’ve decided to step in by putting the most bountiful streaming service available under the microscope – PlayStation Now. As the current front-runner in the console race, Sony has invested heavily in PS Now, offering an incredible over-the-top subscription service to its players that’s worth consideration by any PlayStation owner. So get comfortable and join us as we examine the advantages and drawbacks of PS Now and find out how it compares to some of its biggest competitors.
Pro: Game selection – quality and quantity
We’ll begin with PS Now’s biggest asset – a gargantuan collection of games. With a library of over 650 games that players can access and play at any time and a new batch of approximately five to ten games being added to the collection each month, PS Now absolutely eclipses the competition, with Microsoft‘s Xbox Game Pass carrying over 200 games and Nintendo Switch Online still yet to break triple figures.
The library covers games from different eras (PS4, PS3 and some PS2 HD remakes), from AAA titles like Bloodborne (2015) and The Last of Us (2013) to critically adored indies like Limbo (2010) and Journey (2012), and offerings from pretty much every genre you could ask for. On top of first party and independent titles, Sony has deals in place with major publishers such as Bethesda, 2K Games and Warner Bros. Games, meaning that many of their most popular titles are included, e.g. Fallout 4 (2015), the Batman Arkham series and a wealth of Lego games.
Again, these examples are just scratching the surface as with a library this sizeable, there’s likely going to be something for everyone.
Con: Game Selection – the notable absences
We’ve mentioned that PS Now includes titles from a range of publishers big and small, but there are a few major publishers whose titles are almost entirely absent from PS Now’s extensive catalogue. EA and Ubisoft each have their own streaming services (EA Access and Uplay+ respectively) that exclusively offers access to their own games, and Square Enix titles are also noticeably missing – with a huge, beloved library of their own, it wouldn’t surprise us to see Square Enix launch their own exclusive streaming service in the future.
But the most conspicuous omissions of all are some of Sony‘s own first party titles. Don’t get us wrong, there are tons of Sony titles included, but many of its biggest hits from the PS4 generation are strangely absent.
Of course, it may be too much to expect Sony to include big releases right after launch and understand that even a year after release, titles may still be selling well that the publisher would be reluctant to give them away on the service. But after two years, you may think there’s little reason not to include those first party releases on the service, yet titles like Horizon: Zero Dawn (2017) and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (2017) are yet to be added.
Following changes to the service made in October 2019, Sony has promised the addition of more ‘major titles’ to the service and immediately made good on this with that month’s additions including Grand Theft Auto V (2014) and 2018’s God of War, but have made it clear that titles added under this directive will only be available for a limited time and will change regularly.
If you’re expecting PS Now to include the biggest and newest releases, then you may be disappointed as all of its content is at least a year old and even the inclusion of first party games can be erratic – even PlayStation poster boy Nathan Drake‘s 2016 adventure Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End was only added to the service for a limited time around three and a half years after release. This puts PS Now a little behind most of the services mentioned, which include slightly more recent titles, but considerably better than Nintendo Switch Online, with its most recent inclusions being around 25 years old!
Pro: Downloading PS4 titles
A much requested feature at launch, PS Now has since been equipped with the ability to let players download games straight to the PS4 rather than having to stream them. This only applies to the PS4 games on offer, but means that the downloaded titles can be played at their highest quality rather than being restricted by the 720p limitation it would have when streamed. It also eradicates any concerns inherent in streaming such as the game cutting out at a crucial point due to connectivity issues.
Following PS Now’s permanent price drop in October 2019, a monthly subscription to each service in question will set you back as follows:
PS Now: £8.99
Xbox Game Pass: £7.99
EA Access: £3.99
Nintendo Switch Online: £3.49
PS Now may provide much more content but the standard price certainly reflects this, even after the price drop it’s still one of the more expensive options available, so it really depends on you – if you’re a casual gamer mainly looking to access sports titles to play with friends, then the EA Access may be more your cup of tea, and if you’re a committed retro gamer who won’t play anything released after the mid-90’s, then you may be better off with Nintendo’s more wallet-friendly option.
Nope, that’s not a typo, the pricing is an issue that’s worth considering as both a ‘pro’ and a ‘con’ because, as previously mentioned, it really depends on what type of gamer you are – if you enjoy a variety of different genres and find yourself skipping from one game to the next every few weeks, then PS Now may be your best bet. Committing £8.99 per month may seem daunting, but is softened considerably when you take a few factors into account:
- Paying for your subscription annually instead of monthly will cost you £49.99 which works out less than £5 a month.
- If you go through a lot of games and find yourself regularly shopping for used or discounted titles, then a PS Now subscription would provide a huge, convenient selection and probably cost less than the games you would have bought.
- If you’re the type of person who only has a PS Plus subscription for the two monthly games, you may question if it’s worth keeping when your PS Now subscription usually gives you five to ten new monthly games to choose from.
As you can see, a PS Now subscription may actually save you money! As before, it all depends on your circumstances and which option (if any) is best for you.
Con: Need for a strong internet connection when streaming
As touched on previously, a strong and reliable internet connection is absolutely essential for anyone considering subscribing to a cloud-based game streaming service. If your internet connection is prone to cutting out or having its connectivity strength suddenly drop on a regular basis, then you run the risk of being thrown out of your game at any time and potentially losing any progress made since your last save.
PS Now takes steps to alleviate this risk by asking players to test the signal and letting them know whether it is strong enough to support the service before purchase. The ability to download PS4 games from PS Now onto your console also circumvents this risk as downloaded games are run on your console rather than a remote server and therefore won’t throw you out if your internet connection fails.
This is a risk inherent with any cloud-based streaming service, but Xbox Game Pass avoids this trapping by making every game in the library downloadable rather than using a cloud-based system.
Pro: Play on the go
PS Now isn’t only accessible on PS4 consoles but can also be used on Windows PCs and laptops. Once you’ve downloaded the app to your computer, you can just plug in a compatible controller and access the huge game collection anywhere you have your laptop and a strong online connection.
Con: No additional perks
This may sound like an entitled and unfair ‘con’ based on the heading, but it’s not a criticism of the PS Now service, just an observation of features that its competitors can boast that PS Now can’t.
Each of the other services previously mentioned offer subscribers additional benefits on top of their catalogue of games, for example Uplay+ offers the premium edition of their games with all DLC where available and early access to new titles, Nintendo and Microsoft offer discounts and offers and EA Access gives players trial versions of major upcoming releases a few days before release to help players decide whether they’re interested in purchasing the full game.
PS Now on the other hand, is what it is. You get access to its massive library but any other perks are tied in with the PlayStation Plus program.
PlayStation Now completely embodies the console’s “For the Players” slogan – it is a dream for the more dedicated gamer with varied tastes – and even for those who don’t necessarily fall into this category, it’s still absolutely worth taking advantage of the seven day free trial to find out if this service is for you. PS Now is a reliable and easy to use service boasting a massive library of games that’s head and shoulders above the competition and if you’re willing to commit to an annual subscription, it can work out as fantastic value for money.
On the flip side, the other services we’ve highlighted make solid attempts to compensate for their comparatively small libraries by being more kind to your bank account in most cases and including more recent titles and additional perks such as discounts and exclusive game trials.
It’s a theme that’s been highlighted throughout this feature, but the best service really depends on you and what you’re looking for, so if anything mentioned here has piqued your interest, it’s worth looking into it and maybe using any free trials you can find. Whether you’re now ready to embrace gaming’s future or whether you’d like to cling to the present a little longer, we hope this article has helped you understand PlayStation Now and game streaming in general a little more clearly.