PlayStation Now Pricing Unveiled

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Since PlayStation Now was announced, people have been talking about the “All you can eat” future for the service. It seems Sony was listening and have taken what people said to heart. Today, Sony unveiled the PlayStation Now monthly plans. Starting January 13th if you are in the US and Canada, you can subscribe to the service for $19.99 a month or $44.99 for 3 months. This subscription will give you access to a large selection of PS3 titles (Sony claims over 100) that you can play on the PS4 at launch and any device with the PlayStation Now service at a future date.

The PlayStation Now service is based on Gaikai, a streaming service that Sony purchased in 2012. The service, similar to OnLive, allowed players to play high end games, even if the computer or device could not handle them, via the power of streaming. All the player would ever see if a compressed video stream of the game. The game it’s self would be running on a rack server in a data center.

Sony seems to have cracked the code. The price model makes gaming a monthly cost that is far less than many would be spending on games, and if the users’ internet can take the bandwidth, it would make playing games a far less expensive hobby. The service worked well under our tests, Games loaded fast and where very playable. That being said, it was in beta at the time, with very few people using the service. It remains to be seen how PlayStation Now will hold up with gamers jumping on to this monthly offering.

With the PS4 unable to play games from the last generation this could be a great way to dig up some old gems you may have missed out on. Will you be giving the service a try come January 13? Sound off below!

Source: PlayStation Blog

Game Rentals Are Dead: What Now?

Game Rentals Are Dead: What Now? - 2014-09-09 13:52:33

Physical game rentals have become, for the most part, a thing of the past. Their disappearance has caused a decline in the number of games I play each year, and at a time when I find myself getting excited about more and more titles. Back in the early 90s many developers used shareware as a form of distribution, with the hope that enticing consumers with a free sample would shake some money loose from their wallets. But the Internet has come far since then and its exponential growth has made those methods unnecessary.

Getting your game in front of people is becoming an issue again, but now it’s because of the incredible volume of content being made and the finite nature of the dollar. Developers and publishers are once again fishing for new ways to push their games into our homes and it’s a trend I hope continues.

[pullquote align=”right” class=”blue”]” Demos have become less prominent but beta tests are becoming more prevalent on consoles. “[/pullquote]The technology behind the new generation of consoles is a driving factor in this trend. Demos have become less prominent but beta tests are becoming more prevalent on consoles. Games such as Destiny and Battlefield: Hardline had massive betas earlier this summer, and the trend looks to continue with similar pre-launch tests planned for Driveclub, The Crew, and Deep Down. It seems that the not so distant fiascos of Diablo 3 and the latest Sim City have made developers conscious of how upset players get when they buy a game and aren’t able to play it. And titles like The Crew and Tom Clancy’s The Division also look to heavily involve multiplayer in their core experience, which has me anxiously expecting the increased use of betas to mitigate or avoid those public outcries.

The progress of digital technology has also brought about DLC, and now some developers are using it in different ways that don’t require you to purchase the full game first. Recently, the Infamous team released First Light, a stand-alone, DLC spin-off from Infamous: Second Son that had the triple-A production expected from Sucker Punch, but at a fraction of the length and cost. This almost feels like an evolution of the shareware model. Die hard, Infamous fans get more of what they love, and those weary of dropping $60 on the full game can try a fully fleshed out experience for a fraction of the cost. The Saints Row franchise is following suit with Gat out of Hell, the stand-alone content they announced at PAX Prime this past weekend. Being able to get your hands on a smaller sample of the game, and then buying the larger version if you enjoy it, is a more practical and consumer-friendly approach then the reciprocal.

Another approach is in the development of whole new features what weren’t previously possible. Ubisoft is trying something new with Far Cry 4 where they give those who buy the game and have Playstation Plus 10 “keys to Kyrat”, which will allow them to offer friends the ability to play with them without having to own the game. The second player will join the game owners session via the Playstation Network, and each key gives access to two hours of game play.

Sony alluded to a similar feature being extended to possibly all future games with a service called Share Play. And they’ve also been testing the waters with their streaming service, Playstation Now, over the summer. Currently, Playstation Now only offers PS4 owners a handful of previous generation games for rent, but maybe one day it could be extended to offer full access to current generation titles for a limited time.

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It’s clear game makers are looking for new ways to get their games not just in front of our eyes, but also in our hands. I for one am looking forward to more of these features, more betas, and more access to the games that I might not otherwise play. But it’s only going to continue if they produce the desired results, and many of these features come with if’s and maybe’s.

Most betas are closed and require a pre-order, or a code that you may or may not be lucky enough to get. The “keys to Kyrat” feature Ubisoft is implementing sounds great, but how many people are going to take advantage of it and will it result in increased sales? From the data we can look at, things look good. Gamers look to be excited by the new features and the biggest beta we’ve seen, Destiny’s, looked to be a great overall success. Over 4.6 million people took part across all platforms, and because of, not only the access to the game but the increased media attention during the beta, you can see a clear increase in pre-order sales.

In the weeks leading up to Destiny’s alpha test, pre-orders were at around 7,000 copies a week. Those numbers ramped up to between 40 and 60-thousand a week leading up to and during the beta.

I’m sure many are like me and don’t have the disposable income required to play everything they want to. It makes you weary to purchase titles unless you’re sure they’re going to be worth it. It looks like publishers and developers are becoming more aware of this and looking for solutions to get their content into our homes and our money out of our wallets, and if it means more content and features like these, I look forward to it.

*Addendum: Red Box does offer game rentals in the United States, but on the Redbox Canada website there is no category for games and we were unable to find any video games available at any of the Redbox kiosks we checked.

 

PlayStation Now and the Return of Game Rentals

PlayStation Now and the Return of Game Rentals - 2014-08-08 15:06:03

If it wasn’t for rentals I probably wouldn’t still be playing videogames today. After a few years of multiplayer GoldenEye, Wave Race 64, and endless attempts at grabbing the last few stars in Super Mario 64, the younger, late 1990s version of me was losing interest in games. The Nintendo 64 hooked up below my family’s television got a good amount of use, sure, but it wasn’t until I rented a PlayStation One, Final Fantasy VII, and Resident Evil 2 that I started to get properly fascinated by games. Although I fell in and out of love with the medium any number of times in the roughly decade and a half following that experience, renting was always the easiest (and most affordable) way to dip in and out of games throughout that time. Until about two or three years ago, anyone potentially interested in videogames could have done the same. Then, with the rise of digital distribution (and, of course, internet piracy), rental chains and independent video stores began closing up shop—and game rentals disappeared along with them.

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PlayStation Now is far from perfect, but it is filling this very specific void in the games industry. Sony’s game streaming service—which is currently in open beta for PlayStation 4 owners—offers a number of interesting possibilities, with the return of videogame rentals chief among them. PlayStation Now only has a limited selection of PlayStation 3 titles available at present, and some of its pricing is pretty silly (the four hour rentals start at $3), but it also makes it possible to try games without buying them. In a time when demos are becoming less common and retail prices are rising in Canada, PlayStation Now seems like a valuable service.

I tried it out with a one-week rental of Ignition Tokyo’s El Shaddai: Ascension of the Metatron, a game that seemed like a solid test case for Sony’s offering. El Shaddai is an action game, meaning that it requires precise, lag-free communication between the user’s console and Now’s servers. It also has a crisp, cel-shaded art style that would clearly demonstrate drops in visual quality. While I didn’t encounter any problems with the input response, the game always looked a little bit less clear than it should have—like a Netflix movie in the blurry first minute before the stream fully buffers in and the picture sharpens up. It’s also hard to tell exactly how much bandwidth was chewed up by other digital services, but about four hours of playing El Shaddai used up about 20 gigabytes of my monthly usage cap, which is a fairly grim proposition for those of us on crummy Canadian internet plans. Just the same, using Now for the first time was pretty impressive. It’s easy to forget, after only a small time playing, that PlayStation Now is streaming games from some faraway server. Sony has pulled off the magic trick that it was trying to convince everyone was a good idea from the start—making it possible for players to rent videogames directly from their console without much hassle or sacrifices in quality.

There’s still a lot of work to be done before Now turns into exactly what it needs to be. But, if the service is refined it could prove a viable model for the future of videogame rentals. Sony probably ought to look into expanding its catalogue beyond PS3 games if it wants to offer a truly useful solution to the PlayStation 4’s lack of backwards compatibility support, but it seems likely they’re interested in doing so. Iterating on Now and fixing the problems it currently suffers from could be enough to modernize both rental programs and game preservation initiatives alike.

Here in Canada, where we have only a handful of Redbox rental kiosks and no Blockbuster stores to turn to, it’s important that something like PlayStation Now is properly developed. Sony’s service deserves to be built upon, imitated by the other two console makers, and made into a staple of the PlayStation Network’s platform.

CGMPodcast Episode 90 – CES and Aliens

CGMPodcast Episode 90 - CES and Aliens

This week on the CGM Podcast, Alien: Isolation is happening! Yay… ? The Consumer Electronics Show includes PlayStation Now, Oculus Rift and Michael Bay’s catastrophic inability to ad-lib or explain why he likes movies, and Phil explains why Grant Morrison isn’t the Midas of comics, with everything he touches turning to graphic novel gold.