Sony is using the mega-platform of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas to unveil PlayStation Now (PS Now), the company’s new streaming game service.
The streaming hub will make its debut sometime this summer. “Play video games instantly across multiple devices, similar to the way you might stream TV, movies, and music,” boasted a posting on the PlayStation Blog. “Stream full games to all of your compatible PlayStation devices including PS4, PS3, and PlayStation Vita as well as non-PlayStation devices, beginning with 2014 BRAVIA TV models and expanding to numerous other Internet-connected devices.”
Games hosted in the cloud will instantly update to the latest versions, that blog posting added. Sony plans on rolling out a beta program in the U.S. by the end of January, followed by the full platform debut in the summer. Some of the technology underlying the platform is based on the game-streaming service developed by Gaikai, which Sony acquired for $380 million in 2012.
Gaikai’s technology allowed users to play games online without needing to download software; it leveraged plug-ins such as Java to run those games in-browser. That platform agnosticism is coming in handy with PlayStation Now and its ability to stream the same games on different types of hardware.
Sony’s streaming efforts face some sizable competition not only from Microsoft, which boasts its own Xbox-centric online network, but also Valve, which has accumulated 65 million active user accounts (and climbing) on its own network.
Both Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One have sold millions of units since the consoles’ debut over the holidays. But for their respective creators, selling consoles is only half the battle—without a compelling online experience, the ecosystems surrounding the respective platforms will weaken and eventually fade away.
Post-holidays, Sony and Microsoft will face competition from Nintendo, the aforementioned Valve, and dozens of third-party developers creating games for Google Android and Apple’s iOS. There’s also the possibility that Apple and Google will push harder into gaming over the next few years, issuing controllers and other hardware that turn their respective platforms more console-like. And let’s not forget the significant numbers of gamers who still prefer to blast aliens or solve puzzles on their laptops and desktops instead of a console.