When Sony bought Gaikai, a specialist in game streaming technology, for $380 million back in July 2012, it certainly raised a few eyebrows. Sony then dug itself even deeper into the streaming hole when it purchased failed game streaming service OnLive, only to immediately shut it down and horde the patents. We don’t know how much this deal cost, but it’s safe to say Sony has a lot of invested in streaming tech.
Which is bizarre. What we’ve got with PlayStation Now is an expensive streaming service for playing games at lower resolutions and frame rates than natively, all with some noticeable input lag and occasional artifacting. That's for £13 each and every month, enough money to head down your local store and easily pick up enough PS3 games to last you a month's gaming. OnLive has already failed pretty comprehensively, what’s changed in the meantime?
Sure, our internet connections are faster, but the fact of the matter is, there is always going to be a delay in inputs while streaming a game. Get a competitive game of Street Fighter IV on the go and the person using the installed copy is going to wipe the floor with the streamer. Nothing can travel faster than light, so there’s always going to be a minor amount of input lag.
Secondly, game ownership goes out the window. Ownership is already pretty tenuous as it is. Steam could disappear. Sony could go under. Microsoft could pull a Games for Windows Live. None of it is permanent, but renting your games leaves you with the square root of nothing. If you get hooked on The Last of Us’ multiplayer, it could cost you an insane amount of money to rent indefinitely.
I get it though, convenience is king. The thought of a massive, constantly updated library of games which you can play instantly sounds appealing. It’s the direction some people think the entire industry is headed, and on one level I can see why - You aren’t tied to the hardware in your rig, or needing a new graphics card; it’s plug and play. The problem is, is that what gamers really want?