During the ongoing PlayStation 4 press conference, Sony unveiled their take on game streaming: the PlayStation Cloud. The PS Cloud is a much more forward thinking look at gaming than anything we’ve seen so far by competitors Microsoft or Nintendo. Similar to what NVIDIA is doing with their game and GPU virtualization service, the PlayStation Cloud would let you access your games wherever you are.
Given that the PlayStation 4 has been revealed to take advantage of modern PC hardware like x86 processors, this is one way to promise some compatibility for older games on the new hardware – at the moment, it isn’t going to be easy to enable the playing of PS3 games built using the complicated Cell processor (without going into too much detail, it has more in common with pre-Intel Mac CPUs, in some ways, than it does your current AMD or Intel chip).
One problem with choosing to stream these games, of course, is that it frankly isn’t easy. One of the best known providers, OnLive (and now Gaikai), still isn’t able to properly stream games at HD resolutions. And when it does, you need a pretty fast Internet connection to take advantage of it – and that includes uploads, too.
Still, it’s a promising start to Sony’s future. Even when you’re away from your console, you might be able to stream an older game on your mobile device or PS Vita, or possibly even your notebook or PC. Buying digital-only content is always a worry, but it’s not one that too, too many people have – Valve’s Steam platform, after all, is still growing like gangbusters.
It’s definitely too early to start talking pricing data, though, or how Sony plans on letting you play these old games on your PS4 – will you have to buy them again (probably)? Will putting the actual game in the drive unlock a temporary cloud gaming session (possibly)?
The reason it’s so smart is that even if the PlayStation 4 doesn’t sell well (which is unlikely, given how poorly Nintendo is currently faring), gamers will be able to play PlayStation games. Its real competitor in this effort is Steam, not Microsoft or Nintendo. Additionally, given Sony’s promises to offer “the most open console” experience for letting indie developers self-publish on the PlayStation platform, the PlayStation Cloud could be the easiest way for small game houses to get their games into millions of gamers’ hands.