PlayStation Now or PlayStation No?
The closed beta (paid) of PlayStation Now, Sony’s Gaikai-based streaming video games service, kicked off the US market this week, and the problems have already started.
Initially intended to fill the lack of physical backward compatibility on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Now seems to have evolved to reach all Sony platforms (including televisions, tablets and smartphones) to the delight of the wealthiest and least minded consumers.
Currently, the PlayStation Now beta features the following game rental modes:
- 4 hours of play: $ 2.99 – $ 4.99;
- 7 days of play: $ 5.99 – $ 7.99;
- 30 days of play: $ 7.99 – $ 14.99;
- 90 days of play: $ 14.99 – $ 29.99;
Prices are in dollars but the conversion is expected to be straightforward.
Before we take the forks and torches, it is important to clarify two things:
- these prices are not final;
- it is not Sony itself that sets the prices, but the publishers;
I could be here discussing the lack of ethics behind asking players to pay for the “privilege”. to test a service in beta (and, it seems, with clear connection problems) but I’m just going to talk about the current rental concept that can condemn a good idea to obscurity and take a few brave steps back in streaming video games.
A concept problem
Let us start by stating the obvious: these prices are an abuse and do not make any sense.
Paying between $ 3 to $ 5 for four hours of play is ridiculous but the real problems start at the highest levels, where usage time and price are highest. For example, 90 days of Guacamelee cost as much as the full version of the game on PSN and 90 days of Final Fantasy XIII-2 cost twice as much as the physical version of the game in online stores, whether new or used.
Again, it is unfortunate that Sony does not inform the consumer that there are alternatives in which the complete game is at the same or less value than its rental. In the case of the physical version I still understand the arguments (although the game in question is more than two years old …) but I think it is inexcusable that the consumer is not informed that in the PSN store, even ?? next door ??, the game complete cost the same or less than the mere rental.
:: Now is a good time to subscribe to PS Plus
At least a warning that it doesn’t even pay to rent the game for 90 days, right?
?? O Joel, but what is Sony to blame that publishers charge these high prices?! ?? The problem is in the concept chosen by Sony, which decided to opt for individual rental, very popular in the 80s and 90s, instead of offering an extended rental service by subscription.
In other words, he opted for the deceased Blockbuster instead of the beloved Netflix (speaking of him, it’s time to get to Portugal, isn’t it?). The individual rental service is not adapted to video games. I know it well because, when I was a kid, I even rented games for a few days or a week and I easily realized that it wasn’t enough time to finish anything. In contrast to films and series, a video game is unlikely to run out in a period of time between 30 minutes and a few hours.
The most immersive experiences can last for months on end.
Michael Pachter was one of the most critical voices on PlayStation Now, stating that the system just doesn’t work because no publisher is going to rent games that are less than two years old on the market or risk damaging their sales. The famous analyst is perhaps being too pessimistic; both PlayStation + and Games for Gold have demonstrated that it is possible to convince publishers to ?? offer ?? relatively recent games. In my opinion, the solution is to find an intermediate solution.
A ideal world
If it were up to me, PlayStation Now would be a Netflix-like monthly subscription service for the price of no more than € 20 per month for PlayStation 1, 2 and 3 titles, and € 30 per month to also include PlayStation 4 titles. The price may seem low to access so many titles but the reality is that, after all, € 30 for 12 months is € 360 per year, much more than the average player would spend on games in a year and without having to pay the whatever it is to intermediaries (read, video game stores). Of course, this would imply a period of loyalty, in order to rest the publishers who feared to see their sales plummeting because everyone started to rent instead of buying. Netflix is an example that if the service is affordable and good enough, consumers join en masse and publishers are rewarded for it.
When it comes to streaming, the winning Netflix model has to be the default. Learning from the best is no shame.
I sincerely hope that the closed beta and the launch of the service in the United States will open Sony’s eyes in time to implement it in Europe. If the current model is not discarded in favor of a more accessible one, PlayStation Now will certainly join PSP Go and PS Vita, in this wonderful place that is the paradise of untapped potential because Sony’s greed has put itself ahead consumer interests.