Devoted PlayStation fans have been anxiously awaiting the release of Sony’s ambitious new video game streaming service, PlayStation Now, since it was unveiled at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show back in January. Perhaps the service’s most appealing feature (and the one we’re patiently looking forward to), PlayStation Now was announced as an opportunity for PlayStation users to stream and playthrough a vast assortment of back cataloged titles on a wide range of supported devices like PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita. Now, with an open Beta of the service available to PlayStation 4 users at the end of July, and more news on PlayStation Now inevitably releasing in the very near future, we’ve composed a thought-provoking list of five features we think should be present when Sony decides to officially release its download-free streaming service to the public.
AN EASY-TO-NAVIGATE USER INTERFACE
Perhaps one of the most important functions of any well-crafted streaming-based service comes down to how quickly and efficiently consumers can obtain the content they desire. Whether its jamming to your own self-constructed music channel via Pandora or scrolling through cheesy two-star horror films on Netflix, it’s fundamental that one’s user interface experience is as hassle-free as humanly possible to ensure that customers will be able to navigate – with ease – through all the service’s numerous features. If Sony wishes to gain as much success as possible for its potentially revolutionary product, it’ll have to follow the trend, and incorporate both brand-new and familiar options into an easy-to-use interface to gain the continued support of the gaming community its service so desperately needs.
Despite the fact that it hasn’t officially released yet, Sony’s latest endeavor seems dead set on delivering gamers the smoothest, most reliable user interface it can muster, with Sony utilizing its PlayStation Store UI as a template to make accessing content on PlayStation Now familiar and as simplistic as possible for both casual and hardcore gamers alike. So far we’ve seen only a handful of the options granted to service users – a Welcome tab, a Connection Test option, a My PS Now Games tab, and a All Games tab, and whether or not more will be implemented at a later date has yet to be announced. Diving into the specifics about each aforementioned option, the Welcome tab will serve as an easy method for gamers to acquire information about the most recent and popular games appearing on the service, with the All Games and My PS Now Games options allowing you to scroll through all available games on the service, and glance at the games you currently have access to – each with expiration date information – respectively. Last but not least, the Connection Test selection also checks to see if your network connection will be able to support the streaming workload of PlayStation Now or not.
Though PlayStation Now’s user interface and its handful of options could change by the time eager gamers jump into the open Beta, we would personally like to see the addition of a category-based system akin to movie streaming services like Netflix and Hulu incorporated either before the service’s official release or possibly via an update in the near future. Categorizing each of PlayStation Now’s numerous video games by genre using an easy-to-find, easy-to-access list could help its users find content related to the games they already enjoy far more efficiently than if they were to simply scroll through an entire listing of the service’s vast library of titles. If this same concept could be incorporated into one’s own My PS Now Games tab as well, than perhaps having your already acquired games organized by genre would greatly help manage which titles you currently have assess to – especially for those that enjoy juggling multiple games at the same time. Expanding upon this even further, it would be ideal if the games within these genre categories were organized based on which title is bound to expire first, just to keep users informed at all times (though if you have a subscription to the service, this information probably wouldn’t matter to you either way).
USER-GENERATED FEEDBACK AND OPINIONS
The views and opinions of the gaming community can be a double-edged sword, generating equal amounts of both venomous hate and helpful ideas, but the uncalled for viciousness of a few outspoken Negative Nancys shouldn’t diminish the overall importance of gamer feedback to the industry as a whole. Currently, most streaming-based services – and even a lot of non-streaming services – stick with some sort of consistent star or numerical-centered rating system in hopes of generating a collective opinion of the product in question from those who have experienced it. However, when it comes to PlayStation Now, maybe a different or expanded approach to obtain the views and opinions of gamers would benefit the service in the long run.
As we speak, the only sort of feedback-centered system in place for PlayStation Now relies on the exact same five-star rating system currently integrated into the PlayStation Store, which isn’t as informative as many would like it to be. However, perhaps expanding upon this already established form could truly benefit not only the individuals utilizing the service, but also the developers and publishers whose games are currently part of PlayStation Now’s streamable library. With this said, we have a couple of concepts that would truly benefit both sides of the game industry.
First, we believe that PlayStation Now should consider gaining inspiration from online stores like Steam and Amazon, whose respective marketplaces support user-generated product reviews, and allow its customers the opportunity to deliver informative and helpful written reviews for potential users to browse through at their leisure. Besides its obvious uses in terms of guiding users to games worthy of their time (and if their renting on a per-game basis, their money as well) these community reviews could also become a relatively useful way for developers and publishers to obtain constructive criticism from their fans.
Our second suggestion, which relies on the combination of multiple ideas stemming from a range of unexpected sites like TeeFury, would be to incorporate a user community-based voting system to help determine what sort of titles can be streamed on PlayStation Now. For instance with TeeFury, customers can vote on which tee-shirt designs they would like to see return to the site and, if the specific product in question happens to generate enough votes, it’ll become available once again on the site for purchase. In terms of PlayStation Now, we could see a system in which Sony picks a handful of potential titles users can vote for on a monthly basis working pretty well, with each month’s winner gaining a rightful position amongst the other numerous games already accessible through the service. A separate system tasked with allowing individuals to vote on which games should return to the service – similar to TeeFury’s aforementioned voting system – has the potential to truly deliver gamers the sort of experiences they desire as well, especially seeing as it’s highly unlikely that Sony won’t eventually discontinue games from its PlayStation Now service to make way for new titles (sort of like what Netflix has to do in order to provide consistently new content for its subscribers to view).
SPECIAL DEALS AND DISCOUNTS
If you’re one of the many subscribers currently paying for PlayStation Plus, then you know how gamer-friendly this money-saving service can be. Since its debut, PlayStation Plus has offered users a wealth of excellent discounts and free monthly games that span across an entire range of PlayStation devices, which includes the mobile-ready PlayStation Vita and Sony’s new next-generation console, the PlayStation 4. Knowing their track record with PlayStation Plus, we would be hardpressed not to assume that Sony plans to incorporate at least some special deals and discounts into the foundation of PlayStation Now, which would automatically make the video game streaming service even more feasible to both skeptical and penny-pitching gamers alike. Keeping this in mind, we have a couple of deal-based concepts that could benefit PlayStation Now users – both those who stream on a per-game basis and those who stream via a purchased subscription.
Currently, Sony has only unveiled tiered per-game pricing (though announcements about possible subscription plans are on there way), so we will focus on special deals aimed directly at those who prefer this method first. For instance, what if Sony incorporated holiday-based discounts into PlayStation Now? During Halloween, scare-seeking gamers could look forward to playing through such horror game classics like Fatal Frame, Silent Hill 2, or even the original Resident Evil at a reasonably marked down price, and for Christmas, maybe users could have a choice of one game to stream at 50% off its initial rental price. Sony could even put its own spin on GameStop’s Power Up Rewards birthday discount, and allow PlayStation Now users to receive a game at a deducted price point as a thoughtful gift to them.
Since many of these special discounts wouldn’t really apply to those who have decided to subscribe to PlayStation Now – instead of renting on a per-game basis, maybe these devoted users could receive special subscription deductions based on whether they are PlayStation Plus members or not as a worthy alternative. While it has yet to be specified whether you will need to be a member of Sony’s successful game-giving service or not in order to partake in PlayStation Now, it would be particularly satisfying if established members of PlayStation Plus received a PlayStation Now subscription reduction to convince them to join – or continue to support – the video game streaming service. Along the same lines, customer loyalty-based subscription discounts would also be welcome, allowing dedicated users to experience the joys associated with a reasonably reduced price point regardless if they’re currently PlayStation Plus members or not (just to make things fair amongst all PlayStation Now users).
A STEADY FLOW OF CONTENT
During PlayStation Now’s unveiling back in January, Sony announced that a wealth of original PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 titles could be streamed via the cloud onto consoles ranging from the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita to Sony’s next-generation system, the PlayStation 4. Despite the obvious support for a range of Sony devices, the shear fact that PlayStation Now and its library of titles will be appearing on PlayStation 4 should end up being a godsend to early next-generation adapters desperately wishing they could play their collection of various PlayStation games on their new console.
Since Sony seems dedicated to consistently introducing more PlayStation titles to its service in the near future (though we’re unsure if that would be at a monthly, bi-monthly, or yearly pace), the only real suggestion we currently have is to keep the flow of content on PlayStation Now fresh and ongoing, even if that means including lesser known, more obscure games into the mix (though most hardcore gamers would greatly appreciate these additions regardless). While it would be great to see longtime, nostalgia-inducing classics (like Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy VII, and Twisted Metal) appear on the service alongside more recent masterpieces (like Red Dead Redemption and The Last of Us), PlayStation Now should also provide enough game diversity to properly accommodate to any sort of controller-clinching user. With that said, adding more underappreciated titles like Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (PS3), Psi-Ops: The Mindgate Conspiracy (PS2), and Heart of Darkness (PS1) to the wealth of titles Sony’s new streaming service is bound to have might just tempt more gamer’s to explore beyond their usual pixel-related tastes – and of course, continue to support PlayStation Now in the process.
A CONSUMER FRIENDLY SUBSCRIPTION COST
As those of you currently subscribed to Sony’s already established service know, one of the most notable features that makes PlayStation Plus so appealing is its relatively inexpensive price of admission, especially when compared to all the special discounts and free games its users receive from it in return. Unfortunately, specific pricing for Sony’s latest investment, PlayStation Now, have yet to be officially announced to consumers, with only vague per-game pricing details given on the closed Beta and no news hinting at a set-in-stone cost for even the service’s most inciting option: a subscription plan for PlayStation Now.
Though it still remains unclear exactly if a subscription to PlayStation Now will contain different payment plans to choose from – or even if the per-game prices are going to stick (though we desperately hope they don’t), we predict that it will follow suit with the pricing system established in the closed Beta, supporting multiple payment plans including one month, three month, and yearly subscriptions. Though it’s obviously too early to tell for sure whether our educated assumptions prove themselves to be correct, one thing is for sure: if Sony doesn’t provide gamers with competitive pricing (and do away with the absurd pricing currently exhibited in the closed Beta), then PlayStation Now will fail far before it ever meets its true potential. That’s why, when it comes to providing wallet-guarding users with a relatively reasonable price for PlayStation Now, we have one suggestion for Sony and it revolves directly around something we’ve just previously discussed here before: content.
While it would be every gamer’s dream to stream the latest titles for free – or at least, next to nothing, the reality of the fact is that sort of fantasy just isn’t feasible in the real world. It’s understandable that Sony is a business and must generate a profit in order to maintain its operation, just as its understandable that gamers cannot fork over ridiculous amounts of hard-earned cash when they may have bills and other expenses to pay for, so why not establish some sort of median between content and price that satisfies both sides of the PlayStation Now spectrum (the business men behind the service and the gamers using it)? And if you’re wondering how that could possibly ever work, look no further than movie streaming services like Netflix for your answer.
Yes, we have been using the foundation Netflix has established to help sharpen our various PlayStation Now suggestions to a point, but hear us out before you discredit what we’re saying. As we speak, Netflix is currently delivering low cost monthly subscriptions to people worldwide, and most of that is due solely to the sort of content offered through the service. Though its common to see newer movies and episodes of television shows appear on the service from time to time (especially if the new movies, in particular, are lesser known), more times than not the majority of titles offered on Netflix are less recent titles because the licensing contracts for older content is noticeably cheaper to obtain than those from brand-new movies and television shows – especially if they are popular ones. And, although even the higher ups at Netflix have stated that their streaming service should be viewed more like a channel rather than a stream-all-you-can-view buffet of limitless films and TV shows, there’s no reason a similar approach couldn’t be taken by Sony regarding PlayStation Now.
At this moment, we’ve emerged to a point where many of our previous suggestions can finally come together and form a relatively reasonable method at delivering the best of both worlds: inexpensive subscription costs for PlayStation Now users and a profitable, long-term investment for Sony. First, Sony should directly acquire the licensing for the games they plan on allowing users to stream (for a limited time, mind you) instead of tasking publishers and developers to select a specific rental cost for their own titles. In return, this would enable Sony to create a consistent price point across all available titles (for when users want to stream on a per-game basis) and should help drive the cost for PlayStation Now subscriptions down simultaneously. Second, Sony should focus on acquiring and offering only a set amount of titles at one time, with the service interchanging the content it offers based on what users are streaming the most and, in return, exchanging the games people are streaming the least with new ones. Here, the community-based voting system mentioned previously would work perfectly, allowing users to vote from a handful of new titles they’d like to see accessible on PlayStation Now, and even enable them to have a say on which games they’d like to see return to the service at an unspecified time in the near future. Last but not least, the content offered on PlayStation Now will ultimately affect the price of subscriptions, so a more logical approach for Sony would be to invest more money into older titles than recently released ones (though still incorporating some newer games into the service, of course) in hopes of finding a sweet spot between what’s economically beneficial for the business and what’s cost effective for the consumer. Hopefully, if done correctly, these steps would help make PlayStation Now subscriptions reasonable and affordable for users while simultaneously generating a steady return for Sony in the process.