09 Jan, 2014
This week we were given a glimpse into the not too distant future at CES 2014, with such excting technology as multiple steam boxes, a new and improved Oculus Rift and um…curved screens? Yes, curved screens! WELCOME TO THE WOOOORLD OF TOMORROW!
But most gamers were waiting with baited breath for Kaz Hirai’s Sony Keynote Speech of Kando and Wow™. word has been circulating on the web that Sony have been eyeing up the Oculus Rift with jealous eyes, and that such a device is in the works for the PS4, and certainly Sony could be the company to do it, with their massive investment in snazzy futuristic displays, they could produce something great. So we sat and listened attentively to Uncle Kaz as he showed us his wares.
After a cozy chat with some film makers, Kazzy-chan welcomed Andrew House onto the stage, the CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment no less, now we were getting to the meat! His announcent? Playstation Now!
Not to be confused with an overly pushy voice command, ‘Playstation….NOW!!!’ Playstation Now is the official name of Sony’s magical cloud based gaming service aka the artist formerly known as Gaikai. The gist is that you can fire up your console of choice and stream the gameplay to your screen, no need for a physical game at all. So far, so OnLive right? But some more interesting information was given, you wouldn’t even need a Sony console to enjoy it, Mr House actually used the word iPad when describing possible devices you could use! So what we’re looking at is Sony’s library available at your fingertips, even if you won’t have Playstation in your house.
This sounds great for those who enviously eye up award winning games such as The Last of Us, Journey and Tokyo Jungle, but refuse to shell out for the hardware necessary. Although you do wonder wether it’s a good plan, exclusives sell consoles, make these games available too early, and you’ll really be cutting into your own margins. I guess there’ll be an ‘exclusive’ period for the PS4 before it’s disseminated to the lesser mortals.
But I do have a few problems with cloud gaming, not that I’ve actually experienced it. Personally I’m lucky to get through a few games of generic FPS without the internet crashing down around me, so I can’t imagine 60fps being beamed directly into my space flat over old copper BT wires. Also, I naturally dislike non-physical games, to a retro person like me, I want to collect and pile up my preciouseseseses! Cover art! Instructions! Shiny optical media! I WANT ITS!!! MUST HAVE ITS!!!! MY PRECIOUSESESESES!!!!!
Even apart from that, the number one problem cloud anything will have here in blighty is the same thing that causes problems in the US, throttling.
See, back in the dark days of the early internet, BT was the gatekeeper of our phonelines and by proxy, the internet. You would choose your provider, then have a number to call to connect to the world wide webbery, the masses clamoured for BT to use a 0800 number with a set fee, since paying by the second was no way to browse the internet, especially at the very slow speeds the average modem offered at that time. Surprisingly, the benevolant owners of BT dragged their feet on this simple request, I’m sure it wasn’t anything to do with the large bills they were sending out to their customers, no siree bob! Still, eventually they relented, even though we were way behind the Americas in this respect who had always had a set rate for local calls that allowed the web to thrive.
Eventually BT relented, and over time broadband and even fibre technology was introduced, and all was right with the world…
OR WAS IT? *Dun-Dun- Dunnnnn!*
Lately it seems we’ve started going in reverse, with internet providers limiting the amount of data you can download, in fact they additionally limit the speed at which you can upload, those speedy rates that are shown on TV are actually a fraction of the speed at which you can send data out into the digital yonder. But most people don’t worry about it, since data coming in is all that counts to them. This is not true for us gamers, we need to transmit our in game movements as speedily as possible to enjoy silky smooth shootin’ action! The amount of data cloud gaming needs is very little though, since it’s just going to be your controller inputs, as long as the game isn’t multiplayer, it could actually work quite well.
But it’s the download part that’s the rub, lately providers have set caps, with more expensive accounts actually having ‘unlimited’ downloads, which is sometimes not even what it says on the tin! If you reach your limit, then you get throttled, a nasty practice where your download speed is reduced to punish your despicable actions! Already the PS4 is falling foul of this nefarious act, since some games are in the sizable 30GB+ range, downloading one could use up your allowance for the month in one go!
In the end, there’s a massive disparity between what Sony want, and what the infrastructure will allow. Playstation Now could certainly flourish in the far east, where internet is fast and cheap, but in the west, well, there’s going to have to be some big changes, and once again, as it was long ago, feet are being dragged at a server farm near you!
Have a good weekend fleshlings!
I’ll leave you with this wonderfully inventive and slightly NSFW bit of kinect trolling, welcome to the next level!