Hands-On with PlayStation Now on Windows 10

Hands-On with PlayStation Now on Windows 10

Can Sony’s PlayStation Now service replace your video game console? It depends.

I know that sounds like a cop-out. But the value of any subscription service—Office 365, Spotify, Netflix, whatever—will depend on your personal needs. In the video game space, we now have major console players like Sony and Microsoft weighing in with their own games-based subscription services.

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I’ve covered the differences between the two services, Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Now, respectively, in the past. But Sony’s offering is unique in a number of ways. It’s a streaming service, for starters, so it’s more akin to Spotify or Netflix than is Xbox Game Pass. And it works on PCs, not just a console.

That last bit is particularly interesting to me. You can stream games from a console (or PC) to another screen using an Xbox One or via Steam. But Sony is the only major service provider to stream games directly to your PC from the cloud. (Yes, I know there are smaller players too.)

There are a number of things to consider here if the thought of playing (many) PS3 and (some) PS4 games on your PC intrigues you.

First, of course, is Internet speed: You are literally streaming the games in real-time from the cloud, so a pokey DSL connection isn’t going to cut it. We’re currently using an 80 over 80 Mbps FIOS connection, which is, of course, fine for this usage. And in my experience so far, the performance has been excellent and lag-free. Granted, Sony only streams in 720p, but I find that to be acceptable.

Second is your PC: I’ve been playing via PSNow using my desktop PC, which is fairly high-end, with a 2.9 GHz Core i7 processor, Radeon RX 460 graphics, 16 GB of RAM, and fast SSD storage. And, as noted, the results are excellent. But I also tested the service on the new Surface Pro, which uses mobile parts (though admittedly on the high-end of the scale as well). It seems to work just as well, albeit on a much smaller and high-DPI screen that the PSNow app in no way accommodates. (The text is very small in the app; games look normal.)

The PSNow app does not handle high DPI well.

Then there’s the cost: You can sign-up for a free 7-day trial at any time, and then pay $9.99 for the first month. But the normal monthly cost is $19.99, double that of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. If you pay for a year upfront, however, the cost is just $99.99, or about $8.33 per month. But that’s a big commitment, so use that first five weeks—the free week plus the first month at $9.99—wisely.

Game selection is another big consideration. Sony advertises that there are over 500 games available via PSNow. And that’s true, but 480 of them are older PS3 games, not current-generation PS4 games. This isn’t necessarily bad, of course: There are many, many excellent PS3 games, and they’ll look and play great at 720p. But this service will get all the more interesting as more PS4 games become available each month. For an Xbox gamer like me, though, most of these games are new, so it’s a great selection.

Finally, know that you will have to purchase a Sony DualShock 4 controller—which comes with PlayStation 4—and plug it into your PC via a USB cable. (Which also charges the controller.) If you’d like to play wirelessly as you do on a console, you’ll also need to purchase a DualShock 4 USB Wireless Adapter. I’ve been testing with a USB cable since all my extraneous gear is packed away in Pennsylvania at the moment because of a pending move. (No, you cannot use a keyboard and mouse to play games.)

Setup is easy enough, though on each PC, the PSNow installer inexplicable set the default audio device to the controller’s speaker, rendering the system mute. So I had to go into the audio settings and re-set it to the PC’s speakers each time. Boot-up time varies per game, and it seems like PSNow does a bit of per-game configuration the first time you run any game. But it’s never objectionable.

I tried to play a few different types of games to see whether action or multiplayer play might uncover an obvious weakness, but the performance and quality have been good to excellent, with only occasional hitches. First-person shooters like Killzone: Shadow Fall are, perhaps, the most taxing, especially in multiplayer. But they seem to work OK beyond my inept handling of the unfamiliar controller. And a great racing game, called Split Second (for PS3) played accurately at speed, with great graphics.

What I’m most interested in, personally, are some of the high-profile PlayStation games we don’t get on the Xbox, like Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us. In Uncharted 3, I could easily handle the fighting sequences without any lag—duck, then punch—and it was easy to forget I wasn’t sitting in front of a real console.

You can play games in windowed (resizable), maximized (where the taskbar and app toolbar are still visible) and full-screen modes, and performance seems to be pretty consistent across all three. This means you could conceivably load up a game next to web browser or other application and, um, multitask. Just a thought.

Assuming you can find some games you want to play, and I’m thinking you will, this is a great value, and probably worth the $99.99 per year. You could subscribe to this service for two and a half years for the price of the cheapest PS4 console, and yet have access to all those games. (Remember you need the controller too.) And more are coming online all the time.

In short, this is worth looking at. Especially if you’ve always wondered what things were like over in the Sony camp.


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Conversation 19 comments

  • Roger Ramjet

    09 July, 2017 - 11:19 am

    <p>So a bit OT question (and maybe, annoying to Thurrott 🙂 but with the success of Switch, what if the fabled Microsoft mobile device detected by Sam is more of an "X" mobile, rather than purely a "Surface" mobile. Kipman who is rumored to be in charge is after all a vet of gaming and has said elliptical things … what realistic mobile gaming features could kill it e.g. MR? in addition to Normal phone features as well as at least a couple of other cool differentiators). Certainly rich gaming where such a device brought games available on PC from Xbox, PSNow etc to wireless MR could not be easily replicated by the two mainstream mobile platforms (no content) in any reasonable period …? Therefore, a defensible niche to build off is created by such a device …? How many gamers and casual users are available to consider such hypothetical windows based devices. </p>

    • Stooks

      09 July, 2017 - 1:23 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#139865"><em>In reply to Roger Ramjet:</em></a></blockquote><p>"with the success of Switch"</p><p><br></p><p>I think that remains to be seen. Yes early success in terms of sales. That said I have 3 kids between the ages of 13 and 19 and NONE of them have zero interest in the Switch. One of them had no idea what it was and after I told him he said "just another Nintendo console to play Mario games again". All of them are console gamer's (Xbox/PS4) as they only use the school PC's to do any computer work and the rest of the time they are on their phones.</p>

      • Darmok N Jalad

        09 July, 2017 - 1:51 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#139891"><em>In reply to Stooks:</em></a></blockquote><p>Your kids aren't a sufficient sample size. When properly surveyed, the early demographic results of Switch users had the largest age group being 19-24 at 46%. Under 19 years old was a combined 37%. The big surprise to me was that buyers were 90% male. </p>

        • NazmusLabs

          09 July, 2017 - 2:12 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#139907"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p><br></p><p>Don't find it surprising at all. What if the only people buying the switch are the boys of 80s and early 90s nostalgic for the old Nintendo games of their childhood. It means Nintendo is profiting from their success in IP from the 90s and isn't doing well to garner NEW fans, which looks bad in the long term.</p>

          • Darmok N Jalad

            09 July, 2017 - 9:01 pm

            <blockquote><a href="#139910"><em>In reply to NazmusLabs:</em></a></blockquote><p>I was a kid of the 80s and teen of the 90s, and I'm well outside the 24 and under that accounted for 83% of early user statistics. </p>

            • Tallin

              10 July, 2017 - 3:26 pm

              <blockquote><a href="#140108"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p>Yeah, 24 would mean they were born in 1993, so the earliest they were into Nintendo was the N64 era. So most of the largest demographic is GameCube and beyond.</p>

        • Stooks

          09 July, 2017 - 5:30 pm

          <blockquote><a href="#139907"><em>In reply to Darmok N Jalad:</em></a></blockquote><p>I said it remains to be seen. Initial sales are great. However the Wii was wild success until the fad wore off and sales dropped off a cliff. Wii U not so much.</p><p><br></p><p>Nintendo always has this "supply problem" which honestly is weird because they never use new tech, it is always mature off the shelf tech vs PS4/Xbox usually push the tech have yield issues in the beginning and such. I think it is a sales tactic to drive the hype.</p>

  • Jhambi

    09 July, 2017 - 12:58 pm

    <p>This seems pretty reasonable for a non gamer like me. I don't have to invest in a new console and games. Just a controller. I might give it a go.</p>

    • NazmusLabs

      09 July, 2017 - 2:08 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#139890"><em>In reply to Jhambi:</em></a></blockquote><p>I agree. I never planned to purchase a ps4, but how I can jump in at any time and play a ps4 exclusive </p>

  • Stooks

    09 July, 2017 - 1:28 pm

    <p>The cost is too much for what you really get IMHO. </p><p><br></p><p>If you are a PC or Xbox gamer you get this because you want to play a handful of PS exclusives? I have a PS4 and a Xbox and honestly what percentage of games on each are exclusives…5% or less?? I bought my PS4 used at a good price and have bought the 3-4 games I wanted to play on it also used at Gamestop.</p><p><br></p><p>It seems like (to me) that the PS4 exclusives are a bunch of 3rd person RPG games like Uncharted, Last of US, Horizon, God of War, even ratchet and clank. I guess you get their racing game……when it comes out.</p><p><br></p><p>If you are a PS4 owner why would you get this????</p>

  • Darmok N Jalad

    09 July, 2017 - 1:56 pm

    <p>Forget the console purchase, $99 is less than the cost of 2 new releases a year, or 3-4 titles purchased later in their release cycle. It will just come down to library. I'll be curious to see if new releases hit the service, or if there will be a delay so developers can make their usual release-period income. It's either that, or there will be a premium tier of the streaming service to cover new releases. We may even one day see a thin client version of the console that is streaming only. The possibilities are all over the place, so long as ISPs cooperate. </p>

  • Raptor Gilbert

    09 July, 2017 - 2:58 pm

    <p>Just FYI 2.9ghz rx460 card is not high end PC. More like low end or mid range. It's a good service to have if you never owned or played those games. If you own a PS3 and PS4 do not waste your money. Maybe later on if they add newer games that most don't own. It's kind of pricey at the moment.</p>

  • jamiet

    09 July, 2017 - 10:33 pm

    <p>This is a great deal for Xbox-centric gamers (like me). Instead of buying a PS4, I'd rather pay a low fee and play </p><p>some of Sony's exclusive games on my PC, and then cancel my subscription whenever I want. It's a win for Sony </p><p>and a win for us. </p><p><br></p><p>edit: had to format my post so that words were not cut off at the end of the line. This needs to be fixed.</p>

  • irfaanwahid

    10 July, 2017 - 3:48 am

    <p>Grr.. not available in my country (Kenya). So so so annoying.. it's not about PS Now, but everything else who don't release stuff globally. Spotify, Groove Music..</p>

  • Ugur

    10 July, 2017 - 6:18 am

    <p>I see it just like you, Paul.</p><p>I hadn't bought a PS4 yet, because i was quite busy with own work for a while which already left me few time to play on the systems i already had, so then i thought i'll just jump in later for that one when i have more spare time again.</p><p>Then when i had more spare time again in between, well, rumours already made the round of the PS4 Neo/Pro.</p><p>So then i thought now i could as well wait for that one to come out before i buy one.</p><p>Now the PS4 Pro is out for a while but i feel like it's obvious already that that was a smaller mid generation upgrade than the xbox one x and it seems very likely to me that Sony may do another "big(ger) generation leap" in the next 1-3 years (also to not be left in the dust too long by the One X regarding specs).</p><p>So now i'm not very enthused about buying a PS4 (Pro) right now right away either.</p><p>Hardware wise my PC is still way better and regarding console hardware my Switch allows me to play anywhere and the xbox one x will have way better graphics capabilities than the PS4 Pro.</p><p>So regarding the PS4 (Pro), the only enticing thing to me is not the hardware at all, but solely the exclusive games.</p><p>So to someone like me, who didn't get a PS4 (Pro) yet (and is not excited about the hardware itself) but is generally interested in gaming, this sounds like a great offer.</p><p>Because to me right now the PS4 Pro is mainly interesting to me for the exclusive games it has, so if i can play those on PC, too, i'd rather do that until Sony makes their bigger next gen console upgrade.</p><p>Because regarding the hardware itself, i can only see myself buying a PS4 (Pro) now if they'd release a bunch more PSVR exclusives which are so cool that i want to play them despite i have hardware wise a way better PC and hardware wise way way better PCVR with Rift and Vive.</p><p>So yeah, if this service gets more PS3/4 exclusives over time, especially PS4 ones (since i had a PS3 and many of it's exclusives already), i'm totally into using it regularly.</p><p>Bummer is from what i can tell (since it doesn't show all games on there before one signs up), it seems like so far it's mostly Ps3 games and very PS4 ones so far, whereas for example for me a killer selling argument would be if it had games like horizon zero dawn on there (so the latest newest best PS4 exclusives).</p><p>I can see why maybe Sony and some publishers would not be into putting all the latest PS4 exclusives on there due to wanting people to buy a PS4 and/or buy those games for 60 but yeah, to me as user, and many other users, that sure would make the service that much more appealing to me and an insta decision to get the yearly subscription.</p><p>(On the upside i think it's just a question of time until we'll get more and more newest PS4 games on there, too since it does have benefits to publishers etc, too.)</p><p>Even if they'd charge extra for specific newest PS4 games to be played there on top of the subscription, i'd still like that a lot.</p>

  • elessar25

    10 July, 2017 - 11:18 am

    <p>Paul, you don't need PS4 controller. I use this service and the Xbox One controller works fine. I've only tried the PS3 games.</p>

  • bluvg

    10 July, 2017 - 11:57 am

    <p>Very curious about latency with this kind of service. Some people go to great lengths to reduce latency, especially competitive gamers. Maximum round trip latency + encode/decode processing seems like it would make a service like this perhaps unusable for these folks. Is this aimed at the casual gamer?</p>

  • Tallin

    10 July, 2017 - 3:37 pm

    <p>I'm interested in PS Now, but only if they get PS4 exclusives that I'd be interested in trying. I've got a PS3 and all the games that interest me on that system, so there's no draw there. Honestly, there haven't been any games exclusive to PS4 that would tempt me to spend a few hundred to buy another system, but I might try Horizon if I could stream it. I'm also planning to start playing through the Uncharted games, so the fourth available for streaming would be good. Otherwise I'll wait until used system prices are much cheaper (probably after the PS5 drops). I mean. it's not like I don't have a huge backlog of games, anyway.</p>

  • bulls96

    11 July, 2017 - 8:29 am

    <p>believe it or not I game almost exclusively on my SP4 now. ANd having to use the only USB port for a controller is a nonstarter for me. I use the USB port for my portable fan to help cool off my tablet while playing. I use steam and the new xbox one controller with BT.</p>

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