PlayStation Now… and then

After only being available for the PlayStation Vita since 9th October 2015 (following its earlier beta period), Sony Interactive Entertainment made the shock announcement on 15th February that from 15th August 2017 the service was being withdrawn from a wide range of devices including the PS Vita and PSTV. The announcement set out Sony’s future plans for the service which highlights their plans to enhance the service at the expense of compatability across a wide range of devices including all PS Vita platforms, the PS3 and all smart TVs that currently support PlayStation Now.

Infact, from August 2017 the only devices that will be able to run PS Now will be the PlayStation 4 and PCs that have the PlayStation Now software installed. Having put PlayStation Now through its paces, both on the PS Vita, PSTV and on a compatible Sony television, I’ve found this to be an incredibly bizarre decision from SIE. While a service like PlayStation Now is dependent primarily on the speed of your internet connection for successful usage, even with an average internet connection it has proved to be a more than enjoyable experience both on a Vita or a television. As with Remote Play, it’s been another selling point for the Vita that could have been used to help market the console to people who might not have otherwise considered buying one but instead Sony’s priorities seem to lie elsewhere.

The harsh reality is that Sony Interactive Entertainment are continuing to put virtually all of their efforts into everything PS4 related. While the console is certainly their flagship model right now and quickly outsold the Vita and is potentially on track to outsell the PS3, there seems to be an air of arrogance at Sony HQ. Rather than trying to ensure that services are available to as many potential customers as possible, the current philosophy seems to be one of restricting availability and limiting choice so consumers have two options – buy a PlayStation 4 or miss out.

This isn’t the first time a service has been withdrawn from one or more platforms in the PlayStation family – Vita owners will remember when Music Unlimited was replaced with Spotify this wasn’t available for the PS Vita leaving subscribers without a streaming music service. A further slap in the face for users was the continual reminder and recommendation from the app to switch and subscribe to Spotify despite it being unavailable.

In the case of PlayStation Now, things are rather different. This time around it’s not just a single platform that is being affected and to be frank, the reasoning behind its withdrawl is baffling. As a user of various online streaming media services such as Netflix, Amazon, Crunchyroll and others I’ve found that they all have one thing in common – the features on offer vary depending on the device used to view them. If you’re using a PC and a regular web brower you get the best possible experience, and while the features and options reduce between this, games consoles and mobile devices, the service is still available. That being the case, why is it so difficult for SIE to adopt the same approach in the case of PlayStation Now? We already have a system that works well on Smart TVs, the PS3 and the Vita / PSTV so why remove these? Instead, surely it makes sense to simply upgrade the apps for both the PS4 and PC to offer then enhanced functionality that is being proposed to ensure that all users can continue to enjoy PS Now?

From Sony’s perspective, this appears to be a decision driven not by common sense but that of a desire to convert their entire userbase into PlayStation 4 owners. This is certainly flawed logic on the part of SIE. While there are a large number of gamers who have migrated to the current generation of consoles, there are still a large number who have made the conscious decision to remain with their current systems and have decided not to “upgrade” to the PlayStation 4 or XBox One. Countless gamers across the globe have become increasingly frustrated with the need for update patches for games which have increased in size dramatically for the latest generation of hardware, not to mention the incredible amount of storage space needed to install games. While both current systems have the option to purchase machines with 1Tb hard drives, neither is truly adequate for todays gamers and adding these frustrations to what many see as being lacklustre games catalogues filled with HD remakes and games with short-term appeal many are chosing to stay away.

While the sales figures are high for the modern systems, it’s also hard to ignore the fact that there are still a large number of people who are still remaining faithful to their existing hardware. There are people who don’t own PS3s or PS4s and whose only Sony console is a PS Vita and others who own a smart TV who found the idea of playing games directly appealing. This is a userbase that Sony should be embracing rather than alienating and globally this is a potential customer base of tens of millions of people that are being tossed aside. While certainly these aren’t all PlayStation Now subscribers, is it really worth discarding these in the hope that they will purchase a compatible platform and subscribe using that instead?

It’s a huge gamble and one that Sony shouldn’t be making lightly. Abandoning a large number of their loyal customers in this fashion is no way to ensure brand loyalty and it will only leave those who are affected asking themselves the question “What next?”. And as someone who has been loyal to the Sony brand since the launch of the original PlayStation, it does leave me very concerned for the future of their support for the PS3 and PS Vita…

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