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UPDATE Sony Shun Broadband Speed Concern to Unveil Cloud Gaming Service

Wednesday, Jan 8th, 2014 (9:16 am) - Score 742

Entertainment giant Sony has this week officially announced the launch of their new cloud-based PlayStation Now (PS Now) service, which works in a similar way to OnLive by using Gaikai video streaming tech to allow gamers to remotely play console games via their existing broadband ISP connection (without having to download anything).

The service, which would solve the problem of backwards compatibility between different platforms and make PS3 / PS4 etc. game demos easier to try, has been mooted ever since Sony picked up Gaikai for around $380 Million during 2012 and it was originally envisaged as being launched in early 2014 alongside their new PlayStation 4 console (here).

PlayStation Now allows you to:

* Play video games instantly across multiple devices, similar to the way you might stream TV, movies, and music. Games will also be available to rent over the service.

* Stream full games to all of your compatible PlayStation devices including PS4, PS3, and PlayStation Vita as well as non-PlayStation devices, beginning with 2014 BRAVIA TV models and expanding to numerous other Internet-connected devices.

* Always play the most updated version of your game. With games hosted in the cloud, you can take your game with you – just log in with your Sony Entertainment Network account on a compatible device and your games and saved progress will be easily available.

But the road has been a rocky one and last September 2013 Sony warned that its plans for a European launch remained uncertain due to the allegedly patchy quality of broadband connectivity around the continent. “There’s just a few bumps along the road that need to be ironed out,” said Jim Ryan, SCEE President and CEO.

Sadly those “bumps” don’t appear to have been completely removed because there was yet again no specific mention of an EU launch date as part of yesterday’s announcement at the annual consumer electronics and consumer technology tradeshow – CES 2014 in Las Vegas (USA). However consumers in the USA will gain access to a beta of the service by the end of January 2014 and its commercial launch should then begin in Summer 2014, with a global roll-out expected to follow.

But such technology can place significant demands upon an ISPs broadband network, which could challenge existing “unlimited” capacity models. During OnLive’s similar 2011 attempt to break into the UK market several ISPs reported to ISPreview.co.uk that some users went from a modest data consumption of 20-40GB per month to eating up hundreds of GigaBytes’. This sort of change on a large scale can be very difficult to adapt too, especially if you’re more of a budget ISP.

Similarly such services also require good connection speeds in order to achieve a decent level of live streaming performance and image quality, although we won’t know how PS Now performs on this front until the start of its beta period (early Gaikai trials suggested that a speed of 15Mbps+ might be required). Connection Latency (ping) can also produce a more noticeable time delay when playing streamed games, which makes it important to have a modern low-latency service.

It’s worth pointing out that Sony’s official ISP partner in the United Kingdom for the PS4‘s launch was Virgin Media (here), although they don’t appear to have played that card much, and the operator has recently announced plans to boost its top speeds up to 152Mbps (here). So if PS Now is ever going to break into the UK market then Virgin Media are likely to be among the first with support (an exception in the traffic management policy perhaps?).

The good news is that broadband connectivity around the UK is improving at a record pace, thanks to the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) project and private investment from operators like BT, Virgin Media and smaller developments via Hyperoptic, B4RN and others. The bad news is that many are still stuck on lines that would struggle to support a service like PS Now and this will take a few more years to solve; though some may continue to feel left out for many years to come.

UPDATE 10th Jan 2014

Sony has said that customers will need a minimum connection speed of at least 5Mbps to get a “good experience” from the service, although it does scale and video quality improves for faster lines.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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