After a year of my annual subscription to Playstation Now, I thought I’d follow up with my experience with the service.
12 months in the making
On Feb 20th, 2017, I wrote up a review of my trial of Playstation Now and shared what I thought of it after playing through several games and configurations. If you are unfamiliar with Playstation Now, then I’ll do a quick introduction – it’s basically Netflix for Playstation games. You can pay either a monthly, quarterly, or an annual subscription to access what is currently over 600 titles from the Playstation library consisting of a large assortment of PS3 titles along with an ever-growing selection of PS4 games. The inclusion of PS4 games is rather new and I was lucky enough to beta test it when it came out in late 2017.
The way you can access this service is via your PS4 console or through a Sony PC app. These titles are streamed to your PC or PS4, you play entirely in the cloud and never install any games, just like Netflix streams shows and movies. However, even though you can use a PC, you will need to use a controller, preferably a PS4 controller. It may be possible to emulate a controller with a keyboard and mouse and I’ve seen it mentioned once on reddit, but I personally have been unable to do it myself. With the PC app, I’ve used Xbox controllers with no issues except that if the game has motion controls then you will be at a loss to finish. I’ve used the service both with the PC app and my PS4 Slim extensively and can tell you that it can work fine, at least on my setup, but there are shortcomings for sure. First, I want to make sure readers understand something about PS Now.
Based on what I’ve read from folks leaving responses here, perusing reddit, and my own personal use, PS Now is a very individual experience.
I’ve seen a split number of gamers who either hate it or enjoy it. And there are many factors that play into each of those opinions. Looking at reddit posts, I see several issues and I’m going to list them out to help folks look at the pros and cons of the service. These are Issues that I feel have validity against the service after a year of use. Since the majority of posts tend to focus on the bad stuff, I’ll start with that first.
“PS Now is a piece of junk because the games are laggy and juddery”
I hear this from the gamers who dislike the service the most and they are not wrong. PS Now has yet to perform consistently from one city to another and it’s the bane of the service, some may even say it could kill it all together. I’d be pissed too if it was always choppy and lagging. However, this poor performance is not the same for everyone. Your experience will mostly depend on how well your ISP communicates with the Sony servers. This means a 7 day Trial is absolutely paramount to deciding if the service is usable or not. There really is no way to know how well the games will play until you try it out. If you have a laggy experience with a studdery framerate, then stop right there. Don’t get the service. For whatever reason, either the connection to your house, the router being used, a firewall, or a poor connection from your ISP to the Sony servers, the transmission of the game from Playstation is not working well if you experience lag and judder.
I’ve personally used WIFI for my entire experience and it’s been pretty good so far. I have to add, somewhere around mid-late 2017 when the PS4 games were in beta, the PS4 games had a lag that was just unplayable ( PS3 games were better). Then, when they finally made PS4 games part of the service I noticed the lag was fixed. I tried it on all my PC’s and my PS4 Slim to confirm this and after testing several games, it was just plain better than before. I’ve noticed that even the PS3 game lag improved. Honestly, earlier in 2017 I was bummed out that games like God of War 3 had just a smidge too much lag and I didn’t care for it. At that time, I was mostly playing games where timing wasn’t super important like Uncharted Drake’s Fortune. Now, the lag is substantially better to where I can make a quick movement in a fraction of a second on the controller and it reacts on cue, as if it was playing on the hard drive. It’s a huge improvement, at least for someone who had a decent connection to begin with. There are still some games I just wouldn’t play with even a microsecond of lag, like the Megaman Collection, but if you activate a 7 day Trial I highly suggest you try the most sensitive games you see. I’ve worked up a Troubleshooting Guide to using PS Now on a WIFI signal in case you want to check on possible causes for laggy games. I just want to stress once more, if the 7 day Trial gives you laggy gameplay I don’t advise buying the service at all.
“PS Now is too expensive, Xbox Game Pass is better”
That’s very true, but I have to add an asterisk. The Annual Plan is $99 and is even offered at Amazon as a digital code. At that rate, it’s $8.25 per month plus tax. That’s less than Xbox Game Pass and even cheaper than Netflix with HD viewing. The annual plan is the best way to go, but it’s a huge leap of faith in the service to plunk down $100 and hope it works. Even with the 7-day Trial last year I was a bit nervous, but it seemed like a good discount and my trial went fairly well. The monthly fee of $20 or a three-month plan of $45 is just too pricey. Xbox Game Pass is a better deal on a monthly basis. I really feel PS Now needs to lower the monthly to at least $15 per month and the three-month plan to either be removed or reduced to $30. That would be more in line with what Xbox is offering. Alternatively, I would think they should integrate it with PS Plus at some point and make it one annual fee for all the services in one package. It’s just less confusing that way. Seriously, the free games with PS Plus generally are not worth the service alone, at least not yet. They have only recently been giving decent games with PS Plus and not every month. At $8.25 per month, I feel PS Now is a good value if you or your family game a lot and the trial works well for you.
“Some games have motion controls or touchpad use and you won’t be able to play without a PS4 controller”
That’s just the reality of the PS library. Without a PS4 controller you may get stuck, even if you have a PS3 controller. I know I got stuck on Uncharted Darke’s Fortune about 70% of the way through when I had to use motion controls. I ended up buying a PS4 controller and haven’t had any issues since, but those with only an Xbox controller or another type will be out of luck. You can use a wireless or wired Xbox controller, wired PS3 controller, wired PS4 controller, and even a Steam controller to some degree but I had difficulty with it. My advice, if you get PS Now then you may want to factor in buying a PS4 controller if you do not own a PS4 already.
“If you are idle, the game will close to make room for others on the same server”
This part is annoying, but true. It’s my biggest gripe with PS Now. I timed it to see what intervals it disconnects and I’ve gotten booted off in 15 minutes and the next day at 10 minutes. My best guess is that it may be tied to the number of people on the service. I don’t really understand why they don’t make the time limit longer because I’ve never had to wait for a server to become available outside of maintenance, but that is the way it is set up. Save often if possible, or if you really need to go to the bathroom in the middle of a level, take the controller with you and click the pause command every 5 minutes ( I know that is gross, but either that or restart the level). I’ve left to go make a snack and the service was still running when I finished, so it’s not super quick, but still keep an eye on your time when walking away.
“Some of the games look ugly”
This is more so with the PS3 titles, but the PS4 titles look better. You are getting 720P resolution, not 1080P. This means the PS3 games that you wanted to play might not look as pretty as you remember. Truthfully, they are displaying the original 720P output and games like Red Dead Redemption really did not look as awesome as you expected. On top of that, the colors and graphics are somewhat compressed so you’ll get a slightly better image from an actual PS3. Sorry to burst your bubble on PS Now if you thought it would be 1080P and gorgeous, but the truth is you have a compressed display of the game. Now, the PS4 games look like they are downsampled from 1080P to 720P and look pretty sharp to be honest. If you are roughly 10 feet from the TV you can barely tell the difference between the regular PS4 version and the PS Now version. I do want to say that I’ve noticed the service looks a lot better on PS4 than on PC. The PS4 processes the signal and it comes out more clearly and with better color than the PC app from my experience. Also, there are far fewer graphical errors or frame drops on PS4. I’m using a PS4 Slim, so unsure if that translates to older PS4’s. Still, I have to say that some of the more beautiful games just don’t as good on PS Now compared to the PS4 remasters. I’ve bought a few titles like God of War 3, the Uncharted Collection, and The Last of the Us on PS4 during a digital sale for roughly $5-$6 ea. When graphic fidelity is something to be experienced, PS Now will not likely fulfill that need you have for eye candy. It’s close, but not as stunning as pure 1080p and higher FPS with a PS4 remaster rather than a streamed PS3 version.
“You are better off buying a used PS3”
You will get better graphics, better reaction times, better sound, and never have to worry about disconnects. The going rate for a used PS3 console is roughly $50-$75, and say you want 5-6 games at about $10 ea, then add $50-$60 on top of that with, let’s say, an allotment of $50 for cheap digital PSN sales. Now, you have spent $150-$185, you own the games, and you have space in your game room and an HDMI connection free on your TV or you can buy a $10-$20 HDMI switch to make room for it. Oh, and you might need a used PS3 controller on top of that in case the used PS3 didn’t come with one or the one it came with is busted. So, it’s either that or you luck out on OfferUp or Craigslist for a whole package deal for about $100-$150 with an assortment of games you may or may not like. And those games might get scratched and ruined, or worse, you step on one and break it. For collectors, this will be the way to go. For those that have an old PS3 in the closet, think about why you have it in the closet! Hook it up! But, with all this I think you get what I’m hinting at. PS Now is a convenience service because there is no setup, at least not a bulky one. So, it comes down to the actual service allowing less clutter rather than the games themselves. Do you want a PS3 hooked up to your TV or do you want a PS4 hooked up to it and be able to play some old PS3 games on the fly? The choice is yours. Additionally, with PS4 games becoming part of the service you are no longer simply looking at PS3 games, but an expanding library of PS4 games, some of which are rather expensive to purchase individually.
“The game saves are not on my hard drive! What if I lose my save somehow?”
This one is a conundrum for me. I’ve certainly seen people on reddit posting about lost cloud saves and it leads me to believe it could happen. I have personally had one save get lost when the data transmission started to peter out a bit and got disconnected. I was pissed because I nearly finished that level, but when I came back to it later that night it still had my previous auto-save. So, I wasn’t too upset. I’ve read horror stories about people losing saves with dozens of hours put in, only for it to disappear one day or be replaced by an older save. Cloud saving isn’t perfect, so it’s a bit scary. I have to also say that I’ve had significantly more games on Steam crash on me and lose my save than I have had on PS Now. So, one ruined save level for an entire year on PS Now…not bad compared to – and I am ballpark guessing here – a dozen lost saves on PC Steam games due to game crashes in 2017.
“I want to use my PS3 game save, how do I do that?”
Sorry, PS Now is entirely cloud based and you won’t be able to import your PS3 game into it.
“The service gets a bad signal and then shuts down in the middle of a game”
Yep, this can happen and has happened to me a few times, usually around 730PM-800PM, which I think is more or less when my cable internet gets overloaded as people get back from work. All I can advise is saving your game as soon as you see the low signal icon pop up. I’d say about 85% of the time, it’s not a big deal for me, but the other 15% of the time I had the service close up within a few minutes.
GOOD REASONS TO USE PS NOW
So, on to the reasons to own PS Now. This list is remarkably smaller, but it does carry some weight.
“It’s like a Netflix for games”
Ever just browse the selection at Netflix for half an hour, aimlessly adding things to your queue even you though you will likely never watch 80% of it? It’s sort of the same thing with PS Now. The selection has gotten better since the beginning of 2017 and there are some really fantastic games on there now like Fallout 3, Divinity Original Sin, Oblivion, and more. It’s no longer just the PS exclusives. Now, if you have a backlog of games on PS4 or Steam like I do, I have one thing to tell you. Stop buying games and play what you have! I’ve slapped myself out of the binge buying addiction of game collecting and just want to warn you about having too many games already in your library. The thing is, you can’t finish them all. So, after you’ve taken care of that backlog give PS Now a try for 7 days and see how it goes. I wouldn’t say the selection is astounding, but it’s more than enough for any one person to finish in a year and out of the 600+ games on there you will likely find at least a year’s worth of gaming there. There is a nice variety of games ranging from shooters, to adventure games, to kids games, to hack and slash, wonderful JRPG’s, and even Dark Souls 2. Want to burn through all the Uncharteds from PS3? There you go. Want to play Heavy Rain and several Rachet and Clank games, boom it’s there. Now, not everything you want will be there, but man I can tell you firing up Red Dead Redemption or Ni No Kuni will be a blast and there is very likely going to be a moment where you discover an unknown PS game and just play through it from beginning to end with that elated feeling of finding something new and fun to play.
At the end of the year, Playstation sent me a sort of year-end wrap up noting how many games I’ve played. 87. 87! Yeah, I did not play 87 physical PS4 games in 2017. Maybe a 12-14 if that. The rest was PS Now. Did I really play all of those? Nope. I played like 15 minutes or so of many of those trying to see if I liked them or not. Also, the rest of the family accessed the service so it was played by more than one person. If you have a family and the service runs smoothly, it’s a fantastic way for everyone to discover new games and play stuff that interests them rather than what is in one person’s library. Keep in mind though, it’s one person on the service at a time.
“You don’t need to install games”
This right here is such a time saver. No more deleting games to make space, just pick a game and start it up. It’s sort of the like the difference between having to watch a TV show at the scheduled time it airs compared to being able to stream it via an app later on whenever you have time. Convenience. Whatever sacrifices there are for graphics, color, and possible lag are worth their weight just from being able to play games on the fly without an install.
“Most games have all the DLC”
While not all the games have every DLC added to them, many of them do. Check which ones do before paying for the service, but I’d say more often than not you are getting the full version of the game. I think Oblivion is missing one DLC, for example, but others like the Borderlands games have all the DLC to my knowledge.
“You can play on PC as well as PS4”
This part I have enjoyed quite a bit. I lost track of how many times the TV simply wasn’t available because someone else was using it. I’d just fire up the app on my PC and continue on my game. Now, the PC app is more buggy than the PS4 app, and I found that some things can slow it down like system processes or even regular HDD drives compared to SSD drives. I’ve only used it with WIFI and it’s worked okay for me, but remember each person’s experience can vary depending on many variables like slowdowns from network congestion, issues with resources, operating system slowdowns, and more. So, again, the 7 day trial needs to be tested before you plunk any money down for this service. I also have to vent my frustration on the age verification check which never works right and is easier to skip to the login screen. I mean, why? As it is, setting up a PS account can already be a pain with all the reCAPTCHA prompts, re-logging in, and the horrid way PS has account settings laid out. I can’t stand their UI from a webpage.
After one year of use, I’ve been pretty happy with the service and I’d renew again if I didn’t have a backlog of PS4 games staring at me each day on my dresser. I need to play through these first, so I am halting my renewal of the PS Now annual subscription until I catch up. If you have a giant backlog of games already, you are just wading into deeper waters. Make sure you have completed a chunk of your backlog before having 600+ games available to play on PS Now.
I wish I could help all the folks with laggy connections to PS Now, but Sony still has more work to put into the system to provide a measure of consistency from one gamer to the next. Right now, the reliability is too unstable for me to suggest buying the service outright without seeing how it works. I do suggest testing the 7 day trial with all your PC’s and a PS4 if you can. The new PS4 Slims and PS4 Pro’s have faster wifi than the original PS4 consoles, so if you have an older PS4 you may want to wait until you upgrade later on or use ethernet. Also, if you dislike the graphical compression you may be better off buying a digital version of the game from PSN.
One thing to note, please delete your credit card and turn off auto-renewal in the account settings as soon as the 7 day trial has begun. You do not want to be surprised with a $20 bill after one week.
If your trial goes well, the $99 annual subscription is the way to go, especially for families with more than one gamer. I got almost 300 hours of use out of my subscription. Yes, there are issues with the service and likely some future growing pains, but after one year using the service regularly I had an overall positive experience. With the inclusion of PS4 games to the service along with improvements to the lag delay, the service has never worked better. I think it’s a great sub to have alongside a Netflix account for a streaming. However, if the trial goes poorly for you on PC or PS4, then I highly suggest not subscribing, not even for a month. It’s simply not worth the frustration if the gameplay doesn’t feel smooth. Feel feel to drop a comment!