PlayStation Now Is Sony Selling Nostalgia
One of the most memorable anecdotes of my life involves a lecture I attended a few years ago in which the lecturer explained how certain companies selling products are not necessarily selling what you think they’re selling. I’ll explain.
Consider Steam. They sell games (mostly) available digitally. At face value, their product is gaming. But actually what they’re selling to you is convenience. They are selling you the ability to purchase, acquire and play a game from the comfort of your home. Without ever walking out the door. And they are selling you (through what you might call a free to play system) the ability to have all of your games on one digital platform.
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Sometimes a price is attached to this convenience, which is why a loaf of bread at a petrol station will cost you slightly more than it would at a supermarket.
With all of that in mind, let’s have a look at Sony’s idea for PlayStation Now.
In a nutshell, PlayStation Now is a cloud-based backwards compatibility enabling system that lets you play selected games released on PlayStations of the past, on either your PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4. But wait, it doesn’t just end there. Eventually even Bravia Smart TVs and Sony mobiles are going to support PlayStation Now, although it would require at least a Dual-Shock controller purchase for obvious functional purposes. I mean, you’re not going to play games with a remote controller, are you?
PlayStation Now is based on the Gaikai game streaming service (so now you know what Sony was planning when they acquired the service a while back) and requires at least a 5Mbps internet line to work properly. I expect it would also require uncapped, unshaped internet. So that effectively prices out a fair amount of South Africans and even those who fall under the recommended requirements might struggle given that there aren’t going to be any local cloud servers.
Still it’s an interesting point of discussion for me because at some point we might well be able to use PlayStation Now to its full effect and by that point all of the potential kinks would hopefully be worked out. This then means that the PlayStation Now offering becomes a very attractive one once we’re at that point.
So then we must ask, do we need it?
The easy answer is yes. Of course we do. Because it’s backwards compatibility, right? Only it kinda isn’t. See, your PlayStation 2 and PlayStation 3 game discs are still going to be occupying dust in a cupboard somewhere, if you haven’t sold them already. So those discs still only hold value to those who cling to their PlayStation 2s or PlayStation 3s. Using PlayStation Now means that you are just streaming older games; either stuff you’ve played before or stuff you might have missed. But I guarantee you that the majority of their sales will come from those who’ve played a game before and want to either play it again, or own it again since their physical copies no longer hold that much value. Sure they’ll also decide they’ve paid for the subscription so they can try out games they never played before, but it won’t be the key point of attraction.
Effectively this means that Sony are selling nostalgia, not backwards compatibility. Not at all. Sony are putting a price on nostalgia, and as anyone who has purchased a wardrobe full of Star Wars and The Beatles clothing and apparel will tell you, nostalgia sells. Like hotcakes.
But who would actually say no, here? I mean, wouldn’t it be cool to switch on your TV and play some Shadow of the Colossus? Sure you’re paying for that kind of coolness but that it exists at all is pretty freaking amazing. Like NetFlix or Hulu, where you can watch some really old gems if you so desired, you’re streaming the reliving of memories.
And that has insane appeal.
There are those naysayers who are denouncing PlayStation Now, either because they don’t believe in the Power Of The Cloud™ or they realise that their PS2 and PS3 games are still completely useless to them without the consoles plugged in. But for every three naysayers, I’ll bet you that there’s one who is secretly thinking that they’ll get this when it’s out and working well enough to justify the subscription.
Until then, it’s just a case of knowing exactly what you’re buying here. There’s a reason that so many games coming out these days are remakes, remasters or perhaps the slightly riskier reboots. Nostalgia sells. And that’s all it is really.
The question is. Are you buying?