PlayStation Now officially unveiled at CES 2014, coming to your local PlayStation H/W in Summer of 2014
Sony promised PS3 backwards compatibility for the PS4 via it’s cloud based-streaming service, Gaikai (acquired by Sony in 2012 for a cool $380 million) and it appears to be finally taking shape. Announced on January 7th at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, Sony demoed the “PlayStation Now” internet-streaming service on a variety of Sony hardware (which in the future may negate the need for proprietary hardware, ie the PlayStation 4 console, to enjoy and play Sony exclusive titles). Amongst the veritable goldmine of broad Sony exclusives shown running on PlayStation Now, CES goers were treated to streaming versions of 1st-party hits such as “The Last of Us“, “Puppeteer“, “God of War: Ascension” and “Beyond: Two Souls“; all graphically-intense titles that have been released over the past year and a half. The games were playable on PlayStation Vita’s and more interestingly, 2014 Bravia TV’s, and a select few smartphones/tablets using just a DualShock 3 Controller and a connection to the PlayStation Now service. Sony has stated that the service will allow it’s subscribers (yes, it is a paid-for service although at this point I don’t know if it’s part of the PS Plus subscription package or a separate entity) to play PlayStation 1 and PlayStation 2 classics along with strong support of Sony’s PS3 exclusives. This could be a boon for Sony, as they have an absurdly deep back catalog for both the PS1 and PS2 (the latter selling over 150 million units worldwide making it the best selling console ever) allowing the Sony faithful and even more imperative, gamers new to the extensive retro titles of the PS One and PS2, to enjoy hard-to-find titles that until now, were confined and orphaned on physical disc to specialty game shops. I’ve always been one to enjoy the tangible vs. the digitally intangible software but with classic and hard to find PS1/2 game prices skyrocketing, even I admit this is a fantastic alternative to play all my old Sony favorites akin to Nintendo’s Virtual Console on the Wii and Wii U (WipeOut XL, Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy 7/8/Tactics, Tactics Ogre, Clock Tower, Einhander, Elemental Gearbolt, Shadow Tower, Kings Field I/II, Silent Hill, Megan Man Legends, Suikoden, Xenogears, RayStorm, Resident Evil 1/2/3 etc etc.)
PlayStation Now has begun closed-beta testing as of Jan 28th, and the service is expected to expand across several western and eastern markets as soon as the second and third quarter of 2014, with a full roll out to be completed by end of the year. For optimal performance with minimal gameplay and visual sacrifice, Sony recommends that you are using an wired internet connection with at least 5 MBps or more when gaming on PlayStation Now. A YouTube video was released just recently that showed a complete demonstration of PlayStation Now’s UI and streaming potential while the person played Killzone 3, unfortunately the video has since been taken down due to “copyright violations” by SCEA. The leaked video shows that PS Now is booted from the PSN tab on the XMB, then opens a new app resembling the PlayStation Store to begin the streaming service. Sony also says that in the near future, PlayStation 4 titles are in the works to be streamed across the service. This is certainly a great way for Sony to expand the PlayStation brand for consumers who may not be interested in dropping $300-$400 on new hardware and tap into the lucrative “casual gamer” market that the Wii captured back in 2007 and lost to the current trend of smartphones and tablets. If Sony can reclaim that audience, it certainly could be a dominating force in the casual gaming and console market. To watch the CES preview of the PlayStation Now service, watch the video below to catch a glimpse of the UI and the potential of the PS3 streaming service (video courtesy of Quentyn Kennemer via http://phandroid.com/2014/01/14/sony-playstation-now-demo/):
PlayStation 4 gets fancy-schmancy new update, version 1.60 which offers much-needed improved headset support amongst other stability fixes and enhancements
As of Feb 4th, Sony has officially released v1.60 firmware update for the PlayStation 4. One of the PS4’s many new improvements is that it automatically connects to Sony’s servers, then downloads and installs the update in the background while the system is in standby mode. Or you can do it the old fashioned the way and download the firmware update from Sony’s official website to a USB Flash drive and do a local installation. Reportedly, the update weighs in around 300 MB. Here are a list of the new features, fixes and improvements:
- Wireless stereo headsets (CECHYA-0080 / CECHYA-0083 / CECHYA-0086) and a stereo headset (CECHYA-0088) are now supported.
- You can now mute the microphone for PlayStation®Camera.
Also included in this update are general stability fixes. But the added support for Sony’s premium headsets is a definitive BONUS! For more information or to download the firmware update and install it to your PS4, head over to Sony’s official PlayStation Support Page at http://us.playstation.com/support/systemupdates/ps4/index.htm.
Native PS2 and PS1 Emulation rumored to be coming to PlayStation 4 via future firmware update
Yeah so this is a big deal to me and anyone else who grew up during the 80’s and 90’s, with their ‘rents buying us NES’s or SEGA Genesis’s. We are the first group of gamers to grow older as each iterative console cycle manifested, and therefore we are the first to see the myriad of gaming systems released over the past 25+ years. As such, I feel some kind of ownership towards the current and past gaming ecosystems, with every new generation establishing a solid hierarchy. In the case of PlayStation, I remember trading my SNES and my 40+ games into EB Games (before GameStop took over EVERYTHING) just to acquire a brand new PlayStation One with Destruction Derby, Resident Evil, Warhawk and WipeOut (franchises that are still prominent today). So the fact that Sony is now rumored to be working on a future update for the PS4 that will allow for native PS1 and PS2 backwards compatibility truly means a great deal to me. If this does come to fruition, it would make the PlayStation 4 the ultimate console in Sony hardware and amongst it’s contemporaries, being able to play PS One, PS2 and thanks to PlayStation Now, PS3 games.
A console that is fully backwards compatible would be an amazing feat, as it seems that most (not all) console manufacturers have remained adamant that deterrent factors such as cost or incompatible hardware is the reason for non-compliance. But with such a ridiculous back catalog of games for both the PS1 and PS2, it would seem almost absurd and shameful that Sony would not take advantage of such a opportunity via emulation if their current PS4 H/W allows it (and it seems more then powerful enough to do so). I still have a small library of PS One games, most of them rarities that I’ve managed to hold onto over the years because well…. their just not that easy to find anymore and aren’t available digitally via PSN yet. Sony has everything to gain and nothing to lose by providing PS One/PS2 emulation natively (whether it be via original disc or download; hopefully we get BOTH) since their are still sooo many titles that have yet to been repackaged from both the PS One and PS2 era. PS4 Backwards-compatible emulation would also allow HD upscaling in a less arbitrary nature that was implemented for the PlayStation 3, presenting an aesthetically pleasing experience while maintaining that great classic gameplay we’ve all come to expect from Sony’s top tier exclusives from the bygone console eras. While all this is just pure speculation, Digital Foundry did have a very interesting and competent report on what could be via future firmware updates regarding PS1/PS2 software emulation.
Hopefully, like the early models of the PS3 that Sony manufactured that actually contained the original PlayStation 2 hardware under the hood, Sony will allow playback of physical discs that people already have in their PS One and PS2 collections. And while Sony eventually removed the PS2 backwards compatibility from those earlier models since each PS3 unit was selling at a tremendous loss, it in fact probably saved the PlayStation brand that is now beginning to thrive again today. Sony has advocated a good amount of pro-consumer idealism thanks to their E3 presentation by simply branding the PlayStation 4 as a true gamers console- no extra fanfare, no forced flagrant takeover of your TV set and unwarranted motion-tracking; Sony was pitching the PS4 as a fundamental gamers machine, not an extravagant all-in-one box that was designed to be the centerpiece of your living room. And while some may prefer the latter, core gamers care about one thing and one thing only: how well does the machine play games and will it provide the gaming experience that a Sony console should offer? The answer is a resounding yes, as the PS4 has already sold well over 4 million units in just a short span of 3 months. It’s clear that Sony is focusing it’s efforts to attract the legions of ardent Sony fans while reaching for a larger audience. In short, Sony knows it’s user base and if these backward compatibility rumors prove true, is doing everything it can to retain previous PlayStation users and attract new gamers that want to do want a console does best: play videogames.
While PS3 compatibility will be relegated to Sony’s cloud-based streaming service PlayStation Now, previous generations of Sony H/w (PS1 and PS2 respectively) will be played via software emulation on the PlayStation 4. Even more interesting is that games played via emulation could contain HD upscaling and higher resolutions, something that is already possible on a mid-end PC running a PlayStation emulator such as ePSXe which can significantly alter the graphical fidelity of older PlayStation 1 and 2 titles. Using software emulation on the PS4, Sony may be implementing native HD resolutions instead of the blurry, artifact filled upscaled resolutions that the PlayStation 3 used when it runs PS One software or PS2 games (on earlier “fat” models of the PS3 that contained PS2 emulation via direct hardware or through software on later fat models). Again, while this is all speculation and rumors at this time, I sincerely hope Sony is hard at work on this project.
The Last of Us single-player DLC “Left Behind” released, download it now via the PlayStation Network Store
Probably the most anticipated downloadable content aside from Bioshock Infinte’s “Burial at Sea”, The Last of Us jas dished out a mini-prequel of sorts establishing Ellie’s backstory before she met crazy-like-a-fox Joel. The DLC chapter, entitled “Left Behind”, has been in development for quite some time and was officially released on the loneliest day of the year for fat, unkempty gamer-nerds the world over; AKA: Valentines Day. Perhaps there was some amorous intent for releasing the 2-3 hour campaign on V-Day, reminding all of us dateless wonders that we still do have something to live for outside the mystique of the opposite gender. That our empathy can be redirected towards Ellie after enduring the grueling and abhorrent cross-country cordecyps road trip with her paternal ward, Joel. After all, The Last of Us intricately wove one of the most well-defined and tragic survivalist tales to grace the console market in a long, long time. True to form, instead of focusing on new gameplay elements, more updates/weapons and new skill-trees, Left Behind takes the player on Ellie’s own journey beginning with her time orphaned at a military-style school. Left Behind introduces a new character that was only mentioned briefly in passing during the main campaign: Ellie’s best friend Riley. If you played through the main campaign and enjoyed it, you would be a silly, inbred smelly fool not to purchase and playthru Left Behind. Now available via the PlayStation Store on PSN for $15 or through the TLoU Season Pass (or eventually via the yet-to-be-announced retail GOTY edition on disc; wait and see I’m sure it will be hitting store shelves by the end of the year like every bestselling PS3 exclusive). To watch the Left Behind trailer, play the video below: