What Is PlayStation Now, and Is It Worth It?

The nostalgia of playing old school PlayStation games is awesome for a lot of us, but without having every generation of console, it can be difficult to get in on some of the best titles of yesterday. PlayStation Now, Sony’s online game streaming service, is the solution to that quandary. But man, is it really worth coughing up an Andrew Jackson every month just to play classic titles?

What Is PlayStation Now?

You may have already gathered this, but PS Now allows users to stream older PlayStation titles over the internet—think of it like Netflix for PlayStation games. It costs $20 a month for unlimited streaming, offering access to over 450 PlayStation titles. Sounds solid on paper, and for the most part, it is. Especially if you love the older games.

Of course it offers streaming on the PlayStation 4 and Pro, but it also allows users to stream games to their Windows PCs. It works a lot like using PlayStation Remote Play on a Windows device—you need a USB cable (or the optional wireless dongle) for your DualShock controller, a PlayStation account, PlayStation Now subscription, and the Windows application. From there, it feels exactly like the PlayStation application.

And really, that’s the biggest selling point of PlayStation Now in my opinion: you can stream games pretty much anywhere if you have a laptop. It also allows gamers who may not have a current-gen PlayStation to play some of the console’s best and most famous titles.

How Big Is the Catalog?

That’s one of the first questions a lot of people have, and naturally so—if you’re shelling out $20 a month, you want to know that you have some choices.

According to Sony, PlayStation Now has over 450 titles from the original PlayStation to the PlayStation 3, including over 100 PlayStation exclusive titles. That’s a pretty decent-sized number, at least until you think about all the games that have been available for all the PlayStation consoles over the years. The original PlayStation was released 22 years ago!

You’ll find some of the best PlayStation titles out there: The Last of Us, Red Dead Redemption, Uncharted, God of War, and a lot more. If you want to know if your favorite games are available on PlayStation Now, you can find a full list everything the service has to offer here.

If you don’t see your favorites, don’t stress—Sony adds new games every month. So maybe there’s a chance it’ll show up eventually. I’m still holding out hope for the Jak and Daxter trilogy, personally.

But How Is the Gameplay?

That’s really the big question, isn’t it? Let’s say your favorite games are already on PlayStation Now and you’re ready to play. How is the experience?

In short: it depends. If you have solid home internet access—Sony recommends 5Mbps at least—that’s consistent and doesn’t bog down when everyone in the house is using it, then in theory you should have a fairly good experience with PlayStation Now.

That said, I’m not sure I agree with “5Mbps.”

Let’s use my home internet for example. I have AT&T U-Verse (yeah, I know) and the fastest speed they offer here is 50Mbps. Normally, that would be fine, but it’s summer and the kids are out of school, which means they’re watching entirely too much YouTube. So guess what I have to do every time I want to stream something on PlayStation Now? Tell them all to stop watching YouTube. Otherwise, they hog all the bandwidth and the experience is absolutely terrible. One night I had to replay the same part of Red Dead Redemption five times because the connection kept crapping out on me. It was infuriating, and there was no clear reason as to why it was happening—I was the only person streaming and had the PS4 set as the Priority Device on Google WiFi, which should’ve given it the most bandwidth.

Alas, it was awful, and I ultimate ended up turning it off lest I break the DualShock 4. Those things aren’t cheap.

But that in itself is really the biggest issue with streaming games. It’s not like streaming TV or movies, which seems to just work most of the time. It’s interactive and on the fly, so there’s a lot more going on in the background before it even makes it to your device. Even the small bit of latency in your button presses can be slightly annoying at times—if everything isn’t perfect, something will take the hit.

While we’re talking about gameplay, let’s discuss graphics. Let’s make it very clear: these are the titles in their original form. So if you’re playing The Last of Us, you’re playing the original, PS3 version of the game, not the newer Remastered version. The same goes for basically everything—playing will be almost identical to how it was on the original console.

lol Muller. What a joke.

All that said, I did a direct comparison of Red Dead Redemption streaming on PlayStation Now with the Xbox 360 version on Xbox One, and there was definitely a notable difference. First and foremost, it was so much smoother on the Xbox One, which can be expected since it was playing locally instead of over an internet connection. Secondly, it definitely looked a little bit nicer graphically, but I’m not going to hold that against PlayStation Now, since there’s some upscaling going on with the Xbox that accounts for a better looking game.

So, Is It Worth It?

I think it depends. In my experience with PlayStation Now, I did spend a lot more time playing games than I did waiting for things to load to experiencing glitches, so in that respect I enjoyed it. But when things go wrong, it can be really frustrating. And given PlayStation Now’s nature, there are more things that can go wrong than simply popping in a disc or playing a digital download—because it’s streaming, there’s a lot more going on between you and your game.

But if you want to know if I’ll keep my subscription after this month, the answer is no. While I did spend more time playing than having difficulties, I ultimately had far more issues than I think are acceptable. I don’t have a lot of time for games these days, so when I do have time to play, I want to play. I don’t want to troubleshoot my internet connection or have to play the same thing four or five times because my connection failed.

All that said, your mileage may vary. You could give it a go and have nothing but great things to say about it, and if that’s the case, that’s awesome. Ultimately, I’m not willing to deal with all the hiccups just to play older games. If I’m really that desperate, I’ll break the PS2 out of the closet to go old school.

Cameron Summerson is a die-hard Android fan, Chicago Bulls fanatic, metalhead, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at HTG, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, spinning legs on the bike, chugging away on the 6-string, or being disappointed in the Bulls.