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PlayStation Now games on PC are terrific… when they actually work

PlayStation Now isn't the first game streaming service and it's probably not going to be the last. Right now one of the other big players is NVIDIA, allowing subscribers to GeForce Now to stream PC games from the cloud.

While Microsoft put backwards compatibility right into the Xbox One, Sony went down the cloud-based, subscription route to allow folks to play older generation PlayStation games. Where it now becomes more interesting is that you can use it on the PC, meaning titles like Uncharted and God of War are available to play on a Windows machine.

The service itself is very good. But there are plenty of areas that let it down.

To use PlayStation Now you will need a Sony account, the Windows application and a supported controller. If you already have DualShock 4 from the PS4, you're golden. Hook it up via USB and you'll enjoy full support for all features, including motion control.

Sony says controllers with Xinput may be supported, but naturally, the button mapping and full feature list will be different. Better news is that the Xbox One controller appears to work just fine. It has a similar button layout and most basic controls map to the Xbox buttons that are in the same physical position as on the DualShock 4. The X button maps to A and so on. I've tested a few games with my Xbox Elite Controller without issue.

Play PlayStation games with an Xbox One controller and cross all the streams

The application for PlayStation Now is fairly barebones and is mostly a mirror of what you'd see using the service on other devices. There's nothing fancy to it and it's basically just a long vertically and horizontally scrolling list of the games available to play. To make it easier to find something good, Sony highlights its best rated and exclusives up top.

The beauty of a service like this is that you don't need a gaming PC to play games. PlayStation Now titles will be restricted to 720p resolution, which is fine since they're last-generation, are playable in a window or fullscreen and you're recommended to have a 5mbps and above broadband connection. A wired ethernet connection will be more reliable, but I've enjoyed smooth, trouble-free gaming over Wi-Fi.

I'm fortunate to have a fast internet connection so that part hasn't troubled me. Indeed, if you have a ton of LTE data at your disposal you could, in theory, play PlayStation Now on a laptop while you're out and about.

What has been troubling, and would put a serious doubt on spending my own money on a subscription, is the reliability. There's long been a running joke about how many time Xbox Live goes down, but those people can't have ever used PlayStation Network.

Daily problems seem part and parcel of using PlayStation Now

Signing up was a nightmare because there was a problem with it. Trying to finish this and another article on the service was a nightmare because there was a problem with the service. Opening a game to play seems to require at least two attempts because the first time the "game is not available at the moment."

And while playing Ratchet and Clank the whole thing just green screened. It was still in-game because the audio was there, but the whole thing just threw its toys out of the pram and sat there glowing at me. Laughing.

PlayStation Now on PC

'Enjoying' some Ratchet and Clank on PlayStation Now.

PlayStation Now isn't a cheap subscription service. That this happens on a daily basis is enough to make me walk away.

It's not all bad, though. You do get a 7-day free trial to see what it's like before you part with your cash, which is good. Very good. And when it works, it's terrific. It's just like having a PlayStation 3 inside your PC.

When all is working, PlayStation Now is terrific

You get cloud saves so you can move across devices without worrying about your progress, and once you're playing a game everything is very good. Controls are responsive, there haven't been many instances of lag or frames dropping and it's a huge amount of fun. There are a few basic menu features thrown in but for the most part it's a case of open (twice), play, hopefully enjoy, and shut it down.

Bizarrely, PlayStation Now also seems to be much smoother to use in my experience on the PC than it does on the PS4. On the PS4 it's been pretty janky in-game on the same Wi-Fi connection as my PC.

PlayStation Now on PC

But, the issues aren't ones to ignore. It might be a fantastic experience when it's all working well, but there are too many times it doesn't. Or just doesn't work at all. Sony has been working on this for long enough now that you'd hope the issues had been ironed out.

Sure, with clouds and networks there's always a risk of kinks and quirks. But until PlayStation Now doesn't do something intensely annoying on a daily basis, it's hard to recommend you sign up for the long term.

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

36 Comments
  • Hope Microsoft will put the Xbox 360 emulator on PC. Even if it's a one off purchase from the store to get access to it. Streaming games is okay but I don't like the in out lag (Over same wired network that a Steam Link works perfectly I should add)
  • Whaa! I was thinking the exact same thing. Maybe they should tie this in to Xbox live gold membership to make gold even more attractive
  • Tying in access to the emulator would be great as an Xbox Live Gold perk. Would also love it if they start offering PC games on Games with Gold in the future in addition to what we get now. Maybe that will happen as the Store grows
  • I'll likely give the trial of this a go, but the price is a bit too steep for me to keep a membership to it to be honest, I barely find play time for PC and Xbox One after all, but wanted to play the last of us for a while
  • 720p Nooooo!! Jk
  • I'm not interested in spending the hundred bucks or so just to play a few PS3 games anyway, but they should probably get their **** together and sort out the issues if they expect to keep other people on board.
  • You should also add that while saves ARE cloud based, if you played the game physically on a PS3, that save isnt, so your progress is lost.  
  • To pay $20 a month for old games on 720p? No thanks! Posted via the Windows Central App for Android
  • People pay $400 on an Xbox One to play games in 720p, so clearly there's a market for it.
  • Every Xbox One i have played has been well over 720p come on man
  • You must not play many Xbox One games then.
  • LOL!
  • Not to mention the paid DLC on top of the game price but since it's Sony I guess their 720p is somehow worse.....
  • If it was priced closer to EA access I think it would be quite popular. Still would be more interested in Xbox 360 emulator on PC and Xbox Live on PC progresses
  • Not reliable = Not getting my cash. Plus, I'm too busy playing CURRENT titles to spend so much on a subscription to play OLD titles. "Sony..........? Bony?..........."
  • The lag from all the these game streaming services is unacceptable for most games.
  • Agree, even streaming Xbox one to PC has noticeable lag. Steam Link is perfect though over the same network so no idea why I see noticeably worse performance on Xbox Streaming unless their streaming tech just isn't as good as Steams.
  • Steam Link is flawless. I forget I'm even streaming, whereas Xbox streaming has such bad lag time that fast-paced action games like shooters are unplayable.
  • I do not have lag when streaming to my Surface Pro using WiFi, although once every month I do loose the controller mid game. And I use streaming weekly several times (watching the kids and still playing my games :)).
    I would also get a PS3 streaming service if it was much cheaper. There are no old games that I really want to play on the PS3. So for $30-$40 a year for playing the once in a while old game expanding your library with lots of old games would be nice. But $20 is a lot of money. If I spend that every month on new and latest games or last years games with discounts I feel I get more value for my money. So its a no for me. And it should work on my XBox One also...
  • If it was $10 a month maybe but not at the current asking price.
  • Should be included as part of PS+, that might make up for the truckloads of utter crap indie games they provide as part of that service compared to the quality titles we generally get with XBLG.
  • I tried PS Now on my PS4 via the trial, and on a high speed connection, it was still slightly laggy sometimes. Also, the selection wasn't that compelling at the time, and certainly not compelling enough to pay the $20 or so per month. The NVIDIA thing sounds interesting. Overall I prefer not streaming games. Im sure this will change as time goes, though. I prefer streaming movies and tv now, and I also prefer streaming music (Groove and OneDrive). Games will get there eventually.
  • What's the library size--every PS3 game? I assume Sony has had to face the same hurdle that Microsoft faced in Xbox 360-to-Xbox One backwards compatibility with having to secure licensing permissions for every single game they want to emulate, correct? Also, thank goodness the Xbox One controller works. I find the Playstation controller to be unusable: from the atrociouos d-pad that hasn't evolved in two decades, to the cheap and awkwardly placed thumbsticks, to the ergonomically incorrect triggers, etc. It's mind-bogglingly bad.
  • It stands at just over 400 games.
  • I think you have to be close or in one of the cities they have servers in to get the best connection.
  • Sony are such hypocrites making everyone pay again for the games. Give your fans backward compatibility. Idiots.
  • They can't, at least with PS3 titles.  Sony chose the Cell processor BECAUSE it was complex and greatly limited game developers' ability to easily port titles to other systems.  Just like apple, sony try to lock its customers and developers to their platform in nayt way possible, even ways that ultimately hurt them.
  • Tried it last week, but my experience was the opposite. The service seemed to work well, but every game I went to play (journey in particular) seemed to need the motion control from the dual shock controller or had button mapping problems to the Xbox one controller. I'm not sure whether I'm prepared to invest in both the controller and the subscription.
  • That green screen is just a cut scene. Captain Quark trying to take a selfie with a 2001 feature phone while playing Snake.
  • :D
  • Preemptive LOL if this service ends up usable on Xbox. XD
  • Sony didn't have much of a choice, with MS's BC being so well received and the PS3 being so (deliberately) difficult to emulate on other hardware this was pretty mcuh the only thing they could do.
  • The biggest question is how laggy is it? Streaming X1 is really not that great unless for anything other than casual games, and even then it's too laggy to be enjoyable (for me). How well does this service work?
  • So, I've been trying to use this on my 64 bit Win10 PC, and I have had countless anomalies. These range from total sound failures and glitches (fixed by restarting the PC, or disabling/enabling the sound card), games have exited to the background without notice (requiring a reboot of my entire system), application frequently does not load (requiring me to first, end the task, then re-install the program... as I found no other solution.) I love this idea, but the buggy nature of the program has me worried that this is not worth the money to maintain in such a way. I'm trying to like it, and maybe I'll hold out for dropping cash on the full subscription, but the glitchiness is killing me. When it works, I love it. Mainly because I had some catching up to do. Some of the games are perfect for my little-dude. But anyone wishing to try the service, watch out when that trial ends, and make sure to you are ready to drop the cash.
  • It is UGLY.
  • Yeah, it kind of is. Like a degraded Netflix stream. There are artifacts in random places, frame skips, and sometimes some major controller lag. Racing games are impossible to play.