Playstation Now – Sony’s game streaming service goes live today


The subscription service is currently available on PS4 across North America with two subscription plans.

Playstation_Now

Playstation Now offers over 100 PS3 games (with so many more on the way) with two types of plans that are being offered: one month for $19.99 or a three-month package for $44.99 (about $15 per month).

For now Playstation Plus is available for PS3 and PS4 users with more devices being added later including Playstation Vita and Playstation TV. A free PlayStation Now theme is now available for PS4 users as well If you download the theme before January 31. Doing this gets you automatically entered into a drawing for a chance to win a one-year subscription to PlayStation Now.

psnow-subs-and-rentals

Confused?

Don’t be, those that are still slightly confused about so many subscription services should take note that Playstation Now and Playstaion Plus are seperate services entirely.

In addition to monthly subscriptions, remember that there are also a variety of rental options available. The PS Now rental catalog already has 200+ games with games being added weekly. Most games can be rented for about $1 a day for a week, or you can choose from 4-hour, 30 day and 90 rental periods available for most games. Either you choose to rent or subscribe to get instant access to an all-you-can-play catalog of 100+ PS3 games.

Start your 7-day free trial here

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PS4 is now fastest selling console ever in UK


Launch week push sees Sony dominate multi-platform titles

PS4

Sony’s PS4 has become the UK’s fastest-selling console at retail, surpassing the previous record held by the PSP. The new record was attributed by the Chart Track figures for last week’s UK sales, but doesn’t detail actual sell-through figures for the machine.

The impact of the new machine is evident in the sales breakdown of individual titles on the UK chart, however, as Sony’s machine outsold other platforms on nearly every multiplatform title. Nonetheless, this week’s number one, Call of Duty: Ghosts sold best on the huge install base of the Xbox 360, which took 37 per cent of total sales compared to the PS4’s 28, the PS3’s 21 and the Xbox One’s 12 per cent.

Last week’s top dog, fellow hardy perennial FIFA, slipped down to number two in this week’s chart, but showed a huge swing towards PS4, which accounted for a massive 42 per cent of total sales. Xbox 360 took 22 per cent, Xbox One 19 and PS3 14 per cent. Whilst that lion’s share is an impressive statistic, it should be remembered that it is at least partly due to Microsoft bundling FIFA in with pre-orders of its machine at launch.

Showing even greater favouritism, and with no such caveat, was Battlefield 4, half of all sales of which were made on the new PlayStation. Xbox 360 made up a 21 per cent share, with PS3 following on 13 per cent and Xbox One making up the final 12 per cent. Killzone: Shadowfall is unsurprisingly the highest charting platform exclusive this week, securing fourth place just above Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed 4.

To find the next single platform title, you’ll need to track all the away down to thirteenth place, where the poorly-reviewed Knack sits just above fellow new release and platform exclusive Super Mario 3D World – a relatively grim prognosis for Nintendo’s console and flagship franchise.

  • 01 Call of Duty: Ghosts
  • 02 FIFA 14
  • 03 Battlefield 4
  • 04 Killzone: Shadowfall
  • 05 Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
  • 06 LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
  • 07 Grand Theft Auto V
  • 08 Need for Speed Rivals
  • 09 Just Dance 2014
  • 10 Batman Arkham Origins
  • 11 Skylanders Swap Force
  • 12 Minecraft Xbox 360 Edition
  • 13 Knack
  • 14 Super Mario 3D World
  • 15 Forza Motorsport 5
  • 16 Disney Infinity
  • 17 The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
  • 18 Dead Rising 3
  • 19 Tomb Raider
  • 20 Football Manager 2014

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PS4 is the biggest launch in Canadian gaming history – Sony


Sony Canada exec Steve Turvey also notes importance of maintaining brand loyalty for “extremely small” number with defective PS4s.

PS4 biggest launch in Canadian gaming history, says Sony

Last Thursday night, Sony Computer Entertainment Canada VP and GM Steve Turvey was in Toronto to officially sell the first PlayStation 4 in Canada. As he told GamesIndustry International, it was just the first of many that night.

“The launch was a huge success by any standard of measurement. It was by far the largest launch in gaming history in Canada, and we were really thrilled by the execution, but mostly the response by PlayStation fans and consumers,” Turvey said.

Turvey might have a unique perspective on that “largest launch in gaming history” issue, having been a part of numerous big ones himself. He’s been at Sony for the launches of the PS Vita, PS3, and PSP, but his experience goes back even further than that. In the mid-’90s, he worked at Sega of Canada during the launch of the Sega Saturn, and moved to Nintendo of Canada in time for the Nintendo 64 to hit shelves. That said, he’s confident he’ll be able to back that “largest launch” claim with numbers instead of anecdotal evidence pulled from his career history.

“We launched more units than we have ever in any console launch across any platform at any time, and by far the most,” Hervey said. “Three times, four times as much as we’ve done historically, and still demand seems to be unsated.”

“When you have 1 million-plus people hooking up within a very small window of time, I think there are some inevitable hiccups that will occur.”

Steve Turvey

Outside of a few reserved consoles that had yet to be picked up, Turvey said PS4s were completely sold through in Canada. And while the executive would love to see that demand continue to exceed the supply for a long time to come, Turvey said Sony Canada is working to make sure there are more systems hitting shelves on a weekly basis.

“We have a nice healthy supply of inventory that we’ll continue to flow into the marketplace, and we hope that demand continues,” Turvey said.

Turvey wouldn’t break out attach rates for games or accessories, but he did say both have been strong. Sony is “excited” about the performance of Killzone: Shadow Fall, while fellow first-party title Knack is off to a solid start, Turvey said, with expectations that it will gain momentum heading into the holidays as a family friendly title well suited to gift-giving. DualShock 4 controllers have also been attaching well, and while he didn’t discuss its performance, the PS4 camera peripheral impressed Turvey on a personal level.

Steve Turvey with Erin Harewood, the first person in Canada to buy a PS4.

“I was not dismissive of the camera,” Turvey said, “but it wasn’t something I particularly thought I really needed. But now that I’ve had the camera hooked up, I love it and I think it’s pretty integral to the experience. And I think more and more consumers will figure that out for themselves.”

Not everything went smoothly at launch, however. The PlayStation Network struggled under the user load for a portion of the launch weekend, and reports of defective hardware have not been difficult to find.

“Day One is certainly very important, but maybe too much emphasis is placed on it. The long-term success is built over time.”

Steve Turvey

Of the network performance, Turvey said, “We’re never entirely satisfied when you have any hiccups. But when you have 1 million-plus people hooking up within a very small window of time, I think there are some inevitable hiccups that will occur. But when you look at the amount of people going online at once compared to those who had any issues, it was a very small percentage. And the network seemed to handle the additional volume really very well.”

As for the hardware issues, Turvey didn’t believe they were widespread problems.

“You never want to make it inconsequential, but if it’s a problem at all, I think it must be extremely small,” Turvey said. “Of course, we always do our best to rectify any issue and have a large customer service team on standby taking calls…Brand loyalty is not something we take lightly, and much of that comes from how we handle our issues with our customers.”

As happy as he was with the PS4 launch, Turvey said that when you’re hoping to have a system around for the long haul, the importance of launch day is somewhat diminished.

“It’s great when something is received well by your customer base on day one and out of the gate,” Turvey said. “And when you have day-one demand, it’s exciting to be a part of. But as we’ve been through other iterations of PlayStation, the lifecycle is a long one. We’ve prided ourselves on sort of future proofing many of our consoles and building future technology into them so that it is in your living room and capable and functional seven to 10 years from now. So while launch is important, it’s not everything…Day One is certainly very important, but maybe too much emphasis is placed on it. The long-term success is built over time. You see PlayStation 3, many would suggest it struggled out of the gate, and yet 80 million homes worldwide now are enjoying it, so it would prove to be a success.”

 

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Sony’s Jack Tretton downplays idea of “the last console generation”


CEO of PS4 maker says opportunities are the best in decades for console makers, only getting better.

Sony's Jack Tretton

It’s to be expected that Sony Computer Entertainment America president and CEO Jack Tretton would be optimistic about the future of the console business on the eve of the PlayStation 4’s launch. In explaining to All Things D how he tried not to worry too much about what competitors like Microsoft were doing, Tretton suggested it was the best time in decades for anyone to be in the console making business.

“I respect anybody’s approach to the business, but at the end of the day, you’ve gotta be laser-focused, and can make yourself crazy trying to react to what the competition is doing,” Tretton said. “I’m not naive enough to think that we’re going to own every consumer. Some people are going to gravitate toward our platform, some people are going to gravitate toward others. Some are going to stay behind on existing generations, and some are never going to buy it at all. But it’s much better as an opportunity for a manufacturer today than it was five, 10, 15, 20 years ago, and I think it’ll be better going forward.”

Earlier in the interview, Tretton was asked to respond to those who predicted the coming generation of consoles would be the last one. He disagreed, saying the things people see as threats right now–tablets and smartphones–are actually additive to the game industry, and not succeeding at the expense of consoles.

“It’s funny, I’ve heard about the ‘last console’ since 1986, and only because that’s when I entered the business,” Tretton said. “I’ve managed to ride the ‘last console’ wave for the last, what is that … 27 years or so? There’s a reason the console came about: Sitting in front of a big-screen TV on a couch with your friends. To get the immersive depth in gaming and to get the social experience of sitting around the living room, we’re not going to huddle around a tablet. We’re not going to huddle around a smartphone. I think the technology will come a long way, but you’re still trying to build a console, ultimately. You’re trying to get it closer to a console.”

 

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PlayStation 4 Review: Sony’s Comeback Console


playstation-4-final

Let’s qualify that word, “comeback,” before we dive in, because 80 million PlayStation 3 consoles sold worldwide is hardly a fiasco.

Sure, the PS3 is no PlayStation 2 (over 155 million units sold), or even original PlayStation (over 100 million units sold), but who wouldn’t kill for that figure? Even Nintendo’s Wii, the last generation’s sales darling, just topped 100 million units. And there’s more to gauging a console’s success than unit sales: streaming media partnerships, downloadable content, charter game club subscriptions, social networking cachet – the whole revenue model for gaming’s shifted radically over the past decade.

But yes, for a company that from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s electrified the video games market, Sony’s PS3 felt like a step sideways: a powerhouse machine that cost too much at launch (and for years after), a storied supercomputer-like architecture that baffled developers for years, a system capable of memorable games like The Last of Us, Uncharted 2 and Journey, but also missteps and missed opportunities, from PlayStation Move (critically lauded but quickly relegated to the background — notice its absence from the PS4 launch ballyhoo) to the PlayStation Network hack debacle to the system’s forever teased but ultimately M.I.A. party (cross-game) voice chat albatross.

The PlayStation 4, by contrast, exudes refinement, a system that feels multipurpose-built and confidently purposeful. There’s no one standout feature to talk about this time, no genre-bending gizmo or water-cooler-worthy service to trumpet, and you won’t find an interface-reimagining Wii Remote in the box or a design-upending Super Mario 64 ushering in a new platforming epoch, but then that’s not what this next generation is about.

Instead, you’re looking at a meticulously alloyed platform that’s the sum of many pieces, a kind of Grand Theft Auto V of video game consoles. If the latter represents everything Rockstar’s learned about open-world design — an accumulation of design knowledge implemented with knowing, fastidious precision — the PlayStation 4 is everything Sony’s learned about platform design, honed and polished to something just shy of perfection.

The System

Consider the physical box itself, a sharp-cornered, blade-edged ebony parallelogram that’s roughly 11 inches wide by 2 inches tall by 12 inches deep and weighs just 6 pounds — orientable either horizontally or vertically. The original parabola-shaped PlayStation 3, by comparison, was nearly 13 inches wide by 4 inches tall by 11 inches deep and weighed 11 pounds. The power supply remains internal, leaving you nothing to manage save a modest two-prong power cord. That’s not form hijacking function: Placed in the open, the system warms only a little when playing games, its broad rear-panel ventilation grid (including HDMI out, Ethernet and an auxiliary port for the PlayStation Camera) and cleverly recessed side grilles allowing the system to transfer heat from the internal parts such that the fans remain whisper-quiet in nearly all circumstances.

playstation-4-console

Sony

Whether you like the PS4′s backswept look, like the base of a Cylon Black & Decker, is a matter of taste. But what’s striking is how slender the system is, especially when you consider what’s under the hood: a custom eight-core AMD CPU, 8GB of blazing-fast GDDR5 memory, a replaceable 500GB SATA hard drive (though only 409GB is available) and a custom GPU capable of 1.84 teraflops performance — multiply that by two (roughly speaking) and with PS4 architect Mark Cerny’s talk of offloading work to the GPU down the road, you’re looking at a machine with ample crunch-headroom, bar none.

My only quibble with the design is the system’s two-tone veneer: roughly one-third of the exterior is glossy, the other two-thirds matte. You’ll thus notice even trace amounts of dust and fingerprinting on the glossy side (especially contrasted against the matte side).

Make that half-fingerprinting on the system’s front, which is where the sectional split between surface materials occurs and you’ll notice the new power and eject buttons — neither depressible, but touch-sensitive — near dual USB 3.0 ports and a slot-loading Blu-ray drive. Along this furrow, Sony’s placed an illuminated strip that pulses different colors and luminosity gradients as you put the system through its paces; according to Sony, that light’s meant to make the system appear to be breathing, a bit like Apple’s old exterior laptop LEDs (which may require the judicious application of electrical tape if you’re planning to put the system in your bedroom and sleep anywhere near it at night, since you can’t disable the light manually).

The Controller

A moment of silence for the DualShock 1 through 3, each iteration — save for an upgrade to analog thumbsticks — all but identical since Sony’s gamepads debuted in 1997. Not so the PS4′s DualShock 4, which looks only superficially like its predecessors.

For starters, the handlebars are slightly longer, a measure that better stabilizes the controller in the center of your palms. The thumbsticks are a tick further apart, giving your thumbs more flex room, and their spheroid tips — occasional slip hazards — have been replaced with raised-edge circles (still rubber), which feel much more controllable under your thumb-tips.

The gamepad shell feels grippier, too, in part because Sony layered the under-half with a patterned surface — still a hard, smooth plastic, but coarse enough to give your hands better purchase. The revised left and right triggers gain a roughened surface as well, and the lower two triggers — L2 and R2 — feel firmer and have gently out-curved bottoms for more secure placement, remedying a problem with the DualShock 3 where setting the gamepad in your lap or on a flat surface would sometimes register unintended input if the looser triggers collapsed.

playstation-4-dualshock-4

Sony

There’s now an illuminated “Lightbar” between the triggers, faced forward, that can partner with the PlayStation Camera to enhance motion control (Sony’s also improved the SIXAXIS motion sensors and rumble motors, so much so that you can, for instance, tilt the controller to tag letters in an onscreen keyboard, and it’s a lot quicker than cursoring around). The Lightbar’s also capable of feeding back color-based status information, say to indicate a character’s health state, though since you can’t eyeball the strip directly without flipping the gamepad 90 degrees perpendicular, you’re depending on the glow reflected against your fingers (that, or you can always play in front of a mirror!). It’s too bad Sony didn’t think to place a smaller, complementary light across the gamepad’s top.

Just above the thumbsticks, you’ll find a tiny speaker grille, allowing the controller to output sound (like playing the collectible audio logs in Killzone Shadow Fall). The audio quality’s what you’d expect from a tiny speaker, though it’s notably better and bass-ier than the one Nintendo includes with its Wii Remote. Below the grille, there’s a traditional PlayStation button — hold it and you’ll summon master overlays that let you tweak settings, close out apps or power off the system. And on the gamepad’s bottom, between the handlebars, late-night gamers will appreciate the new standard-size headphone jack as well as a connector for the bundled mono headset — a voice chat must, and an alternative to Sony’s new $60 dual-camera PlayStation Camera (not included with the PS4) if you want to operate the console using voice commands.

The most notable change lies (physically) between the traditional d-pad and geometric face buttons: a smooth, dotted, depressible touchpad — a nod to Sony’s touchpad-framed Vita that lets you play a game like, say, Angry Birds the way developer Rovio intended. The launch games make limited, complementary use of the touchpad, as you’d expect, but software like Sony’s clever built-in tutorial app, The Playroom, offers a glimpse of things to come. You rub the touchpad like a Genie’s lamp to wake a lively A.I. bot, or flick your finger forward across the surface to pitch tiny robot-things into your lap, augmented reality-style, vis-a-vis the PlayStation Camera.

Along with Sony’s new “start” and “select” replacements that bracket the touchpad — tiny ovoid “share” and “options” buttons, the former for editing and uploading game videos or screenshots, the latter for invoking context-sensitive menus — round out an array of individually modest but collectively gratifying updates that feel like the smartest updates to a gamepad in years.

The Interface

Sony raved about the PS3′s CrossMenuBar navigation system back in the day — the interface won an Emmy, after all, so every time you heard about the XMB, it was “Emmy-winning this” or “Emmy-winning that.” But when Microsoft overhauled its Xbox Live interface in 2008 with vibrant context-specific squares, colorful images and avatar animations, the XMB felt comparably lifeless, a workmanlike carousel of icons that conjured the sterility of an IKEA furniture sign.

playstation-4-interface

Sony

Out with Emmy-winning, in with lively images and contextual squares: The PS4′s interface, which Sony simply calls the “PlayStation Dynamic Menu,” builds on the XMB’s potential by subtracting from it, jettisoning all that top-level complexity and adding dollops of style and streamlining. Instead of an icon-flush X-axis with option-choked up or down menu items, Sony’s collapsed everything to a handful of category squares, the default leftmost — and most telling — being a social media-watcher that clues you into friend activity and marketing material when you’re online.

Beside that you’ll find content portals that reshuffle from left to right according to last one accessed: ”Live from PlayStation” lets you view live gameplay broadcasts, “Downloads” collates your purchases and downloads, and the obligatory Internet browser. New games — whether downloaded or accessed from disc — also appear here, the wrinkle being that if you have an Internet connection active, you’ll be drawing from (and feeding into) Sony’s PlayStation Network each time you access an application. You’re not required to access the Internet to play single-player games, but if you don’t want your PS4 reaching out to touch Sony’s servers, you’ll have to force it offline — there’s no “don’t PSN while connected” option.

Cursor up with the d-pad or left thumbstick from the PDM and a more mundane left-right menu appears with icons for system or application settings, your friend list, trophies, notifications and the PlayStation Store. This is where you’ll tweak the system or delve into more nuanced or granular features; Sony’s just pulled it back a level, divvying the PS4′s interface into spotlight and offstage layers.

The Games

At launch, Sony has 23 games on deck and calls it the company’s strongest lineup ever. I have yet to sample (much less complete) many of these, and several won’t be available until launch day, but I can say the ones I have played don’t fall short of that claim (then again, it’s not a high hurdle to clear). Many on the list are recently released last-gen games with visual makeovers, and no one’s going to consider the inclusion of a game like Angry Birds Star Wars a make-or-break purchase, but a few — in particular Knack, Contrast, Resogun and Killzone Shadow Fall — distinguish themselves from the bunch.

Knack

Sony

Knack is Mark Cerny and SCE Japan Studio’s contribution, which makes it the most intriguing of the PS4 launch titles, since Cerny (pronounced SARE-nee) doubled as the PlayStation 4′s lead architect. It’s a bash-and-smash action game about a creature called “Knack” composed of magically animated, reconfigurable bric-a-brac, helping humanity battle goblins who’ve emerged from who-knows-where to overrun the planet.

While Knack stands just a few feet tall by default, he can glom on bits of metal, ice and other odds and ends to transform into a colossal wrecking machine. The framing story feels a little generic here, as if grudgingly tacked on to justify the central game conceit, but that conceit — unleashing a creature who can grow to the height of a three-story building — is deftly executed and beautifully articulated.

contrast

Compulsion Games

I was only able to sample Contrast during a review event hands-on, but it shot to the top of my PlayStation Network must-haves — a 1920s noir-themed action-platformer with a twist: you can shift from colorful 3D heroine to slender 2D silhouette, alighting on lamplit walls, clambering over the shadows of other 3D objects and puzzling your way along surfaces to unlock narrative sequences that gradually describe a young girl’s troubled, Pan’s Labyrinth-ian family history.

One of the levels involved a haunting carousel, the shadows of horses gliding along circling walls, the protagonist leaping from one shadow to another, flipping in and out of the world to maneuver between actual platforms and their flattened contours. In another level, you participate in a kind of theatrical production, flitting Limbo-like through a fantasy story-scape as the metaphorical tale unfurls.

resogun

Housemarque

If you were into Super Stardust HD on the Vita, you’ll probably adore Resogun, another shoot-em-up from developer Housemarque. Here, they’ve opted for a side-scroller, only with the levels folded around until the ends touch, letting you roll backwards or forwards without restrictions. The object of the game is to free and save tiny retro-stick-figure humans, powering up your ship and executing special attacks that include a kind of battle-ram maneuver that lets you arrow through waves of enemies, annihilating them without destroying yourself.

As Housemarque explained during the review event demonstration, one of the twists, since the levels are transparently cylindrical, is that you can see what’s going on on the other side of the level, forcing you to pay attention to keep tabs on what the enemy’s up to over yonder.

killzone-shadow-fall

Guerilla Games

And finally, Killzone Shadow Fall is grim, grim stuff — no surprise — but boy is it a looker, packing its dystopian Blade Runner-like vistas with buildings and more buildings and towering waterfalls and skyboxes that no longer feel like Truman Show skyboxes.

As I played through the solo campaign, the game reminded me increasingly of Dishonored, offering ever-widening paths to complete a mission, choosing stealthy or confrontational approaches and dealing with objectives in the order preferred. I can’t vouch for this one unreservedly yet, given how much more of the game there is to see, but it’s a lock for my library.

Sidebar: Game installs are now both compartmentalized and prioritized, allowing you to access different play modes, say the multiplayer facet of a game, without waiting as the single-player component silently stream-loads off the Blu-ray disc in the background. This double-dipping feature never slowed any of the games I tried, though even if had it, the install only occurs once.

That said, disc loading did occasionally cause the PS4′s interface to freeze for several seconds, which may be an argument for eschewing discs and going with direct downloads, since all of these games are obtainable directly through the PlayStation Store (the downside: Sony’s doesn’t support external USB hard drives, meaning you’ll have to upgrade the internal storage if you think you’ll fill that 409GB of accessible space quickly).

The Missing Features

Like Microsoft’s Xbox One, Sony’s PS4 launches with a day-one patch that wasn’t available during the review period. That means most have only seen the new PlayStation Store or online multiplayer or “Share” button functionality in demos.

What you’re not reading about here is considerable, in other words: all of the online features, the revamped PlayStation Network, the new sharing feature, all the new versions of otherwise familiar media apps and the system’s appeal as a multimedia consumption hub, the PS Vita Remote Play link — both on a high-speed LAN or through the cloud (I can say every developer I spoke with warned of latency issues with the latter) and Sony’s new, complementary PlayStation App that lets you control or interact with PS4 games or software using an iOS or Android smartphone or tablet (effectively enabling Wii U-like second-screen gameplay). I’ll circle back in a day or two, once I’ve had time to better absorb and assess the online experience.

 

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