PlayStation Now has an identity problem. Dubbed a "Netflix for games" type of service, it doesn't offer its own original content (Sony exclusives do not release into PS Now the day they launch at retail) and you can't actually stream it to a whole lot of devices. Streaming older titles to PS5, PS4, and PC is fine, but what it could really use is mobile streaming functionality. Make it a proper competitor to Xbox Game Pass for Android, Microsoft's cloud streaming service that started its life as xCloud.
Sony seems to have a renewed interest in mobile gaming as of late, if a job listing is any indication. The company appears to be hiring for a Head of Mobile role within PlayStation Studios, tasked with bringing its largest blockbuster franchises to mobile devices. This would be the perfect opportunity to expand Remote Play to PS Now. Could you imagine playing some of the best PS4 games on mobile through the subscription service?
Love it or hate it, you can't ignore the popularity and ubiquity of mobile gaming. According to the NPD Group, there were 239 million active mobile gamers across the United States and Canada in 2020 (that's roughly 65% of the population), a 12% increase from the previous year, and mobile gaming revenue in those two countries exceeded $16.2 billion.
Statista reports even more staggering global numbers. The mobile gaming industry generated nearly $75 billion across the world in 2020, accounting for almost half of global gaming market.
Microsoft understands the importance of mobile gaming. After bringing cloud streaming to Android, it's now expanding its capabilities to iOS devices. Cloud streaming is only available to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members, who pay $15/month for access to the service. Though it's unclear the number of Game Pass Ultimate users, the number of Game Pass users exceeded 18 million as of January 2021, and the number could be well over 20 million now. Based on the hard numbers, Microsoft gets nearly $180 million per month from Xbox Game Pass alone, not even accounting for Ultimate subscriptions. That's a lot of recurring revenue.
And to put that into perspective, PlayStation Now had a measly 2.2 million subscribers as of April 2020. Give players a good reason to start spending their money on it and they'll come out in droves, as Xbox Game Pass has proven.
When you combine the popularity of mobile gaming and a subscription service that offers hundreds of games on demand, you get a match made in heaven. That is the perfect way for Sony to subsidize the service. The company has already partnered with Microsoft on cloud gaming tech to make its streaming even better.
PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan recently spoke with Nikkei (translated by VGC) about PlayStation's potential cloud gaming capabilities. While they're still in talks with Microsoft, it's clear that Sony believes it has a bright future ahead of it.
"We're still having conversations with [Microsoft] about exchanging ideas," he said. "We're still talking to them about exchanging ideas, and there's some very interesting stuff, so when the time is right, we'll announce our cloud strategy.
"We could conceivably use the cloud for our technical infrastructure, but the cloud gaming experience we're offering will be unique and only on PlayStation."
Though he did not refer to PlayStation Now, I think it would be the perfect fit. It can already stream games to consoles and PC, it just needs to expand to mobile to hit that share of the market it's currently missing.
I've criticized PlayStation for shooting itself in the foot lately, but it has since walked back on some of its more unpopular decisions like closing the PS3 and PS Vita storefronts. Sony is listening in some capacity. I hope it can see the potential here for PlayStation Now to become a big xCloud competitor on mobile.
Like Netflix for games
PlayStation Now grants access to a catalogue of over 800 games available to stream directly to your PS4, PS5, or PC. What's is missing is streaming capabilities to mobile, and if it gets that, it would become a force to be reckoned with.
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Jennifer Locke has been playing video games nearly her entire life. You can find her posting pictures of her dog and obsessing over PlayStation and Xbox, Star Wars, and other geeky things.