With E3 right around the corner, we have a solid couple of days of conferences to look forward to. These flashy affairs are always filled with game announcements and reveals, complete with on-stage demos and trailers. Granted, if you’re tuning into Sony’s or Microsoft’s conferences, there’s always a good fifteen minutes or so dedicated to products and services outside of gaming.
These housekeeping sections (as I like to call them) can fall on the side of boring at times, but occasionally there’s an interesting announcement or expansion of an existing service that will pique my interest. While there’s nothing to suggest we will hear about it this year, I’m desperately hoping to hear more about PlayStation Vue.
For the uninitiated, PlayStation Vue is Sony’s response to the traditional cable subscription companies. Another cord cutting service of sorts, Vue offers different tiers of packages, which usually range from $30 to $50, depending on your region and amount of channels you want access to. With titles being stored on servers ‘in the cloud’, Vue offers most of their content on demand, eliminating the need to watch content ‘live’ or record it for later use.
I imagine that many will not have much experience with Vue in general, but Sony’s streaming service is enjoying a steadily growing adoption rate in my city and workplace. With rising cable costs, that are often bundled into expensive packages, ditching the cable portion of one’s bill is an attractive option for those looking to cut back on costs. Vue is also a godsend for those who have middling internet (that is still reliable enough to stream video), but have to rely on costlier (and occasionally unreliable) satellite TV to enjoy cable programming.
While standard, run-of-the-mill network shows tend to make it to more widespread streaming services over time, Vue’s biggest draw to many is the amount of sports-related programming, where watching live broadcasts is a must. With plenty of ESPN and Fox Sports channels included, and some more obscure sports coverage as well, Vue stands as a legitimate competitor to your traditional cable subscription.
Still, the biggest change that we want to see is the availability of Vue. While you can currently stream to Sony consoles, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, and iOS devices, the success of Vue is going to depend on its widespread adoption, which can be facilitated by including it on more devices. While I have no doubt that it will make its way to TVs at some point (as a pre-packaged app on ‘smart’ TVs), I’m more interested in seeing PlayStation Vue on PC.
While some might balk at the idea of Sony moving its services to the PC, it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility. A few months ago, Sony expanded the PS4’s remote play feature to desktop PCs, which can be accessed through a downloadable desktop app. Arguably, the PC works better than other devices for remote play, as you can eliminate latency that stems from wireless streaming by wiring devices via Ethernet.
When it comes to PlayStation Vue, adapting the service for PCs and laptops would serve as an additional incentive to bring new customers on board, as well as keeping current customers subscribed. The ability to (seamlessly) watch TV on your computer would be a godsend, but being able to take advantage of your subscription throughout your home (and on the go) makes Vue that much more attractive. There’s also the added benefit of multitasking with Vue on a computer, and while I’m sure some cable companies would be hesitant of adding a local DVR feature, the added storage and processing power a computer offers would allow for easier recording of programming.
There’s also the possibility to add PlayStation Now to PCs as well. PlayStation Now, Sony’s on-demand game streaming service, is in full release on the PlayStation 4, 3, and Vita, in addition to select Sony and Samsung TVs. The ability to stream PlayStation 3 games on the fly is alluring, assuming you have a stable internet connection to back it up. With support for PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and even PlayStation 4 games being considered, the streaming service could also see new life on the PC, where the ability to play games from decades ago (through services like Good Old Games) is considered the norm. The more capable hardware of PCs would also allow for increased image quality and fidelity when streaming games, as PlayStation Now is currently capped to 720p at 60 frames per second.
There’s plenty of room and opportunity for Sony to step up its support for the PC, and this even extends to its current iteration of their DualShock controller. While the DualShock 4 can be connected via USB cable to a PC, with a lack of driver support from Sony, it’s up to developers to include native support on a game by game basis. The other option is to use third party software to trick your computer into thinking the DualShock 4 is an XInput device. Wireless connectivity is an option via Bluetooth, but the increased latency when playing wirelessly is too much for certain reflex/timing based games. Whether it take the form of official driver support, or an optional adapter to facilitate wireless connectivity, official support for the DualShock 4 on PC needs to be addressed.
It’s admittedly not as flashy as revealing a new game or reviving a long-forgotten franchise, but Sony has been dedicated to continuing to roll out and expanding their range of services, and we can only hope that they choose to look towards the PC space next. While some might argue that Sony has no need to support the PC space in the first place, there’s a large potential to drive the expansion of their services by adopting it for a widespread platform like the PC, and with Microsoft faltering recently with their roll-out of games on Windows 10, Sony could be poised to gain a foothold and a new audience with increased support for PCs.