It’s the past against the future. Hardware against the cloud. Xbox One backward compatibility against PlayStation Now. Being both services still in beta and pretty different, it’s hard and maybe even wrong to make a comparison between them. Anyway, after the E3 2015 Microsoft press conference and the backward compatibility announcement, people are starting to wonder if Gaikai expensive acquisition by Sony makes sense or if we even care about playing old games on new platforms.
So, as you can see, this topic is somehow hot and currently no one has actual answers to those questions, being both solutions still in their early days. What we can make is evaluate ups and downs from PlayStation Now and Xbox One backward compatibility, and judge which of them can lead in the mid and long term.
XBOX ONE BACKWARD COMPATIBILITY
As you might know, Xbox One backward compatibility, which allows you to play old Xbox 360 games you already own both digitally and physically, is now available for Preview Program
members. Basically, it’s in beta and will arrive for every Xbox user most probably in October.
What’s great with Xbox One backward compatibility is that your Xbox 360 games are instantly available for you to play on your latest console. You don’t have to download any single piece of software, nor pay once again to buy, rent, subscribe for games you already own. Another great news is that, according to the first tests, Xbox One virtual machine even makes your old games better and adds current-gen features like game DVR and achievements.
What you wouldn’t get about Xbox One backward compatibility is the small number of supported Xbox 360 games. Now, compatible games are just 18, but they will be 100 in time for launch and 200 by the holiday. If you register for PlayStation Now, you will get 100+ titles available via subscription and you can get 350+ for individual rental. So, even with its full potential expressed, you will just get 200 compatible titles off 700+ Xbox 360 games delivered in almost 10 years. The rest will depend on 2016 Microsoft updates, and we’ve yet to discover their plans about those.
In 2012, Sony acquired Gaikai for the whopping amount of $380 million. From that acquisition, PlayStation Now was born and we’ve yet to see the full potential of this new streaming platform, which is starting from cloud-based, multi-device backward compatibility but could in the long term future even replace PlayStation as a hardware-based console.
So, PlayStation Now is starting with backward compatibility for PlayStation 3 games but it’s future-proof, as it will sooner or later gain PlayStation 4 games compatibility, allowing us to play those titles on select devices (such as Smart TVs or Blu-Ray players). On one hand, furthermore, it’s interesting you don’t have to own a game in order to play it. So, for example, if you chose Xbox 360 in the last generation and now you are a PlayStation user (or don’t even have a game console), you can get a subscription or pay for a rental and access via streaming lots of software.
On the other hand, anyway, you will be forced to pay ($14,99 one month, $44,99 for three months; about $1 for most games rental) for PlayStation 3 games you already own if you want to play them on PlayStation 4 or select devices, as PS Now is not compatible with any kind of external software, both digital or physical. It’s a great limit of the platform. Moreover, you cannot access it in case you are not in the United States, in Canada or in the United Kingdom, at the moment (in Italy, the country I write from, we were said we won’t get it because of the slow Internet connection). If you can, you will be subject to all streaming services issues, such as being always online.
What’s the point, then, in this Xbox One backward compatibility against PlayStation Now? From the startup, Xbox One backward compatibility looks like more immediate and correct to gamers as consumers: you won’t have to spend one more dollar to play old games on your Xbox One consoles, if you own them. For sure, judgement over this will all depend on how Microsoft manages to keep its promise of 200 games available in time for holiday and how fast (and good) it will work in 2016 to extend the list of available titles.
PlayStation Now appears like a service not though directly for long-time gamers but for those who want gaming experiences away from standard consoles. Sony thinks it can make some money thanks to this trend but, if hardcore fans will require backward compatibility, it will have to make a step back and run through the same path Microsoft is now walking on.