Ever since Microsoft established the Xbox Game Pass, I’ve been saying that sooner or later other publishers will follow and create subscription services of their own that offer both past and present titles for a single monthly fee. Microsoft sweetened the deal by adding all of their upcoming first party games to the pass on day one. While Nintendo hasn’t done quite the same, their new Nintendo Online Service does grant you access to 20+ updated NES games so long as your subscription lasts, and the amount of NES titles will only continue to grow. It’s also safe to say that eventually SNES, N64, GameCube, and possibly even Wii titles will be added to that list, as “Nintendo Entertainment System - Nintendo Switch Online” is essentially the new virtual console, now turned into a Netflix like service that you get access to for $20/year in addition to online play and other benefits. EA also recently added the “Premier” tier to their Origin Access service. This new tier grants you access to all of EA’s upcoming titles, such as Battlefield V and Anthem, on day one for no additional charge in addition to a plethora of EA’s past titles and other third party offerrings. Microsoft’s service, in addition to Xbox One games, also offers over 600+ titles that include Xbox 360 and OG Xbox titles, and that’s just for $10/month.
PlayStation NOW, since it’s inception, has been a streaming service. It offers PS4 games, PS3 games, and I believe PS2 games(I do not have PSNow, but I do know that the recent changes allow you to download PS2 games.). You can also stream those games to your PC. But up until recently, there was never an option to download these games, it was strictly streaming, which is the opposite of the Xbox Game Pass which was strictly downloads(Though Microsoft is reportedly looking to expand that to include streaming.). Now Sony is adding the option to download both PS4 and PS2 titles, that are available on the service, to your PS4 system. PS3 titles are still stuck as streaming only.
Opening up the PlayStation NOW service to downloads instead of just streaming, which isn’t feasible for those with data caps or slow internet speeds, is a big step in the right direction for the service, but it still has its drawbacks compared to the competition, and it isn’t likely to change any time soon, maybe not even in this generation. The first downside is that Sony did NOT include their entire first party lineup as part of the service, meaning you still have to shell out a full $60 for each new game, which may or may not eventually be added to the service is Sony so desires. The second downside is that, as previously mentioned, PS3 games are still stuck as streaming-only titles. It’s an understandable decision, emulating PS3 games is a complete pain in the ass, and currently isn’t possible on the PS4. PS2 games get ported to the system, which is why they can be downloaded(Though the quality of those ports is pretty hit or miss. The Jak & Daxter games have sound issues for example.), but since the full library isn’t available as part of the pass, it’s a downside. The third downside is that PlayStation NOW costs more than the Xbox Game Pass, while offering less bang for your buck. I mean, it’s hard to top $10/month, but a service should be priced accordingly for what it offers(Origin Access Premier is also more expensive than Game Pass and offers less, but EA also only has so many titles, while Game Pass is comprised of titles from multiple third party publishers across three console generations. Nintendo Online Service gets a pass because the NES collection is rolled in with the paid online, so the $20/year price tag is justified).
The pricing of the service and the inclusion of all first party titles is something Sony can fix at the drop of a hat. I’m not saying they need to drop all the way down to $10, as nice as that would be, but just find a sweeter price point. And as I hashed out in a previous article, Sony could stand to make MORE money via monthly subscription fees, than individual game sales, and putting their recent and future games onto the service as day one titles, would probably get more people to sign up. The one problem Sony probably can’t fix this generation is the lack of PS3 emulation, lack of backwards compatibility. Microsoft worked emulation into the Xbox One, bringing the previous two generations forward, and they plan to bring all three current Xbox generations to their fourth generation system from the get go. Nintendo literally just dropped a NES emulator onto the Switch that was not there before, and it works great. In China, NVIDIA dropped a Wii emulator onto their Tegra Shield, which shares the same chip as the Nintendo Switch, basically meaning that NVIDIA could hand that emulator off to Nintendo, and Nintendo could in turn just drop it onto the Switch and open up “Nintendo Wii - Nintendo Switch Online” for Switch owners. The fact that Nintendo is making classic mini consoles has not stopped them from offering these old games on their current generation platforms, and it shouldn’t stop Sony either. The PlayStation 5 is a clean slate, and there is merit to backwards compatibility in addition to releasing brand new games. There’s always room for nostalgia and Sony’s systems have plenty of gems to bring forward. PS1, PS2, PS3, and PS4 could all be played on the PS5 so long as Sony puts the work into it, and it takes nothing away from their current-gen development. Add those games to PlayStation Now, and you’ve got a service I’d be more than willing to pay for.