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Why inconsistent pricing is Playstation Now's biggest hurdle

Streaming games you don't own on your Sony devices? That sounds pretty sweet, and it's what PlayStation Now offers with its catalogue of rentals. Now that it's in open beta, any and all PSN users can check it out. At its core, PS Now is an all-access pass to Playstation's massive game library, from modern classics to hidden gems. While that sounds amazing, one huge problem seems like it could hold it back from greatness: inconsistent pricing.

It just makes zero sense to charge more for a game rental than full ownership, yet this issue litters PS Now in its current form. Dead Island: Riptide? $24.99 for a 90-day rental on PS Now, but only $21.20 to buy your own disc on Amazon. Darksiders 2? Same price for a rental, compared to $18.86 for a physical copy. Even Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition is edged out when it comes to cost. A 90-day rental for $22.90 is a weird price in and of itself, and that's also undercut at $20.98 by Amazon for the whole shebang. This forces the consumer to choose between hunting down a physical copy for cheaper, or paying more for instant, time-limited access.

Those are the most egregious price disparities, but there are some decent values here. Alone in the Dark: Inferno will cost you just $4.99 for a 90-day rental, while buying it Amazon will run you around $40. As long as you can finish a game within 90 days, a rental like this is a great value. And this doesn't just apply to full-price retail releases; downloadable games like Bloodrayne: Betrayal and Bionic Commando Rearmed 2 are just $3.99 for a week-long rental (plenty of time to finish either) versus $9.99 for full purchases.

Thing is, several titles are priced so unwisely that just springing an extra few bucks will get you the full game. Killzone 3 is $14.99 for a 90-day rental, and just $18.99 on Amazon. Twisted Metal has the same rental price, and only $15.80 online. This slight price difference is enough to sway many away from a rental.

This pricing disparity must be overcome because, simply put, there are better ways for PS Now to function. Is the answer a subscription model? That could work--a flat, monthly fee for unlimited rentals, like Gamefly's model, can sate even the hungriest Sony fanboy. And a flat subscription fee would make the value of individual rentals irrelevant. An all-encompassing price versus standalone rentals is just a smarter way for gamers to spend their hard-earned money. It's a value proposition that appeals to both thrifty gamers and hardcore fans.

But whose responsibility is it to keep these prices fair and balanced? Who has to decide among individual rentals, subscriptions, or deepening the catalogue? Sony. PS Now isn't something you look at and think, "Look at all those Way Forward games" or, "Wow, Square Enix titles!" This is a Sony PlayStation venture. Sony is a used car salesman here, and only the worst salesman in the world would charge more for a rental car than a brand new car of the same model.

In its current (and yes, still beta) form, PlayStation Now just doesn't seem like all that great of a deal. It's Sony's responsibility to remedy this by simply offering reasonable, competitive prices across the board. Otherwise, PlayStation Now might never get off the ground--and that would be awful news in an age when digital downloads are so much more convenient than physical media.

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11 comments

  • FoxdenRacing - August 1, 2014 12:23 p.m.

    Well, there goes my interest. Discrete rentals are dead; digital distribution isn't going to change that. The only way this is going to have a chance is to be Netflix-style, all-you-can-play.
  • cricket0 - August 1, 2014 9:47 p.m.

    They did say that a subscription model is being set up, and it will probably be ready and available once it gets out of beta. Here is a video showing them actually saying this http://youtu.be/MCyAT9PBgEc
  • Lurkero - July 31, 2014 7:36 p.m.

    I don't think PS Now is trying to compete with Amazon and Gamestop. PS Now is a way to get people comfortable with a new business model. A digital business model of the future. If this isn't a long play by Sony then they are likely going to fail.
  • _--_ - July 31, 2014 6:23 p.m.

    --its understandable that Sony is charging 'getting started' prices --but --companies like Amazon(with their blood thirsty traders) --and Ebay --make it almost impossible for any company 'selling' video games to make money --Amazon alone --will put the final nail in gamestop's already lidded coffin --incase you didnt know --EVERYTHING is cheaper on Amazon(and EVERYTHING is on there) --and with older stuff (like video games over a year old) --video games are DIRT CHEAP on there(and the stuff is brand new)
  • garnsr - July 31, 2014 6:14 p.m.

    Wait, PSNow lets you play PS3 games on PS4, right? In that case you can't play the discs on that system anyway, so the argument sort of falls apart. In any case, the pricing seems out of whack for any situation.
  • GOD - July 31, 2014 8:20 p.m.

    Same thing I was thinking. Sure you have to pay a little more for your 90 day PS Now rental, but it saves you the cost of having to buy a PS3 if you don't have one.
  • brickman409 - August 1, 2014 10:38 p.m.

    but they also said that PS now will be coming to PS3. When that happens, they really need to change their pricing.
  • garnsr - July 31, 2014 6:12 p.m.

    What about the prices of buying a game from the store or renting it on PSNow? Will they have two different versions, or only the streaming ones now?
  • Cyberninja - July 31, 2014 5:45 p.m.

    This is why I really hate the lack of backwards compatiblity you have access to better prices if you have a PS3, if you want to play these on PS4 you are kinda screwed in that regard
  • SpadesSlick - July 31, 2014 4:45 p.m.

    Sony has to pay far more in overhead than a simple streaming service because they gotta process your inputs and generate and encode the video in a timely fashion. I think the primary problem they are running into is that the margins simply aren't there yet until the cost of processing power goes down more
  • Jib-47 - July 31, 2014 4:10 p.m.

    If Sony is too concerned with giving too much away for too little then they should consider this: have a monthly subscription but instead of making it all inclusive offer something like unlimited 1-hour rentals, 3 full week rentals, and 1 or 2 full month rentals. Everything over and above that could be paid for perhaps at a discount for subscription holders. Otherwise they could offer a few 1-hour rentals on the house and have a standard pricing method for the other games, for those who don't have a subscription. I believe people would be more willing to try out some new games if they have a chance to try them risk free before committing money to them.

Showing 1-11 of 11 comments

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