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.