Red Dead Redemption 2 is heading to PS Now in July, marking one of the biggest arrivals yet on PlayStation's peculiar streaming service.
In a blog post yesterday, PlayStation confirmed that Rockstar's sweeping cowboy epic would be joining the service until November 1 as a downloadable title on PS4 and PS5, alongside Judgement, Nioh 2, God of War, and the official Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 game. It's a broad line-up that is undoubtedly dominated by the presence of Red Dead Redemption 2, the type of blockbuster that stands out on any subscription service.
Taking a step back, PS Now is peculiar in the sense that it's hard to define what it actually is, despite existing in some form since 2014. Originally set up as PlayStation's streaming service, in recent years it's morphed into something similar in concept – if not execution – to Xbox Game Pass.
Users of the service can stream games to their PC, PS4, and PS5, while selected games can be downloaded instead, allowing players with less-than-ideal connection speeds to enjoy the game without having to worry about input lag. It's also been used as a low-key way of getting some backward compatibility for older PlayStation titles, with PS3 and PS2 games able to be played via PS Now.
The thing is, while Game Pass has become central to the Xbox experience – topping 23 million subscribers earlier this year – there's a good chance that the average player doesn't really know all that much about PS Now. Perhaps Red Dead Redemption 2 can change that.
PS Right Here, Right Now?
While Red Dead Redemption 2 is undoubtedly a big name for the service to boast, it's not the first time a AAA has washed up on its shores. First-party games such as Horizon Zero Dawn and Days Gone have been added in the past, while third-party titles such as Marvel's Avengers, Hitman 2, and even GTA 5 have been a part of the service. Like Game Pass, they rotate in and out, but because PS Now doesn't have every Sony exclusive in the way that Game Pass, it doesn't hold the same allure.
Plus, PS Now has never quite been able to shake off it's streaming origins. While Game Pass is called the Netflix of gaming, PS Now initially was closer to it, in a technicality sort of way, considering you could only stream games through it. In recent years, the ability to download some – again, not all – games means that PS Now should be a more attractive service, especially for people who aren't fortunate enough to live in an area with strong network speeds. Coupled with a price point that is competitive with Game Pass (it's £7.99/$9.99 for base Game Pass, £8.99/$9.99 for PS Now) and in many ways, PlayStation already has a Game Pass competitor hiding in plain sight.
And yet, it's hard to shake the suspicion that this is yet another moment where PS Now isn't going to make a case for itself. PlayStation bosses have openly spoken about putting together a Game Pass competitor in the past, such as when Jim Ryan said about a potential PlayStation Game Pass last November: "We have news to come, just not today. We have PS Now which is our subscription service, and that is available in a number of markets." On the surface, that quote seems to highlight PS Now, but by teasing future news, it only seems to reinforce the idea that PS Now is a lost cause, a stop gap until an inevitable rebrand.
Of course, as mentioned above, the other key factor is PlayStation exclusives. Simply put, Game Pass is such good value as it opens up the door to every Xbox exclusive. It was a necessary reaction to years of struggle on Xbox's part, which PlayStation hasn't suffered since the early PS3 days. Does Sony have the need and desire to open up the door to its entire library of exclusives, when people are still happy to buy them individually? While Red Dead Redemption 2 offers a more compelling case for PS Now, it's hard to see players gravitating to it unless they can pick and choose from Sony's current library.