Our gaming boxes have been passive receptacles for streaming TV shows and movies for years now. They've all approached it in more or less the same way - install the app for Netflix, load it up, and hope you can find something interesting. Their significance as media hubs has waned over the last few years as an increasing number of cheap, tiny, set-top boxes have provided the same function. But Sony's new PlayStation Vue service could put PS3 and PS4 back at the center of the streaming household.
PlayStation Vue is the culmination of a year's worth of rumblings from Sony Computer Entertainment: a monthly subscription service which offers live access to a number of channels and on-demand streaming for recent shows. No more bugging relatives for their service provider details so you can log in to dozens of individual channel apps - all you need is an internet connection.
Sony says it will offer PS Vue for a 'fair and competitive price' on a month-to-month subscription, giving consumers access to live television with none of the dread-inspiring contracts that are standard for cable or satellite providers. The service will launch with about 75 channels for each market, from an initial lineup of companies including CBS, Discovery Communications, Fox, NBCUniversal, Scripps Networks Interactive, and Viacom.
It's still not a perfect utopia of watch-what-you-want-when-you-want: individual episodes of 'popular programming' will only remain online for three days after their air date. No signing up for a month, binging a program, and cancelling your subscription - you'll have to stick with Netflix for that. However, users can save episodes of select favorite shows for up to 28 days.
An invite-only beta for PS Vue will launch in New York City later this month. Eventually the service will expand to more locations, further Sony devices, iPads and more, with a full launch planned for the first quarter of 2015. Unfortunately, the company has 'nothing to announce' about launching the service outside the US launching the service outside the US at this time.
As products like Amazon Fire TV and Google's Nexus Player compete to deliver the best traditional video streaming experience, PlayStation is quietly edging toward the dream scenario where users can finally get all their TV programming - not a lot of it, but all of it - over the internet. Remember how PS2's reasonably priced DVD drive helped it sell like gangbusters as the medium took off? Now PS3 and PS4 are at the forefront of a new standard for video streaming, and savvy media consumers may once again be unable to resist.
Exciting a prospect as flipping one last bird to cable and satellite providers may be, PS Vue is far from a guaranteed hit (remember how TVii on Wii U, erm, changed the world?). Will it be able to secure enough channels and offer a good selection of shows on demand? Just how 'fair and competitive' will its prices be? We'll just have to wait and see. But for folks who want to cut every cord but the ethernet cable, PlayStation is starting to look pretty appealing.