PlayStation Now preview: hands-on with Sony's cloud game streaming

Perhaps the biggest news from Sony's CES press conference this morning was the announcement of PlayStation Now. The end result of Sony's acquisition of Gaikai, the streaming service will initially let players access PS3 games on a variety of Sony devices, including PS3, PS4, Vita, and new Bravia televisions.

Being able to play God of War: Ascension on Vita was impressive, especially given how unreliable wi-fi can be at a conference as congested as CES. The novelty may have worn off for PS4 Remote Play users, but the ability to stream full console quality games to the handheld is nonetheless impressive.

PS4 Remote Play impressed me when I reviewed it late last year, but I noted that there was noticeable lag when it came to button inputs--and that's over a local wi-fi connection. Surprisingly, the demo I played at CES performed far better: it felt like there was mild lag while controlling Kratos, but I was able to play through an entire boss (QTEs and all) without a hitch. In terms of video quality, it is evident that the game isn't running natively on Vita. However, even with a little bit of artifacting, God of War was still quite the stunner running on Vita.

It's clear that not every game will be ideal for play on Vita via PlayStation Now. Vita is missing the L2, L3, R2, and R3 buttons, and they're awkwardly mapped to the rear touch panel of the system. (L2, for example, would be the top left corner of the touchpad.) That might be a little awkward for players of games where those buttons are used frequently, like first-person shooters. However, I didn't get any hands-on time with one, so I'll have to reserve my judgment.

Control will be less of a concern on PS3 and PS4, which is where the upcoming beta will debut. However, I wondered: how will Bravia TVs be able to access the content on Now? The service will be available on newer Bravia models, ones that have Bluetooth built-in. You'll be able to sync a DualShock 3 controller to your TV, letting you play games through an app you can access through your television.

There are all sorts of questions that went unanswered during my demo. For example, I unlocked a trophy during play--will those be able to communicate with your existing PSN account? And how will PlayStation Now work on devices like smartphones and tablets? Will you need to sync a DualShock, or will you be able to use (potentially terrible) touch-screen controls? However, with the beta launch focused on PlayStation consoles for now, Sony won't have to answer those questions quite yet.