We know a lot about the PlayStation 4's hardware, the controller, the various other accessories and even the games but what about the PlayStation Network, the backbone behind the system? While the PlayStation 3 used the PlayStation Network in much of it's day-to-day operations, it was still an optional part of the system; however, with the PlayStation 4, almost all the new features reside around the PSN, making it necessary for a user to connect their PlayStation 4 to the net to fully experience the system.
PlayStation Now Finds It's Footing
One of the main questions on everyone's mind when it comes to PS4 is the issue of backwards compatibility. Part of the reason we're paying for online now via PlayStation Plus was the plan to implement a streaming service similar to Netflix, but for previously released games on older systems.
The solution we received was PlayStation Now. The idea was awesome: stream games directly to your console from previous systems, skirting the backwards compatibility issue. When it first launched in public beta though, you had to pay ridiculous prices to simply rent games from the service. Everyone was hoping they would switch to a subscription model and now that announcement has finally come.
Playstation Now - PS3 Games
Starting on January 13, 2015 players will be able to subscribe to PlayStation Now to access their catalog of over 100 PS3 games and counting. The service will allow you to pick and stream these games much like you would a movie or TV show on the Netflix app. Now downloads, no waiting.
Pricing is as follows:
These prices may seem a little high, but with the ability to play anything you want immediately over your internet connection, there's potential to get your money's worth fairly quickly. Sony has said that they are going to continue growing and evolving the service but this marks a major milestone in the backwards compatibility issue.
Introducing the New PlayStation Network
At it's core, the PlayStation Network revolves around the new “Share” button and its features. Through your profile, you can share photos, videos, tips and messages to other users in an expanded version of the very limited social features available on the PlayStation 3. You can instantly tweak, edit, and upload your screenshots and videos to your social media profiles as well.
No longer can someone claim that you didn't accomplish a feat of impossible proportions because you can upload that clip to the internet immediately after it happens. If you fancy yourself an internet celebrity, you can also stream your gameplay to Twitch and Ustream with the Share button.
Connecting to the PlayStation Network won't just be to play a multiplayer game or send a quick text message; it will be to connect to larger community full of like-minded gamers sharing stories, pictures and experiences.
For hardcore PS4 gamers, you'll most likely need a lot of room on your Friends List; luckily, Sony has commented that the PlayStation 4 version of the PlayStation Network will allow you to over more than 100 friends on your friend list, addressing one of the major complaints gamers have with the previous limitations of the PSN. In fact, the PlayStation 4 friends list will now hold a whopping 2,000 users! This is double the size of the Xbox One's friend list. In addition, Party chat will support up to eight people simultaneously.
Party chat works between the PlayStation 4 and Vita as well. What this means is that no matter what games or even systems you and your friends are playing, you will always be able to chat with one another via the PlayStation Network.
The PS4 version of the PlayStation Network has even tighter integration with social network services such as Facebook, Ustream and Twitch, even going so far as to display your real name on the PSN pulled from these services along with importing your Facebook friends to your PlayStation 4.
For users concerned about safety, Sony has made it clear that it's not required to display your real name and that you must agree to displaying it before its actually displayed. However, you will never be able to find another PS4 user by his/her real name, as you can only search for users via their PSN ID.
For those users with a PlayStation Vita, the PlayStation Network will now enable you to start playing a game on the PlayStation 4 and, when someone else needs to use the television or you just want some fresh air, stream that game to your Vita allowing you to play that same PS4 game on the Vita. This feature is dependent on you having a WI-Fi connection so if you plan on leaving your house and playing Call of Duty in the middle of nowhere, you're going to have some issues.
Is PS4's Online Free?
Perhaps the biggest question on everyone's mind is “Will the PlayStation Network remain free?” Last generation Sony's biggest competitor, Microsoft, charged $59.99 for the ability to play a game online or use an application such as Netflix or the Web browser. Sony defiantly stood against charging prices for features gamers should have by default; to that end, the PlayStation 3's version of the PlayStation Network offered free online play, free access to online applications such as Netflix and even the use of a Web browser.
As we step into a new console generation, there is no doubt that Microsoft will keep it's price tag to play online, but will Sony add one? In order to stay competitive and offer as many features as possible, the answer is yes.
Sony revealed at E3 2013 that a PlayStation Plus membership is now required for online play. Memberships will run $50 a year and as an added bonus, Sony offers two free games per month to PS4 users who subscribe to the service.
However, Sony has clarified that free-to-play games, such as Blacklight: Retribution, will not need a PlayStation Plus membership and that it will be up to the individual publishers whether they will require it or not.
One aspect of the PlayStation 4's online feature set is that the system will automatically patch your games when it is connected online and in standby mode regardless of whether you are a PlayStation Plus subscriber or not! On the PlayStation 3, this feature was restricted to just PS Plus members.
With every PlayStation 4 purchase comes 14 days of free PlayStation Plus access, letting you sample everything the service has to offer within a two week period! You also won't need Plus to stream or post content using the Share button.
But Can It Watch Movies?
Many of the applications you've come to love on previous versions of the PlayStation Network will be available on the PlayStation 4:
- Amazon Instant Video
- Hulu Plus
- Sony's Video Unlimited Service
- NHL Gamecenter
- Redbox Instant
- NBA Game Time
A PlayStation Plus subscription is not required to use any video service, such as Netflix or Hulu Plus. While a subscription to that service will be required, a separate PlayStation Plus subscription will not be unlike the Xbox One, where both Xbox Live Gold and the separate subscription are both requirements.
Standalone HBO GO
In a shocking Otcober 2014 announcement, HBO announced that it will offer a standalone subscription service. Previously, a cable subscription (along with an HBO subscription) is required to access the HBO app on the PlayStation 4, but HBO has revealed plans to let people purchase this subscription separately.
All past and present shows will be featured in this subscription, and viewers can watch these shows directly through the HBO Go app on the PS4 when it launches. Price and release date for this app and service have not yet been announced.
NFL Sunday Ticket
NFL Sunday Ticket service is on the PlayStation Network! This service lets you watch any game that is playing, regardless of what your local stations are showing -- perfect for that fan who has to see every game their team plays!
If you subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket on DIRECTV, you can use the service on your PS4 without any additional charges. If you don't have DIRECTV, the service is only available in select locations, universities, and apartment buildings. The stand alone service is either $239.99 for console streaming and $329.99 for mobile devices and consoles.
On January 2015, Sony announced the closure if its Music Unlimited service, which will take place on March 29th, 2015, at which point Spotify will take its place. Spotify, the popular app that lets you stream a large variety of music, is available in both free and paid varieties. Sony has announced that gamers can sign up for a Spotify account using the PlayStation Network ID.
Spotify will be available in 41 markets when it launches.
What About My Trophies?
Trophies, a record of your accomplishments for performing certain feats on the PlayStation 3, are a badge of honor for some gamers. Having a high trophy count is like saying "Hey, I'm awesome at video games!" and the thought of having to start over from scratch on the PlayStation 4 isn't a happy one to gamers in this mindset.
Luckily you won't need to worry about those little bronze, silver, gold, and platinum things disappearing on you. You transfer your PSN I.D credentials over to PS4 when you first activate it so everything you are as a gamer gets transferred with you.
Sony has recently confirmed that the PlayStation 4 will not support Bluetooth headsets for online voice chat, contrary to the PlayStation 3. USB headsets are supported however if you have the latest system firmware installed.
A feature that was often requested on the PlayStation 3 has finally materialized with the PlayStation 4: gamers who have sub, or child, accounts, can now transform their account into a full account when they turn 18. Everything carries over, from profiles to trophies, when the transition occurs.
A lot of the PlayStation Network is still a mystery that Sony is uncovering piece by piece -- check this page frequently because when Sony unveils another piece to this puzzle, we'll add the information! In the meantime, check out the PS4 Specs page, PS4 Price page and PS4 Controller page to stay up-to-date on all the features of the PlayStation 4!
Update by - Bradley Ramsey
Insert Date: 1/6/2015