You Can Play PS3 Games on Your PlayStation 4 Next Year

We have an official launch...year.

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We’ve known for some time that Sony’s planning to fold PS3 games into the PlayStation 4’s ecosystem vis-a-vis Gaikai’s cloud streaming tech, but we didn’t know when — until today.

While we’re still hazy on the timeframe, we can rule out the PS4’s November 15 launch, or any time in 2013, according to Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida, who identified the service’s North American debut as simply “2014” during a Tokyo Game Show roundtable.

Yoshida didn’t divulge pricing, or whether current physical or digital ownership of a PS3 game would factor into said pricing plans (I’m guessing digital maybe, physical probably not). IGN, which captured the event on video, says Yoshida contrasted the service with Netflix and noted Sony would need to launch with a solid lineup if it wants to entice buyers (no arguments from me). You’ll be able to play the games on the PS4, the PS Vita or Vita TV.

Bear in mind what Gaikai is: a cloud streaming service that passes along a compressed video stream of a game rendered on a remote server. Its fidelity, visually speaking, depends on several things staying in sync, most of all the speed of your Internet connection.

Speaking from experience with OnLive, the once-and-maybe-not-future cloud streaming golden child, image quality can vary, sometimes significantly. At best, it’s still less pristine than the native version of a game running locally; at worst, it resembles an artifact-riddled Skype or FaceTime call in the throes of stuttering off the rails. Unless I’m wrong about whatever form the final PS4 version of Gaikai takes, and I don’t think I will be, I wouldn’t use it to play older PlayStation games. Not unless Sony yanks the PlayStation Store, and I can’t imagine it ever doing that.

I will, on the other hand, avail myself of Gaikai’s clever try-a-game-before-buying-it angle (whether the whole game, or just a demo). That, anytime video and screen capture, and Remote Play for the PS Vita (where streaming’s handled locally without the mercurialness of the Internet — err, maybe) are where cloud streaming has my attention.