Sony Unveils ‘PlayStation Now’ Streaming Game Service at CES 2014

The grand experiment is underway.

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Consider the grand experiment underway: Sony just re-announced (and rebranded) its Gaikai-based game streaming tech for PlayStation 4 (and more) at CES 2014, dubbing it “PlayStation Now” and pitching it as a device-agnostic way to get your last-gen fix.

Sony Computer Entertainment president and group CEO Andrew House took the stage after a lengthy Kazuo Hirai-led sequence (that included an impromptu sit-down with Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan) to dish about the new streaming service.

The good news: PlayStation 2 game support is finally returning to a current Sony console (after Sony nixed it in the PS3’s early days). The uncertain news: all those games are going to live in the cloud, and be contingent on Internet speeds and network stability. House said the service will support PS3 games as well, though I didn’t hear him explicitly say PS1 games — I’d assume they’ll be in the mix, too.

The kind-of-fascinating news: all those games will be streamable to the PS4, PS3 and PS Vita as well as tablets and TVs, so Sony’s going wide (as it should). As House put it, the service will “introduce the world of PlayStation to a world of non-console owners, smartphones, TVs and other devices,” noting that you’ll soon be able to “play your favorite PlayStation 3 games on a tablet.” Sony’s demonstrating the technology on Sony Bravia TVs and Vita systems at its CES booth.

While House makes claims of low latency — the same claims others have been making for years about cloud gaming services, most notably the folks at OnLive — I have yet to play a cloud-streamed game, whether over a high-speed Internet connection or a tricked-out, high-speed wireless LAN, that didn’t suffer periodic visual glitching or input lag. Doubtless Sony’s going to put on its best show at CES 2014 with an insanely fast (and thus non-representative) network backbone, but in the real world, where you can’t lock in consistent Internet speeds, I’m concerned this sort of game experience is still going to be limited to demoing games before buying local disc-based or digital versions. I can see stream-playing casual games, where I don’t care as much about graphical fidelity or input latency, but I’m going to need some convincing to make a service like PlayStation Now my go-to for stuff like The Last of Us, or any of the Battlefields.

A few quick questions: Will each game have to be retouched for interface support? (Presumably, and if so, don’t expect a flood of titles at launch.) Will Sony allow us to pair Bluetooth DualShock controllers with tablets or smartphones if we prefer that control method? Imagine your tablet or smartphone becoming a portable PlayStation 1, 2 or 3; imagine your TV becoming the same, sans set-top.

If I heard House right, Sony’s going to offer both a per-game and subscription-based (all access?) model. No word on pricing, but the closed beta launches at the end of January, with full rollout expected this summer.

MORE: Check out TIME Tech’s complete CES coverage

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