PlayStation Now – PS3 Games on the Cloud

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I’m going to graduate from master course and joining doctoral course in the next few months. I started to search what should be my theme. I like playing games (a casual player but plays for many hours). I like advancements in computer technologies and also services that they enables. Game streaming would be a good topic to do research for, and it does benefit to (sub)societies too!

As network connection bandwidth becomes more abundant, bigger and complex contents can be delivered in a meaningful time. From the past, contents in the Internet has evolved from texts, images, GIF animations, songs, videos, productivity suites or even games. I could not imagine watching YouTube videos at 1080p without pausing 3 years ago, but then I can.

Sony wants to make use of this connection has enabled. You can find there are many apps or internet services doing music or video streaming. Sony wants to stream games to your house. It’s not watching streamed Twitch gaming channels but actually playing games by yourself.

The name of this service is PlayStation Now. It is an add-on to PlayStation Plus subscription. It allows you to play selected PlayStation 3 games (and other PS generations in the future) right off the Internet. Sony has prepared PS3 servers (modified to be a server) for this. There is no download time. Everything is already on the servers. Eligible devices that can use this service are PS4, PS3, PS Vita, PS TV and Bravia TV.

The technology I speculate to work behind the curtain is AMD Rapid Fire. 

It provides an API for game streaming. A server does all computation both graphic and audio, and it compresses and sends them over RTSP to its client. Video is encoded in h.264 format. Audio codec is not disclosed in the slide. A client performs media decoding and collecting and sending user interaction events. Therefore, it is basically you are watching a YouTube video which allows you to control where you want to go or do.

On the client side, AMD is used in PS4 x86 64-bit CPU. For PS3 which supposes to be the server, it uses totally different CPU architecture. The name is Cell. I cannot remember where did I saw that Sony prepares modified PS3 for its servers. But which architecture underlying the Rapid Fire may not be important. All you need is to get the media and conform to the API rules.

The flaw in streaming games is the latency between an end device and a server. This is a serious concern in many multiplayer action games. They say the minimum bandwidth for this is 5 Mbps and prefer lower latency connection as much as possible. One split second lag will blast your head off in a match (FPS players know). But it should be a little problem to single player games and non-real time game genres.

They are going to open a beta for this service in USA/Canada on July 31st, 2014. I could not wait to see all those feedback from players. So, if you happen to have a chance to join this opportunity, please share your story and comments down below. I’d love to discuss about them.

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