Sony’s Worst Opponent to its Cloud Endeavors will be its Own Fan-Base

Gamers are a pretentious lot. In their discussion of anything new and innovative, they oppose anything that walks, talks, looks, and smells different than the exact way in which they game. It seems like XBox fans have grown slightly more amenable to Microsoft taking gaming in new vectors. I think that they get that that has become essential for the survival of the brand. PlayStation loyalists still seem fairly entrenched, though. When PlayStation games started coming to PC more regularly, they decried no longer feeling that were being treated “special”. Even when those games came to PC four years after initial release. When Hulst recently indicated that they would come to PC more regularly and suggested even less lag, the wailing and gnashing of teeth grew louder. And now that Sony is patenting methods for streaming its games on appliance-level IOT devices, I expect the outcries on Twitter Spaces to commence anew. As soon as everyone sobers up from New Years.

The PlayStation community has been the most vocal in its pushback on the notion of Cloud Game Streaming; no surprise, since XBox has been one of the primary proponents of this technological advance. Much in the way XBox fans were against $70 video games because Sony went down that path before Microsoft. Until, of course, Microsoft did the same, and then that camp’s pushback went remarkably silent. When it comes to Cloud Game Streaming, PlayStation fans tend to not believe it’s “a thing”. They tend to voice that “console gamers don’t want that experience”. All the while miraculously being oblivious to their own statement undoing the very rationale of their logic. It’s not about what experiences console gamers want. It’s about the experiences that customers in a different demographic of the addressable market want. Put more simply, it’s not for you.

It’s weird to me that Sony fans take this approach even though Sony bought Gaikai back in 2012. Five years before Game Pass was announced. Eight years before we got the inklings of what XBox Cloud Gaming would be.

Seven years before Google announced Stadia. For those who have been around the platforms and been paying attention to the industry and console evolutions, the expectation was always that Cloud Game Streaming would obtain some foothold, even as we watched OnLive go through its apogee and its sale to Sony. While we saw the service sunset, the outlook was that Sony would use the technology to merge as a cornerstone of its own platform foundation and put it to good use.

Whether or not Sony has done that is debatable. While I had interest in 2012 in its Cloud maneuvers, the launch of the PlayStation Network in 2006 and the compromise of said network in 2011 were persistent reminders that Sony was not a software, networks, or services company. It is an electronics and entertainment company, and that still holds true to this day. But it has been relatively quiet on the Eastern Front since Ryan said in 2019, five months after the announcement of Stadia, that

“We believe the streaming era is upon us and is about to begin a period of rapid growth.”

Ars Technica –

Good that it was “upon Sony” in 2019…four years after it had launched PlayStation Now, (now rolled into PlayStation Plus). That uses the legacy Gaikai technology to deliver its content to Windows PCs as a streaming service component of the larger service fabric.

And that is the only place that its Cloud service is being delivered to. Not Linux PCs. Not Macs. Not iOS devices. Not Android. For Pete’s sake. The entire point of the Cloud is to be platform and hardware agnostic. And yet, here we see Sony still mired in a platform-centric modality of thinking; proof that in many ways, Sony is hampered by an inability to get out of its own way.

As well as that of its most vocal fanbase. But this ship may be slowly but surely changing course. The Activision merger is well-known to have caused Sony to avert its eyes from the stodgy but consistent strategies that got it to market dominance. And that’s a good thing. Fans never make good NFL head coaches. And in similar vein, PlayStation needs to grab its balls and forge forward into areas that it has previously avoided or only made tepid toe-dips into. While console gamers may be its core, the growth in that demographic is constrained. Because the number of people who are willing to play games, but are not interested in buying a $400 or $500 technology appliance is much larger than even its current install-base. As the mobile industry has been proving since 2007.

Cloud game streaming is here to stay. The vast majority of developers are engineering and tooling their production pipelines with Cloud game streaming as a primary future target. It’s part of the reason why nVidia deployed its GDN (Graphics Delivery Network); don’t let all of the AI/ML marketing-speak lead you to believe that that is its sole purpose. And don’t follow console “pundits” who insist that Cloud game streaming is “not a thing”. For over a decade now, its fruition has been unquestionable; a matter of “when” rather than “if”. Hopefully Sony’s patent indicates an intention to get there before that ship sails. Before it finds itself looking like Research in Motion (RIM), stodgily refusing to change before it is too late.

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