In a wide-ranging investor presentation that focused on Sony’s future gaming plans, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO Jim Ryan echoed comments from companies like Google in saying “we believe the streaming era is upon us and is about to begin a period of rapid growth.”
To support that bold statement, Ryan cited Sony’s own internal data on the 5.6 million PS4 owners that use the system’s Remote Play functionality, which essentially turns the console into a home server that can stream games to PC/Mac, iOS, and Xperia-branded Android devices. The “growing appetite” for that feature among PS4 users is “one of the concrete reasons we feel the move to streaming is upon us,” Ryan said, and the feature will make a return for the PS4’s console successor.
Sony has also learned a lot about streaming’s potential from PlayStation Now, the streaming game service it launched in 2015. In opening remarks, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida said examining usage patterns for PlayStation Now’s 700,000 subscribers has taught the company “what kinds of games fit the needs of people who subscribe to such a service. We intend to strengthen content catalog, including AAA titles, and are working to make those improvements.”
Ryan added that “you will see focus of improving the quality of game that we have on [PlayStation Now]” going into the next generation, with many more first- and third-party titles made available for streaming on top of the 780 games currently on offer.
Servers, bandwidth, and competition
Sony also stressed how its head start in game streaming has given it insight into how to provide a high-quality, latency-free streaming game experience for its users. Yoshida highlighted that the company has spent five years “accumulat[ing] technnology and patents to minimize latency. Going forward we will continue to accumulate more technology and knowhow.”
Yoshida said that Sony will “leverage the latest computing, streaming, cloud, and 5G technology” to make sure the streaming experience continues to be “seamless.” Ryan added that Sony’s recently announced partnership with Microsoft on streaming technology should be seen as a “statement of serious intent” to keep improving the growth and scale of PlayStation Now, but offered no further details.
Ryan said that he makes “no apologies” for rolling out PlayStation Now slowly to 19 different countries on a staggered schedule. By not rushing, he said, the company has been able to test, learn, and iterate to “make sure there’s a proper ‘PlayStation experience'” on the service as it expanded to 15 data centers and 37 network points of presence.
Thanks to technology acquired from Gaikai in 2012, Ryan said Sony can provide “ultra-low latency with [a network connection of] only 5 Mbps” (that doesn’t completely match up with our network tests from 2015, for what it’s worth).
Google, for its part, recommends at least a 25Mbps connection for a quality experience on its Stadia streaming platform. Ryan sees Sony’s lower bandwidth threshold as a “strategically important point of difference” with competitors which “will allow us to expand into markets where bandwidth may be a gating factor.”
Ryan included a few other veiled jabs at Stadia and other potential streaming gaming competitors, though he didn’t mention any by name. For one, he highlighted how Sony continues to believe in “gamer choice,” providing streaming as just an option on top of locally run disc-based and downloadable games. “We never forced the digital model on any one,” Ryan said, reiterating that then next-generation PlayStation would continue to sport a disc drive. And while streaming will be “an increasingly meaningful factor” in the near future, Ryan acknowledged that “gamers will continue to value choice.”
Ryan also highlighted Sony’s deep catalog of existing content and franchises as a key strength over the streaming competition. “While others are in startup mode or in catchup mode, SIE has been steadily investing, organically and through acquisition, for over 20 years, and now has a network of over 13 powerhouse studios in all regions serving gamers across the globe.”