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PlayStation Now's PS4 game performance analysed

There was a time when the idea of streaming games over the internet was the hottest, most disruptive technology in the business. Why buy a console or PC when you can stream gameplay over the internet? Why upgrade your hardware when servers across the internet can be upgraded instead, with no cost to the user? Why put up with extended loading and installation times when you could have near instant access to a massive library of games right at your fingertips? PlayStation Now does all of these things and it now supports PS4 games, so why isn’t there more buzz surrounding it?

John Carmack has talked about early, broken VR implementations ‘poisoning the well’ for the more refined future technologies to come and there’s a strong argument that OnLive did the same for streaming gameplay back in the day. At its absolute best, it showed the potential of the concept, but it’s fair to say that the majority of the experience was blighted by terrible latency issues and dire image quality. Nvidia’s GeForce Now has mostly addressed the technology challenges but hasn’t attracted mainstream take-up, and our concern is that the same thing will happen with PlayStation Now – despite the service having much to commend it.

So here’s the thing – historically, Digital Foundry hasn’t been kind to streaming gameplay services, but it’s also worth stressing that we have given credit where it’s due. GeForce Now requires a hefty internet connection to operate at its best in its full 1080p60 glory, but it works. Just like PlayStation Now, there is additional lag but it’s actually quite fascinating how much tolerance there is for extra lag in the gameplay experience when the raw metrics look poor. But the bottom line is that we spent a good amount of time last weekend playing titles like Ultra Street Fighter 4, Super Stardust Ultra, Resogun and Virtua Fighter 5 on PlayStation Now and found them to be enjoyable experiences. Crucially, even 30fps games like Killzone Shadowfall still hold up.

If you’re interested in continued analysis of input lag in gaming, we highly recommend following Nigel Woodall on Twitter. He’s crafted a remarkable capture-based device for measuring latency that requires no high-speed camera and he’s supplied us with a version of his kit. We’re going to be putting this device to a lot more use in the future, but for now, you can see some preliminary figures below, where we have benchmarked games running on PlayStation Now via both LAN and WiFi, then stacked them up against the same titles running locally on a standard PS4.