As of right now, there is no doubt that the PlayStation brand is on top of the video game world. Sony’s recent annoucement that 18.5 million PS4 units have been sold is confirmation of that. For a good visual of what that looks like, imagine Shuhei Yoshida diving Scrooge McDuck-style into a pool of cash. Whether its the PS3, PS4, or (arguably) the PS Vita, the PlayStation brand is massive and its appeal is wide reaching. But what if there was a device in which one might be able to experience the entirety of the brand - across the vast catalog of PlayStation games - from PS1 to PS4? While it cannot fully accomplish those feats right now, PlayStation TV is a tiny box that has the potential to make those dreams a reality.
Before diving into the accomplishments and shortcomings of this device, it’s important to point out that this is not an Apple Tv-type product that will let you watch Hulu and Netflix. As of right now, those features are not available. And to give Sony the benefit of the doubt, I’ll recognize the fact that this is solely being touted as a device that streams games and even plays some Vita games. That’s not to say that - in the future - Sony won’t work with those streaming providers to expand the offerings of the PS TV. But for now, games are the name of the game.
With that being said, I am happier than Nicolas Cage at a wig festival to say that playing and streaming games is a simple and solid experience. For those familiar with the PS Vita, you’ll be delighted (if you like your Vita, that is) to see that the layout of the menu screen is identical to the Vita. In fact, this is pretty much the guts of a Vita plugged into your TV. Streaming the PS4 to the PS TV is as seamless an experience as with the Vita. The same goes for PlayStation Now, Sony’s new service that allows gamers to stream PS3 games (eventually PS1, PS2 and PSP) and play them. The PS TV operates exceptionally well in bringing those experiences to your TV, wherever you are in your house. For those with a decent wi-fi speed (5 mbps to 15 mbps minimum) you should have no issues with the PS Now and PS4 experiences. I only experienced minor moments of latency and those moments never lasted more than it would take for The Flash to run around the world.
In an age where screens on handhelds and phones are getting bigger, it’s no surprise that many are enticed by the idea of playing their favorite Vita games on a big screen. As of right now, the list of compatible Vita games is not too impressive. Many of them are cross-buy titles which you can already play on your PS3/PS4. That’s not to say that’s the way it is across the board. Vita exclusives like Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc and Persona 4: Golden look great on the big screen. Considering that Vita titles are designed to be taken on-the-go, it may make for a strange experience when you’re playing it on a TV screen. I found that it became a pleasant experience though. Naturally, PSP games and PS1 classic games are compatible with the PS TV. I love being able to playing Final Fantasy VII at work on my Vita and then coming home, inserting my Vita’s memory card into the PS TV, and picking up the experience on a much bigger screen.
If there’s a knock about this product it is that you have to plug a controller into the device in order to operate it. That may not sound like much of a problem, but with Dualshock3 and 4 cables not being very long, it limits how far away you can be from the tv screen. Personally, I don’t like to sit with my face pressed against the screen (our mothers warned us about this), and the PS TV forced me into that situation. If you’re like me, I would suggest investing in a 15 ft usb cable that allows you to be flexible with your space. It’s really too bad because the PS TV is designed to be a device that gives you flexibility. So you could say, “Can’t play the PS4 in the living room? Just stream it to the TV in another room.” But I found that dreaded cable-conundrum to be about as painful as hearing dialogue written by George Lucas.
Much like how the world will inevitably be ruled by robots, the PS TV represents the coming future of video games. The PlayStation TV is a device that is simple but for the moment, flawed by its simplicity. Aesthetically, the menus appear dull and unimaginative. What works on the PS Vita screen doesn’t necessarily always fly on a bigger screen. Still, the best part of the PS TV is that it’s nearly limitless in its potential. Because streaming a game places the heavy lifting on a server in some far-away land, it’s not impossible that one day PS4 games might be streamed on this little guy. In its launch window, the PS TV’s scope seems too narrow, but what it does do, it does well. And from here, if Sony wants, there can be nothing but grand horizons for this streaming device. Should you get a PlayStation TV? I would hold off on that purchase, for now. But understand that if you do purchase it, this tech is only the beginning of the future of Sony’s plans of streaming games. As time goes on, I hope that Sony will give this new product a real chance, because it has SO much potential. But they better hurry. Pretty soon we’ll be streaming these games into our brains.