Sony's cloud is better, or is it?

3 min read

In another popularity garnering move, Sony announced that the PS4 will let you access your library while at a friend’s house.  Not only was this a feature that Microsoft removed during its 180, Sony is actually doing it better than Microsoft had planned.  With both companies raving about their clouds, whose is bigger and better?

First, we need to look at the uses of the cloud.  Such a buzz word, but what are we actually talking about?  So far, we’re mainly seeing talk about digital libraries and servers for processing multiplayer.

At the moment, Sony is winning the war of digital distribution.  They aren’t requiring it, nor is there an always-online aspect.  However, you can use it to play games when you visit other people, and it will download the pieces that you need so that you can start playing quickly, without needing to complete the download.  Impressive.  Microsoft had similar stuff, including family sharing of games.  Sounded pretty awesome.  Let’s hope that they bring it back at Gamescom – it’s time for them to actually go toe to toe with Sony.

Next, is the issue of multiplayer.  For those, like me, who don’t really know much about multiplayer, it’s normally hosted by one player.  This means that if that player has issues with their internet connection, everyone will experience lag and a crappy gameplay experience.  Alternatively, people can connect to a dedicated server, generally providing better connections and experiences.  However, dedicated servers are expensive – most developers can’t afford the server space, nor do they have the capacity to monitor them.  Microsoft has invested a ridiculous amount of money in the cloud, including a reported $700million in a new data center in Iowa.  This brings their total investment to about $1billion.  They will be using this to provide dedicated servers to all their multiplayer games, at no cost to the developers. I’ve gotta say, that’s a pretty impressive investment.  At this point, we just don’t know enough about how Sony will use Gaikai for their cloud services; the most we know is that there are upcoming plans for streaming games and Remote Play.  Somehow, I think if the investment were comparable, we would have heard something more about it.

In the end, it boils down to the core audience on each console.  For a while, I’ve been saying that Xbox is more for people who like multiplayer and shooters, while PS is for those who like RPGs and Action/Adventure titles.  There are plenty of cross-platform games that prove me wrong in this, yet the cloud focuses seem to corroborate my argument.  Microsoft is focusing on multiplayer, because that’s where their core audience lies.  Sony, on the other hand, is focusing on digital distribution and playing while at a friend’s house.  Maybe that’s just because PlayStation owners have more friends to play with, instead of just screaming obscenities online. 

Last Updated: July 12, 2013

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