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Ctrl+Alt+Del: PlayStation should get streaming right, not make another handheld

OPINION: We all thought it right… why doesn’t the PlayStation Portal support cloud streaming? It seems to make so much sense – yet it’s completely absent. Now, rumours point to a Steam Deck-like PlayStation handheld arriving in the future, and I think it’s the completely wrong approach.

Admittedly, no company has nailed cloud game streaming quite yet, with Nvidia GeForce Now and Xbox Game Pass offering the broadest and most reliable experiences – but with their own hiccups. However, for several years, it seemed like PlayStation had lost interest and/or faith in the medium. PlayStation Now seemed of little concern to the company and it was eventually killed off before game streaming made a recent return with PlayStation Plus Premium.

But, right now, Sony’s streaming seems focused on simply doing it on your console, which largely hinders the benefits of the technology. You can stream to a PC but it’s limited to its Classics catalogue. PlayStation seems to be acknowledging game streaming once again but it needs to get its priorities in order.

The rumour that has emerged this week is that PlayStation is working with AMD (the chip manufacturer behind the technology inside the Steam Deck, Asus ROG Ally, Lenovo Legion Go and more) on a future handheld device (via Moore’s Law is Dead). All signs point to it being something that matches up with the current swathe of AMD-powered PC gaming handhelds in terms of specifications, but it’d likely have a PlayStation flavour to it. And, I just don’t get it.

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I just don’t get it…

Such a platform would be unlikely to be able to natively present PlayStation’s luxurious AAA titles in a way that fits with the company’s ethos. It refuses to commit to putting its big games as part of any subscription service as it wants them to be a premium offering and justifies that by pushing that these are blockbuster titles to be experienced in nigh-on cinematic glory. A Steam Deck-like PlayStation handheld would, of course, be limited in the resolution and graphical effects it could offer.

So, if PlayStation sticks to its guns and isn’t willing to provide its high-end games in a lesser experience, what is it for? The answer would seemingly be to provide a portable machine made for playing older games from the PlayStation library. That immediately drops the appeal, making it something that doesn’t equate to providing the latest PlayStation experience on the go, but something half-baked that would surely be surpassed by what the likes of the Steam Deck OLED can offer, in terms of the latest and greatest games.

PlayStation Portal
Image Credit (PlayStation)

The solution? PlayStation just needs to get streaming right. With the PlayStation Portal, despite the middling reception, Sony stuck to its guns, with marketing that was adamant this was the best way to play your PlayStation games on the go. But, of course, it remains limited by a Wi-Fi connection and having to Remote Play via your PlayStation. It remains a clunky and inelegant solution, even if Sony has done a top job on the hardware.

What’s more frustrating is that we’ve heard PlayStation state “there are no technical problems” when it comes to cloud gaming on the Portal. But, we know why that’s the case, with SVP of Platform Experience Hideaki Nishino stating, “It is important not to feel like a cloud. If the transfer is waiting and expires, customers will never believe in cloud gaming again. I don’t want people to say, ‘I couldn’t use cloud gaming,’” (via AVWatch) And, I completely understand. So, PlayStation, don’t get distracted by tinkering with some native hardware that won’t fully satisfy. The PlayStation Portal just needs that cloud-streaming piece of the puzzle to make it the ultimate PlayStation go-anywhere option.

Ctrl+Alt+Del is our weekly computing-focused opinion column where we delve deeper into the world of computers, laptops, components, peripherals and more. Find it on Trusted Reviews every Saturday afternoon.

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