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PS5, Remote Play, and 5G Networking

PS5, Remote Play, and 5G Networking

Throughout the course of this generation, the Remote Play feature for PS4 - that allows users to connect (certain) devices to their PS4 via the internet to play their games while away from the console - has been very poorly marketed, executed, and realized by Sony.

The blame for this falls mostly on the shoulders of Sony, but not all of it is in their control.

Despite all of that, I believe this feature has generation-defining potential for PlayStation 5 - that is - if Sony has actually been paying attention, and planning to capitalize on it in a way that appeals to the current market.

The first and most important initiative Sony needs to take if they want Remote Play to succeed as a serious killer app for PS5: they need to allow support for Remote Play on Android and iOS devices.

Edit: As of March 7th, 2018, Sony has officially released a Remote Play app for iOS.

Currently, Remote Play is only supported on Sony’s own Xperia smartphone/tablet line, along with Windows & Mac PCs. The problem with this is obvious; nobody owns Xperia smartphones, and the number of people streaming PS4 games to their desktop or laptop PC is likely very slim for a multitude of reasons.

I am not a business executive, nor am I a board member at SIE, but it’s not unreasonable think that the same dismissive attitude Sony has shown towards cross-play, backward compatibility, and competing subscription services on their platform (EA Access), has something to do with their selfish and greedy decision to keep Remote Play from Android & iOS.

Sony wanted it to be exclusive to their own brand of devices - in the interest of higher sales and adoption of said devices, especially after seeing the continued phenomenal sales performance of PS4 so early on this generation. They saw an opportunity for one leg to help out the other, but it has clearly been an unfruitful attempt:

“the latest earnings report from Sony indicates the company’s already tiny smartphone business has shrunk by almost half. In the quarter ending in July 2018, Sony managed to sell only 2 million mobile devices, down 1.4 million from the same period in the preceding year.”


Fast forward to 2019 - we are now on the cusp of a new console generation - and as a business, Sony should have the intelligence and foresight to see how Remote Play can benefit them much more as a selling point of PS5, by putting it in the hands of anyone who owns the more ubiquitous devices.

The idea of being able to play your entire PlayStation library on the go, similar to how you play your Switch, is an exciting concept, and one that is realistically possible in the next generation. The deal would be made even sweeter if the PS5 is backward compatible with user’s entire PS4 library.

Now let’s talk about 5G.

First and foremost - and I want to be very clear on this before I go any further - there are no major 5G capable devices on the market as of right now. However, current reports and rumors suggest that most, if not all manufacturers have 5G phones in the works, and we can expect to see them rolling out over the next 2 years. We will see quite a few in 2019, and we will likely see every major player shipping 5G enabled handsets by the end of 2020.

Now, knowing this community, I’m sure some of you are aware of the imminence of 5G and some of the major improvements it promises to make in the near future for mobile broadband connectivity.

One of these major improvements is defined as Ultra Low Latency - this is the biggest key ingredient to Remote Play’s potential success, as the user experience greatly hinges on how low the input/response times are while playing games at varying distances from the main console.

5G is targeting 1 millisecond of latency, and while there’s obviously other factors of latency involved in this whole scenario, most of that will be diminished when combined with the extremely low latency 5G will provide. This will be a night and day improvement over what we currently have with Wi-Fi and especially 4G LTE.

The other major noteworthy improvement 5G brings to the table is the sheer speed of its data rate. We’re talking 1000s of megabits/second. That speed is way more than enough to support a video stream of 4K 60fps at a high bitrate.

But just because it’s all possible doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed.

The technology is intriguing, and all of this sounds great in theory, but it’s really on Sony to invest enough in their infrastructure to support this technology...Microsoft has doubled down on Azure and their cloud/streaming infrastructure, has Sony done the same?

They have the capital and the wherewithal, but do they see the potential in this as a killer application for PS5 - enough to go all in?

That’s the question I hope we learn the answers to once Sony begins sharing their plans for PlayStation 5.

Microsoft has laid its cards on the table, we’ve seen what they plan to do with xCloud. It would be interesting to see Sony go a different route than the “Netflix for games” streaming approach. Being able to play the library of games that I already own - anytime anywhere, no monthly sub required - is much more appealing to me than paying a monthly subscription for a Netflix style service.

I see the use case for both, and I also see the likelihood of Sony going for a more apples-to-apples competitor for xCloud, given that it already sort of exists in PS Now - just not quite at the same scale and ambition - but I’m only suggesting other exciting possibilities that could give us more freedom with how we choose to play games in the forthcoming generation.

5G rollout in the United States is underway, with major cities being the first to be served - and most carriers expecting to have full nationwide coverage by the end of 2020.

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