In 2017 — long before Apple declared that cloud gaming could only exist on the iPhone if it jumped through gigantic hoops — Sony was preparing to launch its PlayStation Now cloud gaming service on mobile phones, a confidential document reveals.
It could have been the single biggest expansion of Sony’s PS Now game service in years. Originally, the service streamed PS2 and PS3 games to smart TVs, Blu-ray players, and the PS3 and PS Vita, but cut off all those original platforms in late 2017 (coincidence?) to focus on the PlayStation 4 and Windows PC instead. While it recently added 1080p streaming and a PS5 client, it’s never been offered on Android, iOS, or Mac.
But according to a confidential document unearthed by The Verge from the Epic v. Apple trial, Apple had insider knowledge of Sony’s upcoming launch. Apple had heard about a “[not-yet-announced] mobile extension of an existing streaming service for PlayStation users, streaming access to over 450+ PS3 games to start, with PS4 games to follow.”
A handful of PS4 games launched on PlayStation Now in July 2017, but the presentation notes that the service is “only PS3 games right now,” suggesting Apple got tipped off about more than just the move to mobile.
Why did Apple bring this up? It’s smack dab in the middle of an explanation of Apple’s plans to launch its own game subscription service, Apple Arcade, which wouldn’t be announced until two years later. At the time, Apple was preparing to target 30 top game studios and ask for as many as “a few hundred titles” to add.
In 2019, I wrote that Sony squandered the opportunity to be a leader in cloud gaming, despite being the first major company to recognize its potential, buying both of the early startups (Gaikai and OnLive) that proved out the idea. But despite Apple’s resistance to cloud gaming on the App Store — read my new story about what happened with Microsoft — there’s an intriguing possibility that Sony isn’t giving up yet. Sony reportedly now has a Project Spartacus that would bundle its cloud gaming service with a PlayStation Plus subscription, and it would bring original PS1 games and “eventually” PS5 games to the service too.
However, Jason Schreier’s scoop for Bloomberg doesn’t mention mobile phones at all.
While it’s possible Sony read the room and decided it wasn’t worth fighting Apple the way Steam, Shadow, Microsoft, and Google did for mobile access, it might also be that Sony decided to focus on selling more consoles instead — if you do have a PS4 or PS5 in your house, the company’s PS Remote Play app already lets you stream it (perhaps even over cellular) to a wide array of Apple devices, as well as Android. You can even stream a new PS5 to your old PS4, giving it a new lease on life.