There were two streaming services detailed last week that I’ve been waiting a long time to hear about, but in the end I’m exponentially more excited for one over the other — as far as I’m concerned, the announcement of the WWE Network has me over the moon, while I’m suddenly much more cautious about what Gaikai means for Sony and PlayStation Now.
We’ll have to wait until both services are fully up and running to pass any meaningful judgement, and they’re not especially similar. When it comes to drumming up prerelease hype, though, Vince McMahon’s wrestling circus checked all the right boxes.
We know everything that we need to know about the WWE Network: We know that it combines a 24/7 network that runs original programming with a massive on-demand library covering every WWE, WCW, and ECW pay-per-view ever, including live viewings of every new PPV that runs through your subscription period starting with WrestleMania 30. We know that it’s coming to a number of devices, including PS3 and PS4. We know that you’ll pay $60 for a six-month sub, and that the service launches right after Monday Night Raw on February 24th, 2014.
Wrestling fans are eager to throw their cash at McMahon as soon as they’re allowed. They know exactly what they’re getting for their money, and the announcement came at the perfect time — long enough away to build anticipation, but no so far as for people to forget it’s happening.
Contrast that with the announcement of PlayStation Now. One of the only bits of news that we got was that we’ll be streaming legacy PS3 titles not just on PS4, but across Vita, Bravia HDTVs, phones, and tablets. Everything else is vague.
We know that PlayStation Now will allow you to pay for a subscription, although we don’t know how long it runs, how much it costs, or how many games are included with the sub. You can rent games a la carte, but once again we don’t know how much that would cost. Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be a way to buy any of the games outright, and there’s no word on if or how your digital PS3 library carries over.
Speaking of which, we also don’t know what kind of library PlayStation Now will launch with, except for (presumably) the games that Sony have been demoing at CES — The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, God of War: Ascension, and Puppeteer. How many games are we going to see, and how many of them will be first-party? The library will surely grow over time, but will we have a reason to sign up on day one?
Hell, we don’t even know when we’ll actually get our hands on PlayStation Now, except for a vague “Summer” window. Some will be allowed access to a closed beta at the end of this month, but for most of us that’s a long time to think about a large number of variables.
Of course, WWE doesn’t have as many barriers and obstacles in the way to get the best possible service up and running. The company has bought most of its major competition over the years, which granted them instant access to a huge library of old shows. Sony, on the other hand, has to work with third-party publishers to get their games up on PlayStation Now, and there will likely be at least a few gaps in the library even at its most complete. And seamlessly streaming a fully interactive game at HD is inherently more challenging than simply streaming old WrestleManias.
What it really comes down to is that the lack of key details in Sony’s announcement didn’t exactly radiate confidence. Maybe they’re still working on getting reasonable pricing down or getting as robust a library as possible before saying anything concrete, but I’d rather hear about it later when I know exactly what to get excited about.