Update: We've had even more time with PlayStation Now ahead of its public beta launch. Check out page three for our initial impressions from CES 2014 and for more information.
A lot can change in two years.
On July 2, 2012, Sony bought the then-barely-known cloud gaming service, GaiKai, to the tune of $380 million (£242 million). The decision was met with tepid excitement and heaps of skepticism.
The excitement made sense. Though a foreign idea at the time, game-streaming sounded like an ambitious way to replace the derelict brick and mortar rental stores. (Sorry, Blockbuster!) The skepticism, however, was also understandable.
How could the average user expect a stable, quick connection for an entire gaming session? And how could Sony price it so that both consumers and developers get a fair deal?
It's with these questions in mind that we fast-forward to July 2014, wherein the fruit of that union is finally ready for harvest. It's called PlayStation Now, and if you haven't heard of it, it's kind of a big deal.
Until today, the private beta was only open to a select few. Now, the beta's open to the North American public - exclusively on the Sony PS4. (Unfortunately, UK and Australian users will have to wait until later this year to try the service for themselves.)
What follows is my experience with the service and fly-by-night phenomena many didn't believe could even work two short years ago.
We had hoped back then, perhaps somewhat naively, that PlayStation Now would be the Netflix of video game streaming. That we could shell out a paltry $8.99 a month and access any game we choose forever - so long as we didn't let our subscription lapse.
What we got isn't the evolution of Netflix. That's not to say it's bad, mind you. It's just … different.
Let's start at the beginning. PlayStation Now's interface is incredibly subdued. There are only four tabs: Welcome, All Games, Connection Test, and My PS Now Games.
Exploring the Welcome tab reminds you to use a wired connection for the best results and, before you begin streaming a title, test your connection. (If you're wondering, yes you can pass the test if you're using a wireless signal. We managed to pass the test on Wi-Fi, though that may not have been an accurate assessment.)
Sony promised close to 100 titles before the beta goes live, among them first-party behemoths like The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension and Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus.
Sony delivered. Sort of.
I counted nearly 85 games during the private beta in the All Games tab, with 15 to 20 of them being stand out or must-play games. None of them though, at this point, are PS4 games. There was a distinct lack of first-party titles, too. Not to say that this can't or won't change as soon as the beta switches from private to public.
But the good titles are worth the price of entry - which I'll get to soon enough, don't worry. Games like Saints Row 3, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Darksiders and Catherine are all up for grabs. And, if Sony's promise of first-party titles is to be believed, we've got a lot to look forward to in the coming months (e.g. The Last of Us, God of War: Ascension and Ratchet & Clank: Into the Nexus).
Sadly, some of the 85 games are discount bin fodder, and have been for the past few years. I don't know anyone lining up to play Heavy Fire: Shattered Spear or Jimmie Johnson's Anything with Wheels. But the variety offered here should be enough to please a diverse set of tastes.