PlayStation Now: what it is and why the hell it isn’t available in Australia

PlayStation Now is a game streaming service that has been active for years. Why has it never made its way to Australian shores?

When it comes to the world of video games, Australians are used to paying a steep price. Console manufacturers and game publishers, particularly at launch, have made a habit of taking advantage of what has traditionally been an affluent market. When PlayStation 5 launched in Australia the flagship model was priced at $749.95 AUD.

The same model in the USA was priced at $499 USD. When taking into account conversion rates, Australians paid roughly $70 AUD more than our American buddies. Now does that sound fair dinkum to anyone?

Look, I guess we are a long way away from virtually everyone else so a bit of a delivery fee might be reasonable. At least the days of waiting months longer than the rest of the Western world to enjoy the same the level of modern entertainment is over. Right? Well, not exactly.

PlayStation Now Australia

What the bloody hell is PlayStation Now?

Let’s talk about PlayStation Now; which for our Australian readers will probably produce more quizzical glances than opinions. The subscription-based streaming service is Sony’s answer to the Xbox Game Pass. It offers a library of games that can all be streamed, some of which can also be downloaded, for an annual fee of $59.95 USD (or thereabouts depending on your region).

Currently there are over 800 titles in the library, pulling from as far back as Sony’s PS2 console. This library isn’t just full of commercial flops either; classics such as Bloodborne, The Last of Us, Uncharted, and Hollow Knight are all included. However, there are some compatibility problems depending on which console you are using. For a full list of what you might be missing out on, take a peak over here.

Initially, the service was entirely focused on streaming. However, taking into account the success of the Xbox Game Pass, Sony made the decision to allow gamers to download a good portion of their library. This means that, while still important, having a consistently fast internet connection is not critical to enjoying PlayStation Now. This leads us to our next major area of inquiry.

Image: Bloodborne / FromSoftware

Why the bloody hell hasn’t it come to Australia?

The first area of concern regarding bringing PlayStation Now to Australia was likely the quality of the internet. It used to be really bad. Hell, it still isn’t good, and the bad publicity from a failed launch for a new service would have hurt Sony in a market they were comfortable in.

This would have almost certainly been the case as Australian internet would have led to poor performance, which would have in turn led to upset customers. A few years ago the reward didn’t outweigh the risk. However, with streaming making up a larger part of the industry than ever before, that is no longer the case. It would make sense for Sony to act as soon as possible to avoid ceding any more territory to their arch nemesis Microsoft.

Sony may also be reluctant to launch their streaming service in Australia because of their very own success here. Currently, Sony charges extraordinarily high prices in their PlayStation Store. New releases, such as the recently released Hitman 3,  generally launch at north of $99.95 AUD. This is over $10 AUD more than the same game is being sold for as a physical copy in JB Hi-Fi.

On top of this, the customer must wait while their mediocre internet wears itself out downloading what is inevitably a huge file. As long as Sony can continue to charge these prices on their own platform, and people chose to go along with it, it doesn’t make sense to offer another alternative.

Xbox Game Pass vs PlayStation Now

Will it ever come to our shores?

PlayStation Now’s global reach is significantly limited compared to that of Game Pass, being available for only a select 19 countries, compared to 40. It’s clear that Australians aren’t the only ones being excluded, so it seems that Sony isn’t afraid to maintain a smaller range and we can’t expect to see them rushing to include us.

There has been a fair amount of speculation over the years about when PlayStation Now will finally arrive on Australian shores. So far none of it has proven accurate. Not to sound too pessimistic but there might have to be a bit of a paradigm shift before Sony decides it’s worthwhile to take the plunge.

In the meantime, you might have to settle for a PlayStation Plus subscription – it’s by no means a direct competitor to Game Pass, but $79.95 a year can save you a whole lot of money in the long run through access to some pretty solid deals. The subscription, which is required for online play, also includes discounts, storage, bonus items, and at least two free games each month (and they’re usually pretty good ones, too).

It might not be what the people want, but it’s what we’ve got to work with for now. Here’s hoping that old mate Microsoft applies just enough pressure with the success of Game Pass to get Sony sweating.

Update (July 8 2021): It appears that PlayStation Now will, at least in its current form, never officially make its way to Australian shores. The good news is that Sony is rumoured to be working on a competitor to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. The concept of a gaming subscription service has simply proved too successful to not develop their own, and Sony will likely launch this service worldwide when it’s ready (possibly in 2021). It also seems plausible the PlayStation Now branding will be utilised for this new service, when it does, finally, arrive.