Sony acquired cloud gaming company Gaikai in 2012, before using its technology and intellectual property to launch PlayStation Now, which provides subscribers unlimited access to a library of some 700 PS4, PS3 and PS2 games.
But the company has grander cloud ambitions, and in 2019 it announced a “strategic partnership” with Microsoft which will see it using the Xbox firm’s Azure data centres for cloud gaming and content streaming services.
Speaking to Nikkei (paywall, translated by VGC) about the deal with Microsoft, which this week started inviting Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members to a cloud gaming beta for Windows 10 PCs and Apple devices, PlayStation boss Ryan said Sony was not yet ready to reveal its cloud strategy for PS5, but suggested it was devising a unique offering.
“We’re still having conversations with [Microsoft] about exchanging ideas,” he said. “We’re still talking to them about exchanging ideas, and there’s some very interesting stuff, so when the time is right, we’ll announce our cloud strategy.
“We could conceivably use the cloud for our technical infrastructure, but the cloud gaming experience we’re offering will be unique and only on PlayStation.”
Later in the interview, Ryan was asked if the cloud could disrupt the traditional hardware cycle, which has seen a new PlayStation console launch every 6-7 years.
“It’s hard to answer that question right now, but history shows that sales peak in the third or fourth year,” Ryan responded. “At the end of the cycle, the cloud may play some role. I’m more optimistic about the future than I was a year ago.”
Ryan also suggested it was too early to know if an increased focus on cloud gaming could mean PS5 will be the last console from Sony.
“We have just released PS5, so at this point it’s time to learn how people are enjoying it, and then we’ll take the time to think about the future of PlayStation,” he said.
In September 2018, Sony introduced the ability for PS Now users to download PS4 games in order to play them offline, contributing to higher user engagement and retention, according to the company.
And in October 2019 Sony slashed PlayStation Now prices in a bid to be more competitive with rival streaming services. It also began adding “blockbuster” games each month, which are available for a limited time.
Elsewhere in the Nikkei interview, Ryan said Sony has been “quietly but steadily” investing in the creation of first-party software and that PS5 will be home to more exclusive games than any previous PlayStation console.
Having announced in February that it’s working on a “next-generation VR system” for PS5, Ryan also touched upon the company’s plans in the space.
“The next generation of VR systems represents a very strategic opportunity for PlayStation,” he said. “We launched PlayStation VR in 2016 and have had time to understand the VR experience over the years, and what we’ve learned from VR is that the potential market is huge.
“We want to continue to deliver a high quality gaming experiences to keep the community entertained.”