Sony PlayStation TV bows in North America
| 16 October 2014
Sony's anticipated set-top box (STB) play, PlayStation TV, has debuted in North America.
The gadget offers access to movies and TV episodes via the PlayStation Store, and allows PlayStation 4 remote play on a TV. Streaming options include Sony's own Crackle over-the-top (OTT) offering and anime service Crunchyroll, with more expected to be added over time. It will also give access to the PlayStation Now open beta service by the end of the year in North America, which offers flat-rate, on-demand gaming.
The palm-sized device will go for $99 expected retail, or $139 for a bundle including a DualShock 3 controller, memory card and The Lego Movie video game.
PlayStation TV has already been taken for a test drive with a release in Japan and a few other Asian markets under the brand name PlayStation Vita TV, and the company said that it has "proven to be popular with consumers looking for a convenient, easy-to-use gaming system".
The focus for now is on gaming, but getting a foothold in the living room offers Sony an opportunity to expand the footprint for its other content, especially TV and movies. The company intimated as much, saying that it "will continuously expand the world of entertainment through the PS TV platform by further enhancing its services and features".
Hardware-wise, it offers Bluetooth 2.1 and Wi-Fi 802.11n connectivity, and it comes with HDMI, Ethernet, USB ports and Sony's proprietary Vita memory card slot.
Gartner analyst Brian Blau told The Guardian that the PlayStation Now service will be critical to the success of the gambit, offering a differentiating subscription service. "Imagine looking at a movie service like Netflix. They don't necessarily have the entire catalogue of movies, but certainly you can browse Netflix and see a blockbuster you missed a few years ago, for whatever reason," he said. "You can play catch-up in that way, and that's how they're thinking of Playstation Now."
According to Blau, the PS TV gives the entertainment giant more stickiness inside the home in a way that Microsoft Xbox has yet to implement. It also gives it parity with Apple TV and Roku, and to some extent Chromecast, only with the benefit of a massive in-house content library behind it.
"I think it's a smart move by Sony to try to extend the tentacles of their ecosystem, making devices and services that can touch people at different points throughout the day," he said. "And that's an approach that we've seen in different types of devices in the market. We look at Apple, and they do a good job of that, we look at Google and they do a good job of that ... Today, it looks like what they're doing is a good strategy."