Depending on how you look at it, The Backbone One – PlayStation Edition is either an extremely niche peripheral, or a harbinger of Sony’s future cloud gaming plans. On its surface, the device is pretty simple. It’s a mobile controller that attaches to an iPhone, and resembles a PS5 DualSense. With it, you can use Sony’s Remote Play app on iOS without having to use a DualShock 4 or DualSense controller. But, more interestingly, the device suggests that Sony may be about to take cloud gaming much more seriously.
Sony revealed the Backbone One – PlayStation Edition on the official PlayStation Blog. The accessory will cost $100, and start shipping soon. Maneet Khaira, the CEO of Backbone, explained the new device’s utility:
“Backbone One is the gaming essential for PlayStation on iPhone,” he wrote. “If you have access to broadband internet and a PS5 or PS4 console, plug an iPhone into the Backbone One and instantly start playing your PS5 and PS4 games with the power of the PS Remote Play app—whether that’s out and about or even elsewhere in the home.”
In terms of physical design and basic functionality, the Backbone One – PlayStation Edition isn’t terribly different from the Razer Kishi V2 or the standard Backbone One controller. You plug your phone into the controller, then use your phone as sort of an impromptu Nintendo Switch. The Backbone One is an excellent accessory for cloud gaming, since it mimics the look and feel of a standard console controller.
What sets the Backbone One – PlayStation Edition apart from the competitors is that it actually works with the PS Remote Play app. Sony’s software is quite a bit more selective than Xbox Game Pass, Nvidia GeForce Now and the like. Up until now, you’ve had to control Remote Play games with a DS4 or DualSense controller, unless you went through a third-party app. The Backbone One – PlayStation Edition significantly streamlines the whole process.
While Sony is arguably a few years behind the curve here, Sony’s partnership with Backbone is still telling. Backbone is a serious contender as far as mobile gaming accessories go, and releasing an officially licensed product suggests that Sony is starting to take the “streaming PlayStation games on mobile phones” proposition more seriously.
It’s worth noting, however, that the Backbone One – PlayStation Edition is still limited in what it can do, at least for now. Unlike Microsoft, Sony does not stream games directly from its servers to mobile platforms. (Sony does stream games via its PC app, but the app isn’t very good.) Instead, Remote Play streams games directly from your own PS4 or PS5 to your phone, using your own home network to upload data.
As such, it’s a bit of a pain to stream games outside of your own home, particularly since it means you have to keep your PS5 in Rest Mode and ready to boot up at any time, even when you’re not around.
It also means that Remote Play’s performance can be highly variable, since you’ll have a pretty long daisy-chain of gear and services going.
Still, the Backbone One – PlayStation Edition is a big overture toward mobile cloud gaming from a company that, up until now, hasn’t made that many. We’ll have to wait and see whether Sony capitalizes on its momentum, or lets cloud gaming fall by the wayside again.