- The benefits of supporting the PS4 far outweigh the negatives
- Bitmovin’s Player’s Web SDK V8 now enables playback on PlayStation 4 (PS4) and PlayStation 5 (PS5).
- The main differences between PS4 and PS5 are mainly in the development environment and device capabilities. PS4 only supports PlayReady for DRM and can only play 4K content on PS4 Pro, while PS5 supports both Widevine and PlayReady for DRM and can play 4K on all devices.
- Our previous experience with PS5 integration greatly facilitated our work with the PS4, allowing a faster iteration and more efficient collaboration with Sony.
- Certain features are not supported on PS4, including client-side advertising with Google IMA, tweaking the playback rate during adaptive streaming playback, and CMAF Low Latency.
- As the PS4 is now listed in Bitmovin’s supported and compatible device matrix, we will continue to work closely with Sony to maintain stability and address any additional non-blocking issues.
Let’s get started
Over a year and a half ago, we made our first strides into looking at supporting PlayStation gaming consoles. After evaluating both PlayStation 5 (PS5) and PlayStation 4 (PS4), we prioritized PS5, pushing PS4 to the back burner with no real intention of touching it.
This decision wasn’t just because PS5 is a newer device or due to a lack of interest from our customers for playback support on the PS4. We were well aware that many people are still actively using PS4, but due to device capabilities and certain missing features, we did not find it a fit for V8 of the Bitmovin Player’s Web SDK.
However, a few months later, this changed when Sony released a few updates for the PS4, and it was in a state where we could work on it. We promptly re-evaluated the PS4, gaining a clearer understanding of how it would fit within our supported and compatible devices. Through a thorough investigation, we were able to detail the main differences and similarities between the PS5 and PS4, the known benefits and limitations of the console, and how our Player could support playback on both.
The similarities and differences when developing between the PS4 and PS5
When it comes to the development environment and the possibilities for web launchers and video players, there are some differences between the PS4 and PS5. Still, they are very similar to each other.
The PS4 and PS5 support HDR and HDCP, which are enabled by default on both consoles. The browser engine used on both platforms is WebKit. Both platforms are loaded with the API, which is used as a bridge to native application API, allowing us to get device information such as resolution, PlayStation Network, commerce, system information, etc.
They also support the same streaming protocols (MP4, HLS, DASH) and codecs (H.264 and H.265), CDN integrations, Subtitles, closed captions, and DRM to an extent.
On the PS4, the only supported DRM key system is PlayReady, and you can play 4K content only when on PS4 Pro. On the other hand, PS5 supports both Widevine and PlayReady for DRM and can play 4K on both pro and non-pro devices. PS4’s Pro version also is the only one of the two that supports the AV1 codec.
One of the most significant differences between the PS4 and PS5 is the speed and power of the latter. The PS5’s more modern hardware allows faster processing and better overall performance, resulting in a smoother and more responsive user experience.
For further insight into the differences between PS4 and PS5, their limitations, and supported features, please reach out to Sony via their Partners Portal.
An overview of the devices / device types that the Bitmovin Player enables playback on
How we got here – partnering, Stream Lab, and workarounds
Our previous experience integrating the PS5 into our officially supported devices greatly facilitated our work with the PS4. We had a clearer idea of the device’s limitations and how to iterate faster for such a device. Having previously worked with Sony on PS5 integration, our communication was more streamlined, resulting in more efficient collaboration regarding PS4.
As with all platforms by Sony, you will need to enter into a partnership with them to start the development. Doing this will give you more insights into platform limitations and supported features.
We began testing once we read through the PS4 documentation and familiarized ourselves with the development environment. After manually testing different assets to get an idea of what worked, we ran our automated testing suite.
This entailed running over 1000 system tests (with more added every deployment) covering features such as:
- Adaptive bitrate
- DRM and more
As we have access to many older and newer device models, our automated testing cadence lets us see how specific use cases work during playback in real streaming environments, giving us a clear picture of where issues may occur.
Bitmovin has also made a portion of this automated testing publicly available, along with the ability to see how your streams playback on certain devices through one of our latest player features, Stream Lab. You can test it yourself and see how your stream URLs function on different devices today.
We identified some issues and limitations quickly as we experienced them on the PS5, and they were also observed on the PS4, which allowed us to get a couple of easy wins and apply some of the same workarounds.
As we continued testing, we found new issues that were brought to our attention due to the work we’ve done on other devices, and were able to apply workarounds. Since the Bitmovin Player team is used to working on a wide range of supported devices, it means we’ve been able to encounter many unique platform-specific issues over the years, enabling us to know where to look and what may impact different parts of the video workflow, accelerating the testing process. This has helped us expand our workflow knowledge and empower the development teams of streaming platforms that use the Bitmovin Player to reduce their development time significantly across different devices.
We halved the number of failing tests once the first few iterations were complete.
Then we began encountering intriguing underlying video issues for which we could not find workarounds, despite substantial effort. However, with the submission of a few detailed support tickets with reproduction cases to Sony, these issues were resolved.
After the testing, we substantially improved the playback experience with the Bitmovin Player for the PlayStation 4 and have now added it to our compatible device list. We are still planning to continue iterating on the platform for the foreseeable future and enhancing its stability.
Known limitations for specific features and benefits
Regarding the player, for the PS4, a few device limitations force us to consider certain features unsupported. Here are the most significant ones:
- Client-side advertising with Google IMA is not supported. However, the Bitmovin Advertising module can achieve the same features, which works as expected.
- Tweaking the playback rate during adaptive streaming playback via the player.setPlaybackSpeed API is disabled internally. This is because it can lead to unpredictable behavior.
- CMAF Low Latency is currently not supported
The list of major limitations that may affect playback is short. For the Bitmovin Player specifically, we can guarantee the functionality of most of our features, ensuring a unique and high-quality viewing experience for users on this device.
For streaming platforms, even with the known limitations, the benefits of supporting PS4 still outway the negatives, as you’ll gain access to:
- Exposure to a considerable active and large user base
- Enablement of the development of interactive features for immersive viewing experiences
- Consistency between supporting the PS5 and PS4, making it easier on your development team
- Support and tools from either Sony or a player provider like Bitmovin that helps streamline the development process
- Monetization methods that enable platforms to earn from their content
- The PlayStation’s ecosystem, which ensures PS4 and PS5 are worth supporting since they have the most users
How the PS4 is set for the Bitmovin Player
The PS4 is a great console to support, and for streaming platforms looking to engage viewers on it, we see it as a worthwhile expansion to reach a larger audience. It has been added to our matrix of supported devices as a compatible device, and it is included in our nightly runs to ensure close monitoring. We will continue to work closely with Sony to maintain the device’s stability and iterate on some additional non-blocking issues we discovered.
If you want more information on setting up the Bitmovin Player on the PS4, check out our PS4 getting started guide.
Also, if you’d like to see how Bitmovin’s solution stack can benefit your streaming workflow – sign up for our 30-day free trial.