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Sony halves price of PlayStation Now streaming games service to go up against Microsoft, Google

Competition is heating up.

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Sony's slashing prices for its game streaming service.

Josh Miller/CNET

Sony isn't playing games with its PlayStation Now streaming games service. Starting Tuesday, the monthly price for the service will be cut in half, to $9.99 per month. Sony says it's taking the dramatic step in order to keep in line with competition.

The new price, which drops from the $19.99 per month it costs now, will be "comparable to other entertainment streaming services on the market," Sony said in a statement. 

While the move will likely be celebrated by subscribers, it offers yet another sign of how strongly companies are willing to compete to get our dollars. Streaming services have become all the rage, with all manner of companies offering TV, movies, music and, yes, even video games sent over the internet to your phone, laptop, tablet or console.

The popularity and ease of streaming technology has pushed a new generation of consumers drops cable bills, leading to a land grab effort by the likes of Netflix, Disney, Apple, Amazon, Google and even CNET parent CBS. 

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To attract ever more people, prices have dropped steadily. Disney Plus, for example, will cost $7.99 per month when it launches later this year, offering access to more than a dozen new original shows in addition to back catalog of Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel films. Apple TV Plus, meanwhile, will charge $4.99 per month when it launches later this year, promising new shows from entertainment royalty like Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carell and Oprah Winfrey (not to mention, people who buy a new iPhone, iPad or Mac from the tech behemoth will get a year of Apple TV Plus for free).

While there are many streaming video and music services to choose from, Sony's PlayStation Now, which launched in 2014, has been one of the few gaming services available for years.

Part of that, industry executives say, is the higher cost of building and maintaining the ultra fast internet connections and powerful data centers capable of creating a game's intricate visuals, streaming them to a player, and then responding to button presses on a controller. Those costs helped to sink the early game streaming company OnLive, which shut down in 2015.

A new band of streaming services is starting up though, driven by falling costs of computer components and faster internet connections across around the world. They include Microsoft's Xbox team, which will begin testing its Project xCloud streaming service in October, and game maker Electronic Arts, which announced its game streaming service last year and began publicly testing it last month. Neither has said how much their respective services will cost.

"The power of instant access is magical, and it's already transformed the music and movie industries," Google's Phil Harrison said when he announced the tech giant's Stadia game streaming service in March. It's planned to launch in November, and will be free to use if you buy the game through Google. 

Not everyone's convinced though. Some people believe that eventually people will sour on having so many subscriptions.

"Most Americans want two, three or four subscriptions -- they certainly don't want 40 of them, and they aren't going to pay for them," Strauss Zelnick, interim chairman of CBS and CEO of game maker Take-Two Interactive, which makes hit titles like Grand Theft Auto V and the western epic Red Dead Redemption 2, said in an interview this summer. 

To help PlayStation Now stand out, Sony's relying on a back-catalog of more than 800 games available on the service, including its hit 2013 post-apocalyptic survival game The Last of Us, Bethesda Softworks' popular adventure game Fallout 4, and the fighting game Mortal Kombat X which was published by Warner Bros.

Sony said it'll be making some of its more popular games available on the service during the holidays, including the Indiana Jones-esque action game Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, last year's epic God of War and Take-Two Interactive's hit Grand Theft Auto V.

That pressure to stand out and become one of the few eventual survivors is likely what's driving Sony's decision to drop its price so dramatically.

"Word of mouth is still important when convincing your peers and people you game with that this is a good solution," said Carolina Milanesi, an analyst at Creative Strategies. "if price is the first hurdle, then you don't even get a chance to show your technology is superior."