The PlayStation 4 will allow users to sign in to their PlayStation Network account on any PS4 console for quick access to their entire digital library, said Sony engineer Neil Brown during the Develop conference today, Official PlayStation Magazine U.K. reports.
"You can visit your friend's house, you can log into your account and play any game from your digital library," said Brown, a senior engineer in the research and development department at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe.
The cloud-based game library functionality sounds similar to a feature Microsoft originally announced for Xbox One, but nixed when it reversed the console's DRM policies after E3 last month. The key differentiating factor is that that feature would have supported disc-based games. The Xbox One still supports this feature for digital titles tied to your Xbox Live account.
Brown pointed out that such a feature isn't very useful if users have to download an entire game on a different console in order to start playing. That won't be required on PS4, according to Brown: Users will be able to begin the download and, at a certain point, start playing "at least the first section of the game" while the download continues in the background.
"This makes a digital library a practical option in the real world," he added. It's unclear if this applies only for PS4 games purchased from the PlayStation Store, or if it also includes disc-based titles registered to your PSN account. The PlayStation 3 currently allows a maximum of two consoles to be authorized per PSN account.
The system also means that players won't have to wait for a disc-based game to be installed to the PS4 hard drive before they can play it — "the game will launch as soon as the disc has been put in the drive," said Brown. The console will continually install the game in the background while you play, which means that "after the first few minutes, your game can rely on having faster read speeds from the hard drive."
We've reached out to Sony for more details on the functionality, and will update this article with any information we receive.
Correction: The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 already support a cloud-based library with games purchased from the Xbox Live Marketplace and PlayStation Store, respectively, although Sony limits the number of PS3 consoles on which accounts can be authorized. We've edited the story above to reflect this.
Update: Microsoft has since confirmed to Polygon that the Xbox One will also support playing games while they're downloading.