Daily Reaction: PlayStation Network, The State of Play

With the PlayStation Store set to get its first major overhaul in a few years, Daily Reaction’s Sebastian Moss and Dan Oravarsaraararrariaii discuss the revamp, as well as weighing up the PSN as a whole, what we like, and what we want to see improved.

Seb: Any PSN discussion is forced to mention Cross Game Chat, so I’ll get that out of the way. It’s not happening, it’s not even that big of a deal. Move on. But as to the PS Store revamp, I’m excited. The store has evolved incredibly over the course of this gen, growing from a barely-usable table to the far more streamlined and content rich service it is today. It’s still rather rough around the edges, however, so the next iteration could hopefully make it the ultimate digital portal that it needs to be.

Currently, navigating the PS Store is painfully slow, with inexplicable pauses and poor organization. Sony promises that the update will fix that, and even finally improve the search bar to actually suggest PlayStation games when you type, rather than dictionary definitions. It’s a strong step in the right direction, and Sony have also said on the PS Blog that further updates will be coming at a rapid pace.

But Sony needs to show the same level of initiative with the rest of the PSN. Why are big-name games like Counter-Strike and The Walking Dead routinely delayed on the European store for weeks, if not months (CS:GO still isn’t out, seriously). Years ago, Sony talked about using a more global QA system like MS or Steam have adopted, but have repeatedly failed to make any headway. Not only is it a waste of resources to test the same game in numerous regions, it’s just a big middle finger to their European audience – their single largest market – and means that multi-console owners will simply buy their games on XBLA, where possible.

Daa: Well it’s obvious that SCEE is having serious issues getting its act together this generation, and as no one knows exactly what is causing this problem, we are left to just see the mess it leaves behind. Given how simple certification really should be, the fact that these titles are missing release dates by a month or more is ridiculous and only leads to gamers to really see just how bad of a situation Sony is in. As an example Sony really had pushed Guerrilla Games this generation, and they have only produced 2 decently selling Killzone titles, and while Media Molecule was successful, they might not have made enough to keep Sony headquarters happy with SCEE overall, leading to closures of Sony Liverpool and BigBig. While none of this is for certain, and just a supposition, the sad state of affairs at SCEE is real, and no matter what, things do not look good for their European game market right now.

Luckily it’s not all bad news for Sony right now, as they did announce an updated interface on the PS Store coming soon (Oct. 23rd). This revamp is a great idea, as we have already seen the store change since it was first launched with the PS3. Yet looking at the images, I hope that Sony does not just make it more stylish, but improves the ability to sort and find ALL content without bouncing around as much. Currently, the store is set around its categories, that must be entered and exited to navigate between them. Something that seems very archaic and clunky, as you must actually know what you are looking for in order to find it. Yet, from the look of the new interface, I do hope Sony does not go the same way as Microsoft did when they took out the Blade system for their dashboard – as they lost eloquence for the ability to advertise.

Seb: But while Sony have made a few fumbles, there’s one area where they have really shined. Cultivating indie developers and helping them bring their products to market. Partnerships like the one with thatgamecompany (Flower, Journey) and Giant Sparrow (The Unfinished Swan) are a genius move (although again, US focused), and have led to some truly incredible releases that make the PSN one of the best digital stores out there.

They still need to improve, however. Pub fund is another brilliant idea, but here’s the thing – it technically doesn’t fund the game’s development. Sony only pays the developer after they’ve, completed the game, with the indie studio expected to go to the bank to fund the game. That kinda defeats the point.

Back onto technical issues, I do wonder why Sony ever introduced the PS Blog.Share section because it highlighted a few relatively small issues that caused people a lot of strife. Like not being able to change your PSN ID, not having a minimum of $5/£5 for transactions (ludicrous now PS Mobile is here), auto-trophy syncing, being able to delete empty trophies, or being able to access the store from a PC.

They also need to stop with the constant maintenance, several times a month, often during peak gaming times, with little warning.

These are all things that Sony needs to address and work towards tackling with the PSN.

Danboy: Well one of the main things that people need to realize is that the PSN is still in it’s infancy as a platform, and that it is still a free service. Starting out a shell of its current self, the progress we have seen is substantial and Sony should be commended on what they have given their audience, for free.

The issue that Sony seems to have around their service is that while it is free, they seem to try and milk digital sales throughout the PSN. As digital titles are now starting to see a bigger push, they are being sold at a full retail price point, except for those paying for the premium PS+, and only if they pre-ordered. This is the same issue they have been having with their digital media store that is renting and selling movies/TV shows at prices that cannot compete with Netflix or Amazon (even for Sony films). Which strangely enough are also available on the PS3, something that seems to only have Sony cutting their own legs out beneath them. Hopefully as the store sees an overhaul, Sony will get their pricing structure to be more forward thinking instead of waiting for the market to force their hand.

Lastly, one of the biggest issues that most people have when trying to play on the PS3 is that no one has a mic to speak with. Yet, this is not really as big of an issue for a number of gamers out there, at least not for the older gamer. As the price of Bluetooth headsets are reaching the cheapest bargain bins, the ability to pick one up is a non-issue. The problem truly stems from the perception that no one has one, so no one sets theirs up. Given that it is still more complicated of a process than it really needs to be, while gamers do have the mics, it is simply the process behind it that is the deterrent. So once Sony is done with remodeling the PS Store, hopefully they can set their sight on the XMB, and update that to account for the numerous additions that the PSN has added on over the years.

What are your thoughts on the PSN? Are you amazed by how far it has come, or still think that it hasn’t come far enough? Share your thoughts in the comments below, spam us on the Daily Reaction email and read Seb and Dan’s terrible tweets.