The Perfect PlayStation Store
2nd Feb 2008 | 17:03
Having one central place where gamers go to download content is still a relatively young concept on consoles.
Xbox Live Marketplace started it all and, having been around since 2005, has had plenty of time to mature. It's well organised, intuitive and has a wide range of content. And MS' major Dashboard update improved the system even further.
Sony's PlayStation Store has some catching up to do. By 'catching up' we mean how the whole PS Store works; it's structure, updates and all. This isn't about the lack of content against other consoles, by the way. We clear on that?
Overhauled tab system
At the moment the PS Store has four main tabs that separates all of its content - Latest, Games, Demos and Video. This, put simply, is not enough. It needs more.
Less is more but there's nothing complicated about adding a few more tabs to better separate and define the different content categories.
The 'Games' tab is too general. PSone games should have their own tab. PSone games for £3.49 is and incredible feature - it deserves its own tab. The Games tab should only contain the new games released on PSN.
We think add-ons or download content for games should have its own tab, and all the content arranged by game title.
Streamlined list browsing
At the moment there's (unfortunately) not a great deal of content on the PS Store, which means that locating specific items isn't too difficult. But this will become more of a trawl when content mounts up.
All of those big icons look nice, but when we're eventually scrolling through dozens of PSone titles or download packs considering a purchase, a faster more practical list would be better.
Demos for all new games
No-one likes to buy a game blindly anymore. It's always good to know something about a game before you shed out the cash.
The great thing about Xbox Live Arcade is that every game on the service can be played in demo form as standard, so you always know what you're getting. On PSN, demos are intermittent, so if a game turns up that you know nothing about, you're forced to look it up elsewhere (hopefully here - Ed).
Sony should enforce a policy of a demo to be prepared for every new game that goes onto the PSN, so you're never left to make blind purchases.
Better PSone game profiles
We all know what Metal Gear Solid, WipEout, or Crash Bandicoot is, right? But what about when a game like, for example, Kula World appears on PSN. It's a great game but some might not have heard of it.
Two or three screenshots would be ideal - a selection of good screens will pretty much tell you everything you need to know. But we need better info pages, with a brief of the game's genre, number of players, plot and general gameplay description. Maybe a link to a web page with more info would be nice.
PSN Content update lists via info board
You can always rely on CVG to keep you posted with all the latest content that's uploaded to the PSN Store. But your PS3 should to that for you, too.
When you log onto the PS Store you're greeted by the tab with all the latest content, but it's not always comprehensive. Sony added the Info Board feature in the 2.0 firmware update, but it's proved largely useless so far.
Why doesn't Sony use it as a ticker that feeds every PS3 user a list of new content the moment it goes live?
Each item on the list should be clickable to take you directly to that item on the Store, saving you the effort of locating it yourself.
The Xbox's Marketplace is embedded within the console's Dashboard, which is great because it means the menus are pad friendly, using the shoulder buttons to flick between tabs and easy dpad navigation.
The PS Store is essentially a web page with a fixed format, and it handles like one. Using the dpad to reach the desired icon can be a mini-game within itself. If the thing you wish to highlight isn't directly adjacent to anything the arrow has a mind of its own. Getting to the buttons on the bottom of the page can be particularly 'fun'.
Analogue stick operation of the pointer is too slow. Icons, tabs and buttons need to be better lined up for the sake of easy pad navigation.
Bin the giant panels
The huge panels the run across the top half of the screen on the PS Store are a waste of space.
If Sony wants to highlight a particular game we think it could be just as effectively done in the boxes on the right. Binning that upper panel would free up plenty of room that could be used for more valuable things, like the enhanced tab system we spoke of before.
As we said before, the PS Store is just a web page, but as web pages go it's pretty basic. Every icon or tab you click just loads up a separate page - it's all a bit plain.
Why isn't there something a little flashier - like its official websites? They're all packed with moving blades, fading pages and other nice little touches. It's just a shame that the XMB and its slick background screams quality, while the PS Store's plainness lets all that down.
Okay, so this is more of a Firmware feature than one of the PS Store's faults, but we've come across numerous occasions where we'd like to leave our PS3 downloading a demo overnight, but that means leaving the fairly power-hungry machine on for hours longer than necessary.
360 can continue to download your files until it's all finished, then shut itself down automatically. The PS3 should be able to.
Sharing the wealth
We said at the start of this article that it's not about calling for more content. But we will shout about Sony giving more PS Store content to some regions than others.
Japan's PSone collection destroys ours. They also get some awesome PSP content, like LocoRoco levels and other exclusive playables for the portable that we never even hear about.
We tend to lag behind the US for new download content, too. So we're forced to bend the rules and create multiple PSN profiles on our PS3s to access the stores of different regions, and even that only works for free content - not paid stuff. Sort us out, Sony. Share the wealth around.
What you you want? And when do you want it? Tell us in the comment section below.