Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sony's Online "Strategy"

[News] [Computer Gaming]

It's looking like another week of media disasters for Sony. News not only that replacing the batteries inside your PS3 controllers will require returning them to the factory, but also that Sony's online service looks uninspired and uninteresting.

First up, Sony aren't going to be implementing anything like Microsoft's incredibly successful XBox 360 Gamerscores. Sony have reported an intention to have no system for tracking accomplishments over multiple games. Some games may have game-specific achievements or high score tables but these will be up to the developers/publishers to implement and maintain.

I absolutely loved the Gamerscore system, and more than once it's almost motivated me to buy into the whole XBox milieu. It's been one of the most inspired ideas of this generation of consoles and I can't for the life of me understand why Sony wouldn't jump on this particular bandwagon. It's certainly not as if they're worried about being original this time around, what with their controller and all.

Speaking of which, Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg has been quick to jump in and brand the entire Sony online initiative as:
(a) basically the same thing that Sony did for the PS2, and
(b) a knockoff of XBox Live.
I'm not sure that those can both be true at the same time, but whatever.

Most of the news currently surfacing around the Sony online strategy comes from a recent press conference. Definitely the scene stealer at that event was the news that the first 500,000 PS3s would come with a copy of Talladega Nights on Blu-Ray, but amidst that show-stopping revelation were a few bits and pieces of substance.

It seems the PS3 will be having none of this "points" nonsense when it comes to their marketplace. Purchase prices will be in real dollars and cents, so you can get a good appreciation of exactly how overpriced Oblivion horse armour really is.

Downloadable games will be priced at "under" $14.99 US, which is to say that it's probably still cheaper to buy real games second-hand than to use the download service. Some of those games, though, will apparently be made by the likes of God of War developer David Jaffe, so there's probably going to be some pearls in amongst the swine. There'll also be original PlayStation games of the likes of MediEvil and Syphon Filter - one can hope there'll be some really good games in there, too.

Developers can also build the online store directly into games, so that you can buy stuff from within the game user interface. No real word on whether that's going to require an intrusive standardised format much like the PSP save game mechanism, or whether we'll have the store system working completely differently from game to game.

Whatever you do choose to download from the Sony marketplace, you can download to up to five other PS3s without paying additional money. I'm not sure if these downloads will have some sort of lockout so you can only actually play one at a time, but if not I suspect that if I end up with a PS3 I'm going to end up giving five of my friends a bunch of free stuff.

You can also then access what you've downloaded to your PS3 via your PSP (assuming you have one). I'm assuming this is going to occur wirelessly in some fashion. I'm hoping that this isn't the only way for PSP owners to obtain the much touted original PlayStation games for portable play, but with Sony as it is I wouldn't be surprised.

You can also apparently hook up a keyboard to your PS3, to which I can only say thank Jeebers, as the console's internet functionality would otherwise be a tad shallow. No real word on how well this might be supported in games, particularly online ones, but if I know Sony I strongly suspect the answer is "this will be up to the individual developers".

Anyway, it basically boils down to the fact that Sony doesn't seem to have learned anything whatsoever from Microsoft's online success with the XBox 360. There's no real leadership emerging in terms of creating an integrated, well-supported marketplace, and the focus really seems to be more on pushing Sony's film and media agenda than it does on making something that will draw in and hook consumers.

All in all, if you've experienced the wonders of using your PSP as a media center and internet browser, then I think it's safe to say you've already had a taste of what to look forward to with the PS3. You poor suckers.


Phrancq said...

Hell, Microsoft and Nintendo haven't had to do anything to beat Sony in the console wars for a while now. Sony are destroying themselves quite nicely.

While unlikely, if they keep going, Sony may become Midway.

Josh said...

I do think Sony deserves a few licks for their online offering. For one thing, not naming it anything is moronic because it makes it just that much harder to even discuss.

Second - while I refuse to read any Microsoft rant about Sony (or the other way around) - I do think Sony could have done more for the core of their offering than it seems they are. Sadly I think we'll have to wait for the launch to see what its really like, since they still can't seem to organize a singular campaign on the feature.

Microsoft complaining about anyone copying their stuff is, however, comedy in its purest form.

And now I just can't wait for the PS3 to hit so that I can stop reading about how Sony is destroying itself.

Greg Tannahill said...

Not only do they not name the online service, but then they go and call the controller the tongue-twistingly horrible "Sixaxis".

I don't think the "Sony destroying itself" stories will stop when the PS3 hits, either. There'll be the usual round of supply shortages and console faults that you get at any launch, then there'll be bitching about the launch games, then there'll be bitching about no new games, and problems with backwards compatibility, and with the online service...

I suspect people won't shut up until a AAA game comes out, such as Heavenly Sword, Metal Gear Solid 4, or Final Fantasy XIII. Oblivion and Dead Rising seemed to do the trick for the 360 (although they did lead into the marketplace pricing and SDTV kerfuffles).

Jey said...

"it's almost motivated me to buy into the whole XBox milieu."

I thought "XBox makes baby Jesus cry".

Greg Tannahill said...

XBox does make Baby Jesus cry. But I've never been the largest supporter of (a) Jesus or (b) babies, so that particular item is unlikely to figure into my buying decisions.

Jey said...

Fair 'nough then