Select/Start Games Editorial: How to “fix” the Playstation 3

A few weeks back, I posted an editorial on how to “fix” the Xbox 360. Now it’s time to turn the microscope on Sony’s big black box, and see what can be done to improve the console…in my own humble opinion, of course.

It’s no secret that I’m a big Playstation fan, and have been since the PS1 hit the scene in 1995, and even though the Playstation 3 has improved by leaps and bounds in the 2 years it’s been since it’s launch, there is still plenty of room to grow.

Like last time, I’ll point out briefly what I think doesn’t need to be fixed about the console.

The games. First party exclusives are the Playstation 3’s single strongest point. Hands down, some of the best developers in the industry are working on Sony’s machine. From Insomniac, to Naughty Dog, to Team Ico and Polyphony Digital, Sony has more first and second party support than Microsoft and Nintendo combined. So far this generation, we’ve seen some spectacular visual and gameplay showpieces on the PS3, from full fledged 25+ gig Blu Ray disc titles, to smaller, yet no less fantastic downloadable titles released on the PSN. Games has always been Sony’s strong point, and the quality doesn’t just come from third party developers.

I also think they did right by including Blu Ray in the PS3, and keeping the PSN a free online network. Games like Uncharted, MGS4, Ratchet and Clank Future, and more have proven why Blu Ray is beneficial to games, and a free online network is better than a pay one any day (just ask Steam).

Now, onto what I think needs to change.

Lower the Price before May 2009
First, it goes without saying that the PS3 is an expensive piece of kit. It should also go without saying that Sony is aware of this, and will lower the price before the end of this year. My own personal guesstimate is sometime in April 2009. Looking at their strong lineup for this year, a price cut before the summer blockbuster titles hit will continue to carry the momentum the PS3 has generated on the back of the release of Killzone 2 last month. A price cut is vital this year, and needs to happen sooner rather than later, but seeing as Sony’s fiscal year doesn’t end until March 31st, 2009, I don’t see a price cut happening this month.

Playstation Network Needs some Unity
Next up, I think Sony needs to unify the PSN more. The 360 has a very unified online structure. Accessing friends lists, sending universal messages and invites is all very, very easy to do. Accessing your profile information, and the profile information of friends is also a cinch. The PSN needs to emulate this pronto. End of story. Considering how polished the rest of the console’s offerings are, it’s a shame the online network is as rough as it is.

Being able to access your information on the net, as well as using your PSN ID for all official Playstation related sites like Playstation.com and Threespeech, as well as first party studio sites would be an excellent idea as well (this has already happened in part over the past few months, but a stronger push would be great).

A simpler interface for comparing Trophies, perusing profiles, and sending messages is a must. As elegant and intuitive as the XMB is, we shouldn’t have to deal with such a non-user friendly setup concerning communicating and joining friends online. The good news is that Sony has shown a willingness to listen and adapt to our needs, as the PSN has grown from the ghost town of content it was back in November 2006, to a 20 million user strong community, with a plethora of multi-media content, both free and paid, for PSN users to enjoy. Once Sony buffs some of the sharp edges, the PSN could easily surpass LIVE in enough time. I do think, however, that the PSN has one trick up it’s sleeve that could truly put it over LIVE, but it is in dire need of a makeover as well, and brings me to my next point.

Playstation HOME
Playstation HOME is a great idea on paper. It’s a 3D chat room in it’s simplest description, where like-minded gamers can get together and chat about games. This is fine, but the application is capable of so much more.

Themed rooms like the Far Cry 2, Uncharted, and Resident Evil 5 rooms are great ideas. The war room for Warhawk, in which clans can meet up prior to a match and hash out a plan is a great idea as well.

But what about having live Q&A sessions with various developers via HOME? How about, when an event such as E3 or TGS or Sony Gamers Day occur, allow gamers to wander the booths, attend the press conferences, and most importantly, download each and every demo available on the show floor, right in the comfort of their home and, er, HOME space? It’s not the media that are going out spending millions of dollars on Playstation 3 games, it’s the gamers. There’s nothing wrong with letting them get an early peak at some upcoming games. Bring the games to HOME and the gamers will come to HOME.

While it’s generally a very active place, there isn’t much that really screams “Gamer!”

Host weekly or monthly tournaments via HOME, with HOME related, and real world prizes. Exclusive events, trailers, and downloads are some of the best incentives to get Playstation fans more active in HOME.

Improve Third Party Relations and Development
It’s simply a fact of the industry that 3rd party companies have to move to multi-platform development in order to turn a profit. This is more due to the world economy than the expensiveness of game development (after a game engine has been created or licensed, you don’t have to spend nearly as much money to make future games).

Because of this, many third party developers have flocked to the Xbox 360 because of it’s larger install base and popularity in the Western Market. That in itself is not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with multi-platform development, but the problems occur when developers don’t at least attempt to learn the intricacies of the consoles they are developing for.

I won’t say any names, but I used to work for a game developer that was developing a multi-platform title. Doing various tests, I learned that the developer was using 512MB of the 360’s 512MB of memory, while they were only using 256MB of the 512MB of memory available for the PS3, then complained about why it ran so poorly on the PS3.

This is where Sony comes in. They must start extending their technical know how to third party developers. Companies like Naughty Dog, Insomniac (which is second party, not even first party), Sony Santa Monica, and Guerrilla Games have worked together and shared code and knowledge concerning complex Playstation 3 development, and have created tools called “Edge” which significantly improves performance of the PS3’s Cell Processor and RSX.

Insomniac even started the “Nocturnal Initiative,” which is a large library of documents free for anyone to peruse, and features a lot of data and source code to help developers. Why many third party developers have ignored these resources is beyond me, but it’s not my problem to figure out, it’s Sony’s. They need to get on the ball and start to extend olive branches to many developers and publishers that have gone too far astray. Square-Enix is now feeling the pinch of releasing numerous JRPGs on the 360 to dismal worldwide sales, so it’s only a matter of time before they come sniffing around Sony’s door again, but better relations with the company sooner would have been more productive for both parties.

Lastly, Sony needs to Balance it’s Marketing

It has to be said that Sony releases a lot of products. From movies, to music, to electronics, and of course, video games. Marketing all of those products isn’t cheap. However, balancing the marketing of those products shouldn’t be that hard.

The Playstation 3 is actually the center piece by which all of these things can orbit. The PS3 plays Blu Ray movies. It plays music CDs and DVDs. It plays games. It surfs the net, and it is compatible with HDTVs. Instead of spending millions of dollars advertising each one of those products on their own, create a handful of campaigns that highlight those products, but also tie them to the PS3.

You can have commercials that show the gaming side of the PS3. Commercials that show the movie side (combined with a plug for Sony Bravia HDTVs also), and then have a commercial that shows all of them, including the built in web browser and Wi Fi adapter. It’s hard to market a product as feature packed as the PS3, but look at the iPhone, for example. It is also a multi-media device, marketed perfectly, and enjoying incredible success. And the damn thing costs as much as a Playstation 3, minus the Blu Ray player, and ability to play games like Metal Gear Solid 4 and Little Big Planet!

Don’t forget to pimp the PSP connectivity with the PS3 as well.

On the games side, instead of having major individual campaigns for each of the exclusives coming out this year, have a combined campaign for games releasing with 3 months of each other, and hype them as the “Playstation Experience.” Heavy Rain, Uncharted 2, Ratchet and Clank Future 2, and God of War 3 all hitting between October 2009 and December 2009/January 2010? Throw the four titles in a commercial together with impressive gameplay footage and a fat “Only on Playstation 3” label at the end, run the ads for a four month window (beginning in September), and get ready to count the sales.

All those quality titles don’t need a Halo 3 esque marketing campaign, but one of the biggest complaints still to this day thrown at the Playstation 3 by the casual, mainstream audience is that the PS3 has no games. Gamers like me know that it does have plenty of games, but slapping a few jaw-droppers into one commercial would do wonders to shake that reputation, not to mention that each title is varied and unique enough to show the diversity of the Playstation 3 game library.

Here are a few combinations I think would work rather well:

Ad 1 (Epic Scale):
Killzone 2
White Knight Chronicles
inFamous

Ad 2 (Unparalleled Online Experience):
MAG
The Agency
DC Universe Online
Fat Princess

Ad 3 (Compelling Action and Drama)
Uncharted 2
Ratchet and Clank Future 2
Heavy Rain
God of War 3

Commercials featuring in game action of these games would be more than enough to convince even the most jaded, skeptical consumers out there that the Playstation 3 has some quality gaming. Similar ads for the Blu Ray functionality, with combinations of various movies would be excellent as well, and wouldn’t cost nearly as much as what it would cost to advertise each of them individually.

Anyway, that about wraps it up for my thoughts on what I think needs to improve over in PS3 land, and as usual, I’d love to see your thoughts on matter in the comments below.

Advertisements

2 Responses to “Select/Start Games Editorial: How to “fix” the Playstation 3”

  1. very nice article, you touched on most points. But I think HOME is still a failure (I’m not being pessimistic). I went on Home for the first couple days and got bored. I’d rather have Clan Rooms instead of Home. 3D clan rooms would be much more fun than 3D HOME (I know you can do this in your house but its really boring).

  2. It’s good to see someone else finally agree that BluRay is a good thing. As for the price cut, don’t hold your breath haha. Cool site, though. I’ll bookmark and check in once in a while.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: