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Improving the PlayStation Store 107

This opinion piece takes stock of Sony's PlayStation Store, examining its flaws and the areas Sony needs to improve as their gaming systems come to rely upon it more and more. The problems and suggested solutions involve everything from UI elements to demo availability to pricing inconsistencies. "Some people may say that the Microsoft Points scheme is a little confusing, but it is consistent. If a game is 800MSP in the US, it's 800MSP everywhere else. What a MSP is worth is up to the store, but for the most part they're close. The PlayStation Store on the other hand can be all over the place. While most games in North America keep to the same price point — such as $9.99 or $14.99, converting that over to Europe is another thing entirely. For example, Flower came out earlier this year for $9.99USD. In Australia a $10USD game gets converted to $12.95AUD. Or does it? Bomberman Ultra just came out, and it's $15.95AUD. Heavy Weapon gets released for $12.95AUD, while Capcom’s previous efforts, like Commando 3, convert to $15.95. The same thing also happens for more expensive titles. Both Battlefield 1943 and Fat Princess were released for $14.99 in the US, but in Australia they're priced at $19.95AUD and $23.95 respectively."
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Improving the PlayStation Store

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  • by sopssa ( 1498795 ) * <> on Thursday October 15, 2009 @06:34AM (#29754951) Journal

    This non-consistent pricing is not only in PlayStation Store - Steam prices also change heavily based on location. It's even worse with Steam, because the prices used to be same everywhere but they changed it in 2009 (nicely hidden as "local currencies come to steam!")

    I haven't personally been able to buy anything from Store because for some reason any of my credit cards don't work with it, even though they work everywhere else. Apparently they finally got the cards to stores here now (it took them what, 2-3 years?), but I haven't bothered to go get any yet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spire3661 ( 1038968 )
      Ill take inconsistent pricing over arbitrary 'points' any day.
      • by TuaAmin13 ( 1359435 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @07:09AM (#29755119)
        TFS doesn't explain everything.
        • The PSN Store is divided into multiple regions. Each region has control over their own store. iirc there's more stores than 3 (SCEA, SCEE, SCEJ)
        • Publishers in 1 region may not be the same in others, hence pricing disparities. While SCEA might be the publisher in the US, Capcom could be the publisher in Japan. This somewhat explains the selection available between stores.
        • Each PSN Store is free to run their own promotions. I've picked up Calling All Cars for $4.99 before on the US Store, and gotten a free episode of Voltron

        So 800 MS Points is $10 in the US. How much does 800 MS Points go for in other countries? Is it still $10 USD, or has it been adjusted? That's the apples to apples comparison right there.

        Personally I like the $$$ option of the PSN rather than the point method of Microsoft. I have a credit card, I don't want to buy some sort of currency first to then buy games. I don't want to have to convert all points to prices to see if something is a good value. Nintendo's is a bit easier, with 1000 points being $10, but Microsoft wants you to spend more points without realizing it. 1200 points, Oh wow, that looks like only $12 when actually it's $15.

        Personally I like the PSN UI. The current version is a whole lot better than the old one, particularly with regards to redeeming promo codes.

        Not to say the PSN can't be improved. I would love to see either a unified login (for all regions) or a way to change your name with your current account. Right now when people want to change account names they create a new account. That decreases the number of names available for new PSN members. All because they got tired of xxxhazz0rszzzz and wanted omgitssephiroth. So I'm sure you've got guys out there with 5-10 accounts, where Sony could charge $5 to change your name and keep all your DLC/Trophies. Microsoft already allows you to change your name, iirc. I would also love to have some of the content available on the Japanese store, without creating a Japanese account and trying to browse that store. Will it happen? Who knows.

        • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          80MSP =

          USD $10.00
          GBP £6.80
          EURO €9.30
          CAD $12.79
          AUD $13.20
          JPY Y 1184
          CHF 17.12 CHF
          NOK 65.60 NOK

          According to the first Google search result.

          • I think you mean 800MSP :P
            • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

              by TuaAmin13 ( 1359435 )
              This is /.

              I can't be expected to both Google something *and* RTFS. That's for the later comments to point out.
          • Uhhhh, you are off by an order of magnitude. That would be 800 MSP, not 80

          • by dintech ( 998802 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @08:25AM (#29755555)

            So using today's exchange rates vs USD, 800 MSP is actually:

            11.01 USD (in GBP)
            13.89 USD (in EUR)
            12.49 USD (in CAD)
            12.17 USD (in AUD)
            13.20 USD (in JPY)
            16.90 USD (in CHF)
            11.85 USD (in NOK)

            To me it looks like there's an aditional non-english premium...

            • by dintech ( 998802 )

              Actually thinking about this, it's more likely to be caused by the weak dollar. Even if Mircosoft Points were fairly pegged in the past, fluctuations in the currency rate would cause this kind of issue if the number of points is the same in each region.

            • A non-english premium? What, you mean they don't speak English in Great Britain, Canada and Australia?

              • They speak proto-English. They add extra 'u's to words, and say things like "bloke", "criminy", and "gday mate".

                Signed, typical American.

              • by dintech ( 998802 )

                Yes, yes, I'm actually British so I'm aware of all that. What I meant was, the non-english speaking ones are even more expensive. EUR, JPY, CHF in particular. I was implyinog that this might be either a localisation cost or down to stronger currencies.

        • by IrquiM ( 471313 )

          In addition you have to consider local VAT laws for the different countries. 15% some place, 25% other places, etc.

        • Don't forget that Microsoft and Nintendo both do the "hot dog vs hot dog buns" deal too, where their points are sold in rounded units but their products are sold in increments between them. Buy 500 or 1000 points, pay 1200 or 800 for a game. Either way, you're going to end up with leftover points which is intended to persuade you to buy more crap because you've still got points left over. Then you end up not having enough points left over to buy anything, so you're encouraged to buy MORE points.

          Look at t

    • by nutshell42 ( 557890 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @08:28AM (#29755571) Journal
      EU Mass Effect prices two months ago:
      • Amazon: $10
      • US Steam: $20
      • EU Steam: $75

      I don't know what they're smoking at EA Europe but it gotta be good stuff. Too expensive in a recession, though, because after more than a year of the old price they recently reduced it to about $20.

    • This non-consistent pricing is not only in PlayStation Store - Steam prices also change heavily based on location

      That's true of pretty much anyone selling anything in multiple countries. Personally I don't see what's so great about Microsoft points. Instead of having a separate price for each region, you have a separate exchange rate for each region. How is that less confusing?

    • Its not just PlayStation Store, it's not just Steam, it's not just video games, it's not just the internet... It's everything. From text books, to DVDs, to jeans, to Big Macs: the same item can cost a different amount (after factoring in exchange rates) based on location. This has been true since there have been different currencies, different cultures, and different locations.

    • Pricing doesn't need to be consistent and never has been. World markets are all different, earning and buying power change from place to place.

      The same car in the USA, Canada and the UK will have different sticker prices based on perceived local value for example.

  • Meh! (Score:2, Informative)

    This is how the world works, there's little parity between the likes of the US and the UK let alone Oz. It's stupid to complain that another English version of the game has a different number next to the dollar sign signifying a different currency which in the real world runs circles around your own currency.
  • Cool! (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Cool! Australia apparently lies in Europe now!
  • Is the author stupid? He really expects the PSP to match performance features of the PS3? THe reason the PS3 can background download is because it has multiple work units to process the data, including one dedicated solely to the OS. IM not THAT familiar with the PSP CPU architecture, even though i own one, but im pretty sure its a single core. Neither the Xbox 360 or PS3 supported background downloading at launch.
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @07:32AM (#29755239) Journal
      Data transfer(especially at 802.11b speeds) isn't exactly computationally overwhelming. Single processor systems have been doing transfers in the background for ages.

      Perhaps, with the older PSPs, there isn't any room for multitasking, if certain games expect to have full use of hardware resources; but the fact that they didn't bump the PSP-go's specs just enough to offer background downloading is pure laziness.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheKidWho ( 705796 )

      PSP is actually a dual processor design.

      It has two MIPS R4000 with one of the units missing an FPU.

    • Oh snap, you can't multithread on a single-core processor! Quick, somebody tell Microsoft, Linux, UNIX, and all those other OSes with multiprocessing that they've been doing something impossible for the last forty years!

    • Ok; but it could AT THE VERY LEAST resume interrupted downloads and let you pause them.

      I mean, you can defend the "no background downloading" thing, but what's the defense for not being able to resume interrupted downloads? Let's go back in time to what the Internet was like in 1995, folks!

      Also, I had desktop computers a lot less powerful than PSPs, that were capable of background downloading while playing single-player games. What makes you think you need a dedicated CPU core to *download a file*, of all t

  • That paragraph quoted from the article is terribly worded and somewhat confusing. It continually lists things without telling the counterpart value or what the conversion is

    1) us the US price, the US to AU conversion, but doesn't tell us the actual AU price
    2) What is the US release price for Bomberman Ultra, Heavy Weapon, and Commando 3? I'm assuming it $9.99, but I can't say for sure
    3) Battlefield 1942 and Fat Princess...great, we have their US and AU prices, but they didn't mention what the

  • I don't understand what all the fuzz is about, it has been this way for ages.

    Take normal price for a ps3 game in USA, using Uncharted 2 as an example, would be $59.99 at, if you go to the danish store at the same game is 549 danish kroners, converted to USD that would be around $110.

    But like I said, it's been this way for ages.

    • s/fuzz/fuss/

    • by broeman ( 638571 )
      That is probably why I never bought a PS3 retail game (and few blu-rays) in Denmark, especially since we have easy access to UK (and the canal islands) prices. I even import from Hong Kong from time to time, and if they get caught by the post office, the company accepts that it will be returned and they send another one.

      On topic: In the US, PSN has started to accept competition on its own Store (sounds weird, but apparently Sony likes competition) from Amazon, where you essentially buy a redeem-key. I wou
  • Almost all of the problems listed are either not problems, or are not Sony's problem. It is up to the game publisher to advertise, set prices, and make sure the customer is informed. I actually applaud Sony for not forcing them to do things like provide screenshots. If they don't want to provide them, they shouldn't have to.

    And guess what? I'm free not to buy, either.

    The only thing Sony does have control over is the format of the PSN Stores in each area... They are -way- different from each other (Japa

  • Why can't I play my old PS1 games on my PSP without having to hack it! Have to agree that the PlayStation Store does need UI improvements but over all I like the whole idea - I have downloaded all the demos and even *gasp* brought a game - heaps better than having a UMD floating around.
  • Horrible interface (Score:3, Insightful)

    by biscuitlover ( 1306893 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @08:32AM (#29755605)

    I've got to say the interface leaves a lot to be desired... it's quite flashy but not at all intuitive. I'd like something more table-based, where you can see the price, release date, genre etc. of lots of different games all at once. Instead, you often have to calculate where the content you want lives and hunt it down using the right combination of categories and button presses. Yeah, I know there is a search feature, but the browsing experience isn't great and is only going to get worse as more games are added.

    If you think this is bad though, try Vidzone - the PS3 music video player you can download for free. It is slow, clunky and so horrible to use that I uninstalled it minutes after first using it. Worst interface I've ever seen, possibly apart from the Sonicstage NetMD software from 10 years ago or so (also by Sony). I think the company desperately needs to hire some usability experts...

    • I am VERY disappointed with my PS3 as a media center.
      It works well for blu-rays and games, but thats it.
      Everything is either totally non-functional, or 'clunky' at best.

      PSN sucks.
      Browser sucks - (wont run Netflix or youtube properly).

      If they could get Netflix working I would be a lot happier.
      I would def be willing to pay $10/year like (X-box live) if it meant I could do netflix and have a decent browser.

      • ... or something anyway. Browser on mine does youtube fine.

        Also BBC iPlayer works nicely (I'm in the UK), and if you have a linux box you can install mediatomb and have the PS3 pick it up as a media server. It plays pretty much anything. It's great :)

        YMMV of course. And from your post it seems it has.

    • After being subjected to the abomination known as the Sony Connect store, I realized Sony + software = crap.

      They simply don't have it in their culture to create usable software.

      Even their embedded software is godawful-- my parents' Sony camcorder has two icons to connect to USB. Both icons are identical, with the only difference being that one of them works (i.e. the device shows up as expected on the computer) and one doesn't work (i.e. nothing happens.) Seriously, WTF?!

    • Several times I've come close to buying PSP games, because they're not so clearly marked - and once I actually screwed up and did it. I now own $14.99 worth of software I don't even own the hardware to play.

      Would be really nice if I could have a "Just turn off all the PSP content, ok?" setting.

  • Living in Canada, price differences are frequently apparent. Books for example list a Canadian price and a US price, which was fine when the Canadian dollar traded at 70 cents US. When the Canadian dollar shot up to parity, however, we were inexplicably still paying $15 for a $10 book. I'm not sure what the current book situation is though, it may have stabilized. Cars are another example, it's often cheaper to fly to the US to buy a car and then pay import taxes to drive it to Canada than it is to buy it h

    • by radish ( 98371 )

      The article isn't complaining about price disparity between regions - it's pointing out that different items from the store are more/less expensive by different amounts, so it's not just a straight currency adjustment, there's per-title regional pricing variance going on as well. That's something unique to Sony (vs MS/Nintendo) AFAIK.

  • the other problem with PS Store is that it is difficult to figure out what you are actually buying. Are you buying a game to play? a non-transferable licence to play the game? a licence restricted to a number of PS units? or perhaps a licence for 1 game per unit?

    I had the misfortune of having a bluray drive fail and being out of warranty, I simply bought a new ps3 slim. Everything from the backup restored except 60 or so Singstar songs (GBP 50 /USD 80 ish) because, as I found out too late, the DRM in th

  • in the us tax is not part of the price in the uk and others places it is.

  • Let's imagine I want to buy a game on my XBox.

    The game is 1200 Microsoft Points. I can't buy 1200 Microsoft Points, though. I can buy 2000. But then I have 800 Microsoft Points left over. I don't want that, so I navigate through the menu structure to buy 1000 Microsoft Points (wait for confirmation), then again to buy another 250 Microsoft Points (wait for confirmation). Now I can buy the game (wait for confirmation) and start downloading. Oh, look at this, here is another game I want, I didn't see this bef

    • by radish ( 98371 )

      Or you could have bought 2000 points in the first place and still have points "automatically stored and used on the next game". You can't buy a $4.99 game for $4.99 from Sony (you end up with cash stored in your account) and you can't buy a 400 point game from MS for 400 points (you end up with points stored in your account). I completely fail to see any difference whatsoever.

      You could even say that Sony is worse because their minimum charge is $10 whilst MS will let you buy 250 points which is less than th

      • Sure, so I buy 2000 points in the first place. Now I have 800 points left over. The next game I want to buy is 1200 points. Now what?

        My point is that MS makes the entire process more irritating, more timeconsuming, and more mentally frustrating than the Sony process. Whenever I buy something from MS I have to buy at least two things, possibly more, each one taking five to ten seconds to talk to the servers, and with me having to do some mental math and check my balance to figure out what exactly it is that

      • Well, personally I think I prefer the Sony method (though I have no experience with the MS one). Because as long as you are over the minimum charge limit, you can add any value you want.
    • Actually, at least in the US the minimum purchase on PSN is $5.00. So you buy that 4.99 game and only have a penny left over. The minimum charge is a per credit card charge, so even if you have $4 on your account and you want to buy a $5 game, you still have to add $5. Still better than XBox Live, though I do wish PSN required demos for all their games. I'll download a demo at times on XBox Live and buy the game if I like it for the PS3.
  • My only gripe doesn't have to do with the currencies but the fact that all the psp stuff is mixed in with the ps3. I get that sony wants me to buy a psp but bugging me all the time with all the damn psp stuff is a turn off.

    what sony REALLY needs to do is emulate the psp on the ps3 so you can play your games on the ps3 or the psp. I'd actually buy one then and there are several psp games i'd buy just to play on the ps3. (loco roco, papaton, mgs, gow, assassin's creed, etc)

    • That *is* sort of annoying. Especially since the PlayStation Store is also accessible on the PSP (where it only displays PSP-compatible content.) It should at least be configurable. I think the rationale behind not emulating the PSP on the PS3 is that it would cannibalize PSP sales. Remember how PS3 used to be backward compatible with PS2, but is no more? If it were still so, Sony would sell fewer PS2's...
  • It's the same way with physical goods too. They're pricing to what they think the regional markets will bare. And I'm sure they've done a fair amount of market research to determine those variations.

  • Generally people think there should be some sort of parity of pricing across countries for online distribution systems but this is wrong in the real world for a few reasons. Fundamentally you could break it down to intentional and mechanical.

    On the intentional side, this is pretty obvious. Companies exploit the strength of local economies by pricing goods per market. They also have to deal with weak markets. Usually you get some guff about "additional operating costs" but while that's partially tru

  • by tgibbs ( 83782 ) on Thursday October 15, 2009 @10:32AM (#29757131)

    The Playstation store is the one area where the PS3 falls far short of the XBox 360, but the article misses the major issues. When I look for things in the PS3 store, it is just a jumble, and there is no really useful sorting. I often end up downloading a game for XBox 360 that I might have downloaded for PS3 if the store were not so disorganized. For example, on the XBox360, all games available online have demos, and the full game can be purchased from the demo. On the PS3 demos are separate things, and there is no differentiation between demos for disk games and demos for online available games. What the PS3 store really needs is:

    A way to sort games into categories.
    -Demos of PS3 games available on disks (subsorted by name, release date, genre, or popularity)
    -Demos of *all* PS3 games available online with option to buy full game (subsorted by name, release date, genre, or popularity)
    -PSP games (subsorted by name, release date, genre, or popularity)

    • No kidding. The Playstation store is all but unusable - impossible to find anything. I've only ever downloaded a few demos, but it seems that every time I do I somehow end up with two copies of it. This doesn't exactly instill confidence in the store, making it very unlikely I will ever actually buy something through it.

      It also seems to be extremely slow to load, very clunky interface, and basically looks like it was designed by someone who has never, ever visited or seen an online retailer. Pretty bad all

    • Add having to install demos to the list. I've had a 360 for years and recently picked up a PS3. I downloaded a demo and then had to install it!? The install took about 10 minutes for a 1.2 GB demo.

      Really Sony?

      With the 360 you just download and play. There is no addition anything to be done.

      Forcing your customer to walk away from the machine, as it's completely unusable during install, is a bad idea. They may find something better to do with their time.

    • While it would be nice of Sony to 'force' demos to be available, I do prefer that they treat their publishers with a little respect and the store has a big huge "Demo" category where you can look at game demos all you like. They're even sorted alphabetically.

      • by tgibbs ( 83782 )

        So if I happen to see a PS3 game that I think I might want to download, I have to go to a different section and search through an long list to find out if there is a demo (I don't buy games without demos; I figure that the lack of a demo means that the publisher thinks that I wouldn't want the game if I knew what it was actually like--and that they are most likely correct in their estimation). Most of them are for disk games, rather than downloadable games. Then if I do like the demo, I have to go back to t

        • No, I don't. Since like any rational person, if I'm looking for demos, I just browse the demo category in the first place.

  • I mean no one goes to the grocery store and goes "This is horrible problem...the oatmeal is way to cheap compared to Frosted Flakes. These prices are all over the place!"

    I'm all for vendors being free to price their product in online venues at what ever level they want. This also means they can price they are free to price themselves into oblivion but the wonderful things about online stores it is much easier to fix than if they made the wrong price level for on the shelf product. This "problem" really d

    • by ukyoCE ( 106879 )

      Yeah, not a very compelling summary. The price is consistent for a person in the US with a playstation. Who cares what someone in Japan is paying in Yen for the same game?

    • by Nakarti ( 572310 )

      That's a terrible analogy!
      Of course the price of one game can be different from another!
      A much better analogy is: Game prices(shh) at Walmart.(I work near one(A), my mom lives next to another(B), and my wife works near a third(C).)
      I can go to A, mention that Final Fantasy IV is $29, $5 less online(, if I could get that price now, I'd buy it. They match
      I can go to B, mention that Final Fantasy IV is $29 online, and they remind me it's the same price there!
      I can go to C, ment

    • Not even close to a proper analogy.

      Its more like going to whole foods vs publix vs kroger vs (local businessman) and buying a 2 liter of coke in the new family style bottle.

      At whole foods, its $9.
      At publix, its $3.
      At kroger, its $5, but you have to have a kroger credit card to buy it, but if you have bought a 2 liter of coke before, since its in new packaging, you can get a second copy for a friend who also has an account but hasn't bought it before.
      The local businessman charges 2.50, but he is sold out and

  • differences, News at 11.

  • I could care less what the price of a game is on the other side of the world. Why would I even take the time to compare? If the price in my country is fair to me, I will buy it.

    The biggest problem is that the games cannot be resold, and yet they are priced as if they could be resold. A $10-15 downloadable game is usually a cute diversion, lacking in substance and soon forgotten. And yet, that same $10-15 could be the net cost of buying a full retail game, playing it, and then selling it.

    Some of the download

  • I don't care how much games cost in Japan or Australia or in Latvia. I care how much games cost HERE. MS Points are just vendor lock in. If a game comes out on PSN, I can buy the whole game with out buying "points" leaving me with extra leaving me to buy more points to buy another product on PSN thus leaving me to buy more points and keeping this unholy cycle going. This is, of course, for amounts greater than five bucks, but, there isn't much on the PSN store aside from DLC unlockables that cost that l

egrep -n '^[a-z].*\(' $ | sort -t':' +2.0