As the Dean of PlayStation University, I love the PlayStation brand. With that being said, it’s often easy to overlook the flaws of the things you love. This article is to serve as a critical evaluation of Sony’s PSN and as a follow-up to my previous article from last week, “6 Reasons Why Xbox Live is Failing 10 Years Later.” The success and innovation of Xbox Live not only brought online gaming to the forefront of consoles, but it has revolutionized the way people play games. For better or for worse, most games sit down on the couch these days and hop on their favorite multiplayer game to play with friends or dominate strangers online. PlayStation Network took a slightly different approach to the online space, but it’s hard to argue that PSN would exist as it does today without Xbox Live’s inception 10 years ago. This article is not intended to say that PSN is failing now, or that there is anything fundamentally wrong with it in the status quo, but if they go into the next generation without offering at least some of the upgrades I mention, then I have severe doubts for the success of PSNs future. In order to maintain PSN as the Gold Standard in console gaming, Sony should consider the following. Trust me, I’m the Dean.
6) Party Chat
Believe it or not, most gamers have a solid and healthy group of friends. Better yet, those same friends often play games with one another. Even better yet, when humans talk to each other using their voices, it’s not only a more beneficial and productive friendship, but it makes teamwork and cooperation infinitely easier. Before you get too riled up, I understand that the PS3 supports both text-based party chat and in-game voice chat. This does not solve the problem because first of all, no one uses text chat. Ever. Secondly, relying on in-game voice chat is 90% of the time worse if you have other options presented to you. Sometimes you and your friends don’t want to hear the other players and instead of muting everyone, it’s better to just have your own party chat room.
The biggest issue though, is when you aren’t playing the same game. For example, if you’re playing the campaign mode of a game or a game that is strictly single player and you see a bunch of your buddies online playing some Killzone together, it’s frustrating. If you want to talk to everyone you have to either call them on the phone (who uses a phone to call anyone nowadays?) or join the game and try to navigate your way into their party and then hope the other gamers aren’t too pissy about you talking to your friends. If I was in the middle of playing Last of Us but wanted to talk to a group of friends, I’m basically stuck on the PS3. This might not matter to a lot of people and if it doesn’t, ignore the feature once it is implemented. Thankfully the Vita has this feature already, so this one is all but guaranteed on the PS4.
5) Usability of the User Interface
It would seem intuitive that the “user” interface would be both “user-friendly” and “usable.” However, Sony has unnecessarily complicated much of the day-to-day things gamers like to do on their PS3s. The recent update to the PlayStation Store improved things, in my opinion, but many of my issues lie with the very Cross-Media Bar (XMB) interface itself. Instead of using a series of eye-catching and easy to scan menus, Sony opted for a line of content areas (like Settings, Music, Games, Account, etc) with a series of options under each. The design is fairly clean and simple and allows for some great customization of the icons and the background, but what was the true purpose? I don’t want to have to wait for all of the game my friends are playing to load just to check a message. I don’t want to wait 5 minutes for my trophies to sync just so I can go see what that trophy I unlocked was for. I don’t want to have to exit a game I’m playing just to change a few settings or check something in the PlayStation Store.
I want ease-of-use. When I turn on my PS4, I want to be able to jump into a game, look at my trophy list, my friends list, my messages, etc all very easily. I don’t want to have to memorize which tab a setting is under – the XMB is clunky and out-of-date. The interface of the PlayStation Vita is extremely gimmicky with its bubbles and doesn’t really move in any type of productive direction, so I expect something pretty grand and sweepingly different for the PS4.
Keep reading on the next page for four more ways…