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PS Store revamp: Sony and the stay-at-home shopper

Saturday, 3rd November 2012 09:33 GMT By Stace Harman

As Sony rolls out its new-look PS Store, Stace Harman speaks to those involved with its redesign to find out how it’s going to help rather than hinder those that want to spend money.

“The reality of the store is that it has such breadth, with over 1,000 full games, 8,000 add-ons and 20,000 pieces of game content, that we got to the point where consumers would turn up at the old store and feel, like, ‘Well, where do I get stuff?’”

The PlayStation Store has never boasted the most inviting of shop fronts, nor provided the most intuitive shopping experience. Were it a bricks and mortar high street store, it would be shunned by many passers-by who would wonder aloud at how such a shop could remain in business. Certainly, with its minimalist window display, curious pricing, inconsistent stock policies and baffling catalogue system, the PS Store can feel more like a perverse sociological experiment than a place designed to help you spend money.

The redesigned PS Store, which has now finally launched in both the US and Europe after being delayed from original October release dates, aims to address two of these issues straight out of the gate. Both the aesthetic layout and the search and filtering tools have been given a much needed overhaul, details of which can be found in an extended news piece from last week, when VG247 was amongst a handful of press outlets to be invited to Sony’s London offices for a sneak peak.

The redesign is the result of extensive consumer insight studies, which have seen Sony submit numerous design materials, work-in-progress code changes and iterative store updates to shoppers and consumers in order to obtain feedback during the two-year redevelopment process. As VP for Sony Entertainment Network operations in Europe, Gordon Thornton, acknowledges it was high time that changes were made.

“The reality of the store is that it has such breadth, with over 1,000 full games, 8,000 add-ons and 20,000 pieces of game content, that we got to the point where consumers would turn up at the old store and feel, like, ‘Well, where do I get stuff?’” admits Thornton.

“So, for this iteration of the store, that was the primary driving force and the key issue we’re attempting to solve. Hopefully, when people feel that we’ve got that right, we can look at adding more features on a rolling basis and solving other potential issues.”

Thornton is keen to highlight that the job is not done and dusted once the new store is rolled out. Additional design elements and functional improvements will be added on an ongoing basis every one or two months, but the initial splash is aimed at improving the basics.

“We’ve got a lot of features that we want to deliver but we need to get the fundamentals covered first,” confirms Elliot Dumville, product development manager for PS Store Europe. “We definitely wanted to make the store more browsable, which involved talking to all different kinds of consumers to find out how they went about shopping, why were they visiting the store in the first place, how they wanted to go about finding content and how were we making them go about it.”

Entering a couple of popular search terms into the old store highlights just how necessary an overhaul of the search engine logic is: “CoD” returns 283 items, including Resident Evil Code Veronica X, a smattering of items for PS Home (including a Shark Mask and a Mummy Suit) and then, if you scroll down far enough, a handful of CoD4 wallpapers and Call of Duty game content.

Meanwhile, having the gall to search for Dishonored by way of a British-English spelling returns no results at all; thankfully, both abbreviations and misspellings are accommodated by the new search logic, alongside the facility to have search results returned as you’re typing.

The sum of its parts

Going forward, it is PS3 owners who will benefit most from the redesigned PS Store. There are separate, dedicated content sections for both PS Vita and PSP owners but this is primarily to ensure that PS3 owners who are browsing for PS3 content will not be bamboozled by irrelevant offerings. It’s a bold move and one that, at first glance, appears to push Vita owners to the outskirts of the party. However, with the handheld’s own dedicated store accessed via the console itself, it makes sense to focus on the likely interests of consumers that have arrived at the store via PS3.

“Vita is an important thing for us, but it’s also important that we don’t have Vita products getting in the way of the PS3 content and experience,” explains Dumville. “The Vita store is going great guns and for people that use the PS3 store for Vita content, we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible and give them the quickest route that we can straight to all the stuff that is Vita specific.

“However, the lion’s share of consumers that use the PS Store at the moment are looking for PS3 content, so we’ve tried to create a dedicated sub-section of the store for PS Vita users, but the real focus of Vita content will be on the Vita store.”

Unfortunately, the arrival of the new-look PS Store cannot cure all the ills currently ailing European PS3 owners. To wit: while the search and filter functions have been significantly improved, they cannot locate content that simply isn’t there. In recent months, unexplained discrepancies between the US and EU stores have seen PS3 owners forced to wait for highly anticipated titles including Counter-Strike and The Walking Dead. This has been made all the more galling by Europe-based 360 and PC owners not experiencing the same delays, suggesting the problem lies not with the localisation process but with Sony.

“On individual games there are different reasons for why it happens … but we’d like to assure people that we do listen and we are aware of the discussion on Twitter and on message boards and we are working with publishers to try to get that solved,” assures Thornton.

“The reality of this new store is that we’ve been working very closely with publishers and they’ve been very excited by it. I think because of that, we’re able to work much closer with the publishers to get the same experience for the European consumers as for the US.”

With its redesigned PS Store, Sony is making a commitment to PS3 owners in the here and now, with both Thornton and Dumville adamant that the store has been designed to best serve its customers in the present, rather than preparing them for the PS4-powered future.

The redesign, alongside the recent launch of the 500Gb PS3 SKU, suggests Sony now appreciates that while physical retailers still play an integral part in the retail landscape, an increasing number of consumers desire an intelligently designed, digitally-delivered shopping experience that they can enjoy from the comfort of their sofa.

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20 Comments

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  1. _LarZen_

    Next thing now should be to lower the price on digital download. It’s cheaper to buy a copy at the store in most cases.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. someguy2

    @1 That’s the point

    #2 2 years ago
  3. TD_Monstrous69

    @1 Really? Because last time I checked, prices are about the same at both retail stores and digital distribution stores like the PS Store. Now, if you’re talking about online retailers like Amazon, you do have a point. My only gripes with digital distribution in general are 2 things; 1. The size of the download file, because I’m starting to run low on hard drive space on my PS3, and 2. download times that can take almost forever, though I get this problem should be fixed in coming months and years with proper federal investment in strengthening internet connection speeds.

    #3 2 years ago
  4. dizzygear

    ““On individual games there are different reasons for why it happens … but we’d like to assure people that we do listen and we are aware of the discussion on Twitter and on message boards and we are working with publishers to try to get that solved,” assures Thornton. ”

    Yeah we hear that same bullshit excuse for years even though everyone knows the problem is SCEE with its retarded demands from publishers; like asking publishers to translate metadata to 12 different languages even if the content itself in English. Or even if its a goddamn avatar.

    #4 2 years ago
  5. Tearsir

    The first Prototype at 40 Euro (3 years old) is a clear example of pricing failure.

    #5 2 years ago
  6. Razor

    Tell them to change it back lol.

    The new store is fucking awful.

    #6 2 years ago
  7. K-V-C

    yea like mirrors edge is 20euro on the psn store and if i head up the road where i live and go to my local game store its 4.99 new lol

    #7 2 years ago
  8. revsouly

    Downloading games & demos is troublesome since most ISP cap downloads now. Netflix, Hulu, a Ps3, 360, tablet, smartphone, etc. then try to download Assassin Creed at 9GB, you’ll end up paying more for it with overages from the ISP :(

    #8 2 years ago
  9. stevenhiggster

    Lol at those saying PSN pricing is similar to shop prices. Most new games on PSN are £50 or more when in store prices are generally never more than £40.
    I really do wonder what kind of rich, lazy mofo you’d have to be to pay those prices.

    Edit: See pic above for evidence! £59.99 for Borderlands 2!!

    #9 2 years ago
  10. lexph3re

    @9 you realize that the price your looking at is in American dollars and not pounds right? That 59.99 translate to about 40 pounds.

    #10 2 years ago
  11. OlderGamer

    At the risk of getting stoned to death revsouly, I don’t have any ISPs at all. None what so ever. I don’t know anyone that does. I know that people do, but I live on the US and everyone I know has unlimited. Some of them are faster/slower then others, butjust saying not Everyone has isp caps.

    #11 2 years ago
  12. DrDamn

    @10
    True but there is a point to be made. In the US games tend to be sold at retail for the RRP. I.e. $60. So the digital pricing there matches retail. In the UK we have retail who like to have more pliable margins. Hence where games have an RRP of £50-£55 the reality at retail is more like £40. This situation isn’t reflected in the online stores for either console. There is a balance they try to keep due to dependency on retail and that is keeping digital prices high. When they no longer need retail I’m not thinking they are going to bring back down our of the goodness of their hearts.

    #12 2 years ago
  13. stevenhiggster

    Edit: double post, useless phone browser!

    #13 2 years ago
  14. stevenhiggster

    @10 Sorry my bad, but I didn’t have to look very hard to prove my point again, properly this time

    http://blog.eu.playstation.com/2012/10/31/heads-up-game-store-update-31st-october/#more-94587

    Note that Ass Creed 3 is £49.99 and NFS:MW is £59.99 when both these games are available from bricks and mortar stores for £39.99 or less.

    #14 2 years ago
  15. KrazyKraut

    I can just confirm those retail folks here: retail is up to 99% cheaper.
    At least one shop in your area or on the web has a nice pre-order/special offer. Pre-ordered LBP Vita for 20 Euros instead of 40 €. Now check out how much the online shit costs.

    #15 2 years ago
  16. Gekidami

    They sell the games at the RRP set by the publishers.

    #16 2 years ago
  17. Lord Gremlin

    Sorry, but new store is even worse than the old one. It causes crashes, is slower and search is now pretty much unusable.

    #17 2 years ago
  18. Clupula

    @11 – I don’t have a bandwidth cap, but certain people I know with Comcast as their provider do. It’s ridiculous, though. I can’t imagine not being able to just download whatever I want whenever I want.

    Is that a common thing in Europe?

    As for the prices on the Store, I’ve gotten some great deals on stuff, a lot of it cheaper than retail, particularly when I picked up Borderlands with all the DLC for like $12 or $15 (I can’t remember which, but it was in that range) when it was on sale. On the other hand, there are some items, like the Dragon Age Awakenings expansion that is still the original retail price, which is just ridiculous. So, there’s good and bad there, price-wise.

    I know I got Resident Evil 6 $5 cheaper than if I had bought it at retail as they don’t charge tax anymore on the Playstation Store.

    #18 2 years ago
  19. mojo

    18: no its not common (can only realy speak for germany here, dont know the situation in rest of europe, but i guess its similar).
    There are some IPS that emerged from the TV Cable buisness who now deliver interent over TV Cable who cap download for filesharing protokolls.
    Normal downloads should be uneffected.
    Normal Internet (DSL) isnt capped at all as far as i know.
    There are people with more then a Terabyte of monthly download on a regular basis who dont get capped.

    #19 2 years ago
  20. CyberMarco

    Yeah, I can confirm that in Italy and Greece you don’t have a download limit. And you can find internet+phone quite cheap, I’m paying 20€/m for unlimited phone calls and 20mb/s internet speed, here in Italy.

    I can’t understand why there are caps in DLS connections…

    #20 2 years ago