We desperately want to love the new PlayStation Store on the PlayStation 3. The redesign – which was introduced in customary calamitous fashion late last year – promised a prompter, prettier shopping experience. There’s no doubt that it delivered on the latter, with large icons and a Web 2.0 [bleurgh – Ed] interface – but we’re confident that you could ride a snail-driven carthorse around the entire perimeter of the British Isles quicker than it takes to actually find and purchase a specific piece of content. And with the digital marketplace only set to get more important over the coming years, Sony must solve this most simple of problems with the PlayStation 4.

Despite our criticisms of the new layout, you won’t find us campaigning for the return of the old format either. The new digital plaza may be bad, but let’s not forget that the previous option was just as messy. Yes, it booted almost instantaneously and brought the latest list of content to the forefront, but it was still a muddle of confusing categories and misplaced icons. A quick glimpse at the PlayStation Vita’s store – which uses a similar design to the PS3’s classic layout – suggests that the platform holder hasn’t learned its lesson, as even with the comparatively slender pickings available on the handheld, it’s still cumbersome to navigate.

Considering the importance of the PlayStation Store, it’s incredible that the entire environment is still suffering from such issues. While the platform holder makes plenty of money from selling hardware and disc-based games, the network is fast becoming the firm’s bread and butter. Could you imagine if Amazon took a minute to boot, crashed with some regularity, and didn’t allow you to find what you were looking for? You’d shop elsewhere. Granted, when it comes to a lot of PlayStation Network content, there are few (if any) alternatives – but that doesn’t mean that Sony can or should be able to get away with offering a shoddy service. And the problems span further than mere interface issues and long loading times.

Only recently, the company initiated a spot of scheduled maintenance in North America that unfortunately overran. This coincided with the usual PlayStation Store update, which meant that the online plaza didn’t get refreshed until long after it was supposed to. At the time, there were people who had digital pre-orders for Injustice: Gods Among Us, but weren’t able to download their game until hours after its retail release. Again, imagine if your local brick and mortar retailer attempted to pull the same trick. “Sorry, we’ve got stock in the back but we’ve decided to not open today because of, er, scheduled maintenance.” You’d be shopping there again, wouldn’t you?

We appreciate that problems happen, and, admittedly, the PlayStation Store very rarely misses its Tuesday (or Wednesday if you’re overseas) update slot, but there are still so many improvements that could be made. For example, currently new content goes live whenever the platform holder feels like it. True, the company’s European arm has gotten better at hitting a relatively consistent time slot, but it’s incredible that the same practice hasn’t been implemented in North America. There should be a specific window when new titles go live, and the firm should endeavour to achieve it every week without fail. There will be occasions when things go wrong, we understand that, but as long as it’s offering good communication through Twitter, Facebook, and the PlayStation Blog, then there really shouldn’t be a problem.

Fortunately, with the PS4, the manufacturer has the opportunity to learn from its mistakes and start again from scratch. It’s true that, to a degree, the firm’s existing hardware has been forced to do things that it was never designed for. Sony probably never expected digital games to become such a big deal over the years – neither did Microsoft – so it’s spent the past seven or so years tweaking its console in order to adapt to changing demands. But now it has the chance to build the system with those requirements in mind, and there will be no room for excuses should it miss the mark.

And it’s not like it doesn’t have ample incentive to get things right. With every game on the PS4 set to receive a digital release – and the number of developers producing download-only content increasing by the day – online sales are, as mentioned, destined to become an increasingly important area of the firm’s business. As such, the least it can do is ensure that people actually enjoy using its online storefront. It should be possible to search your download list, easily purchase DLC and items in-game, and even pre-load content so that it’s ready to play the minute of release.

These are all things that the platform holder’s surely aware of, but we refuse to buy into its promise of change until we see evidence that the problems have been fully rectified. The new PlayStation Store was supposed to offer a faster more functional experience, but it’s delivered nothing but patches, loading bars, and questionable categorisation. Let’s hope that the imminent introduction of new hardware has prompted the company to return to the drawing board – we’re not sure that we can stomach another generation of treasure hunts and inexplicable delays.


What’s your opinion on the new PlayStation Store? Do you agree that it’s an area that Sony needs to nail with its next generation platform? Let us know in the comments section below.

Which of the following PlayStation Store problems do you think that Sony most needs to solve? (23 votes)

The loading times are an absolutely enormous issue

39%

It still takes way too long to find what you’re looking for

17%

Sifting through your download list is a nightmare

17%

I wished that the new content would arrive at a regular time

26%

The ordering of categories doesn't really make much sense

  0%

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