News Article

Talking Point: PS4 Must Provide a More Palatable Shopping Experience

Posted by Sammy Barker

Add to basket

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


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


Sifting through your download list is a nightmare


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


The ordering of categories doesn't really make much sense


Please login to vote in this poll.

User Comments (17)



rockman29 said:

The current PS3 Store is awful, just awfullll.

Thank jeebus for the web SEN store.



get2sammyb said:

@rockman29 Yeah, I dread booting it up these days. It's just so slow. It's incredible that the console can run a game like Uncharted 3 without a hiccup, yeah feels like it's creaking under the weight of the new store. Like I wrote in the article, though, I don't really feel that the old one was much better.



ShogunRok said:

Content arriving on time is the big one for me, but that doesn't mean the store itself is forgivable. Sony have come a long way since the early days of the PSN - a LONG way - but some aspects of it are still laughably badly executed.

But yeah, what really irks me is when the store fails to update for whatever reason. There's no real reason for such a service that so many people rely on to be so insanely mismanaged. Sometimes it's almost as if Sony doesn't want people's money. This really has to be fixed for the PS4.

My other biggest gripe has to do with error codes. It's not uncommon to click on the store and be presented with either an error code or a message saying something like 'the PSN is undergoing maintenance', when really there's nothing wrong. Gamers like you and I know this is just a dumb mistake, so we keep pressing until we eventually get onto the store.

More casual users, though? What's to stop them from thinking "oh the store is down, better turn off my PS3 and not spend any money today." I dread to think how many potential customers Sony pushes away because of these smaller problems. There's really no excuse for it.



Gamer83 said:

The loading time sucks and the search feature is trash. Fix those two things and set a consistent update time and the store will be perfect. I still think even in is current form it beats XBL Marketplace and the E-Shop



SuperKMx said:

Not to play the fanboy card here, but I think the PS4 needs to work more towards the Xbox 360 model when it comes to the store. On the 360, the store isn't a separate app - it's part of the dashboard. You find what you want, click "Download now" and it heads right to your download queue. In the meantime, you carry on doing whatever you were doing. And it's quick. REAL quick. That's without the 360's arguably faster network performance in general, where a 1GB download takes half as long as it would on the PS3.

With the PS3, I fire up the store, if there's an update to the store software I have to download that (10 minutes) before I can do anything. Then I browse through the treacle-slow menu system, find what I want, hit the download button, wait for it to start downloading (which can take up to a minute), then press "Download in Background" - wait while the download is "prepared" (again, can take up to a minute) - and only THEN can I carry on browsing. If I want to nip in and grab something that's FREE on my PlayStation Plus account, it can realistically take 15 minutes from booting up the console, to being able to put the controller down and leave the item downloading. If I'm buying something and I need to add funds to my wallet, you can realistically add another 5 minutes to that. That's not how I want to spend my time, frankly.

I don't know what Sony thought they were doing when they initially assumed that users would just want to sit and watch a progress bar run across the screen for - potentially - hours at a time. Like I say, not playing the fanboy card here, but I think this is one area where the 360 got things really right. It always feels to me as if the PlayStation Store is a barrier to purchasing content, rather than the invisible facilitator that it should be.



redd214 said:

Yeah I agree with a lot of what you said here, the store is kinda brutal at the moment. Consistent update times would be welcome as well. Sometimes the store updates as early as 3pm my time all the way up to past 8pm on occasion, very frustrating



Splat said:

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

This. Having to randomly check each week to see if the store has been updated yet is ridiculous.

I mean it's always on a Tuesday but when is a guessing game every week.



Squiggle55 said:

Implementing a regular update time and making your download list more manageable are my two biggest things.
I've managed to figure out the new store pretty well, so it's not like I ever have any trouble finding what I'm looking for. And my store actually opens pretty quick now, and hasn't crashed on me or anything since launch week of the new store.

But I think what they need to work on is making it a better browsing experience to find things I'm NOT looking for. Correctly categorizing all games into genres and providing "most downloaded" and "highest rated" lists for all genres and really keeping that stuff up to date would be nice. They should also fix the rating system. I should be able to rate digital version of full games that I own on disc, and people should have to play a game for 30 minutes or an hour before their allowed to rate it. And include user reviews as well. And I also agree that the purchase process needs streamlining. They fixed the ridiculous process for free ps+ content to where you just have to hit download, but "preparing" the download and all that and having to hit "download in background" is lame. Of course I want it to download in the background.



Zombie_Barioth said:

They really need to make the store a lot more snappy and convenient to use, as it is its just so laggy and a pain to shift through if you just want to browse around. It seems that everytime I log on I'm greeted by an update search followed by the usual reboot before finally getting to fight through the menus just to look through the latest deals nevermind anything else.

They already notify you for firmware updates, why not just nofiy me about all the latest updates I need as they come up and let me get them all taken care of at once?

I swear I've had more trouble just trying to find out if I have enough left in my wallet to cover a game's cost than I've had completing full transactions on Amazon, and thats not good for Sony. If they can't set things right people interested in going digital are just going to go elsewhere, which would be a shame since they've already got the ecosystem setup they just need to streamline things.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@SuperKMx: I honestly don't have too much issue with most of what you said (even though I still dislike Xbox in general), but I disagree that their network is better. I get much better download speeds on my PS3 than I ever did on 360.

I notice that some of the requested features (specifically auto-background-download and the rating system thing) are actually things even NINTENDO does right now. Pretty sad when you're falling behind Nintendo in the online storefront realm, Sony.



MorriganIsHot said:

I want the old store back. It was a lot better, faster and easier to find stuff than this xbox live rip off.



Zetrayrus said:

Well while you guys are having issues with the PSN itself. Us here in Asia suffer from a surprising lack of content that the NA, EU and JPN servers have. Its so teeth-grindingly annoying that while you people are getting Triple A games like Demon Souls and all that for PS+ while we got...what PS Home costumes? Really? REALLY?!

Seriously the difference between Asia and those places are really miles apart.

If anything I hope Sony would improve support for regions other than NA EU and JPN. Although I do believe that that is highly improbable since the Asia market seems to be comparatively small compared to those places...Or is it big and I just don't know it?



rjejr said:

Besides the stupidity and lack of business decorum that is the US PSN not even having a set time each Tuesday - which has been this way from the beginning - my biggest issues is demos. FREE demos which require me to hunt for and put in my password and jump thru several other screens. It's gotten to the point where I don't even bother w/ demos anymore, too much hassle. They should be first and foremost on the store and should just start downloading when you click on them - all demos are free, just make a section of the store where things are downloaded w/o passwords.

Somewhat related - anybody remember the promise of PS+ and pre-arranged DLs? Why can't I tell the store up to a week in advance when a demo comes out just DL it? I'll even type in my password 3 days in advance if it means when I wake up in the morning my DL is ready to play.



Stuffgamer1 said:

@Zetrayrus: Since PS3 is region-free, the solution to your woes is relatively simple: just make a PSN account for another region and download games there!



BlueProxy said:

They spend way too much time pushing promos, sales and rentals in our faces vs. making things simple and easy to find. They also have too many categories, and things hidden in sub-categories. The navigation is clumsy, highlighting key items is unintuitive... the list goes on. Yes Sony, please, overhaul the store for PS4, and take a note from companies that make the best user-friendly interfaces.



DVD_Sandwich said:

With the current version, it takes 17 years just to load the menu, and another 37 years just to search for something. The old one may not have been as fancy looking, but it booted up right away, never asked to be updated, and searching was much easier to do. Also, looking at new releases was much more pleasant. It grouped together all the LBP costumes etc, and little DLC items into their own group so you don't have 15 pages of the DLC for games you may or may now own.
I often find myself just using the web browser version of the store on my laptop instead and sending the downloads to my PS3, which I think is a very nice feature.

Leave A Comment

Hold on there, you need to login to post a comment...