There are many things I don’t understand in this world – wrestling being the main one, really – but Sony’s recent round of financials had me parroting that emoji where the little yellow guy has his chin perched on his thumb and index finger. A staggering 69 per cent of PlayStation’s revenue for the previous fiscal year was generated by the PS Store – that’s including digital games, microtransactions, and subscriptions like PS Plus. And yet, the shopping experience on PlayStation kinda sucks.
Push Square readers are extremely passionate about subjects like the closure of Japan Studio and crossplay – but in essence, these are drops in the ocean compared to the importance of Sony’s digital storefront. Let’s reiterate the above statistic: 69 per cent of PlayStation’s entire revenue is driven by the PS Store. That percentage includes hardware sales, physical game sales – everything. It’s an absurd number!
But even more absurd is the fact that the shopping experience is so subpar when the company knows that’s where its bread is buttered. It just doesn’t make sense to me: out of all the things the firm is investing in, surely the PS Store should be right near the top of the list. Because, yes, that 69 per cent revenue is propelled by great content and services being available – but if the act of actually buying them is as sticky and addictive as possible, then surely people will open up their wallet more?
Like, I’m staring at the web-based PS Store right now, and I’m not sure it’s showing me the things I want to see. I click on New Games and it wants to flog me a copy of MLB The Show 21 – but I’m logged in and I already bought the game at launch. Meanwhile, there are new titles that released recently – The Colonists, for example – that I can’t even find. I’ve looked on the PS5 as well, and I can’t see that game anywhere. How am I meant to know it’s even out?
The crazy thing to me is that I do this as a job, so I know when games are releasing generally, but there’s tons of stuff that even misses my radar. Browsing is at least fast on PS5 – it’s frighteningly slow on the web – but unless I know exactly what I’m looking for, I think discovery is generally quite bad. All iterations of the PS Store want me to buy Returnal – which totally makes sense – but why isn’t it finding other software based on my purchasing habits that I might like?
There are sorting and filtering options – even on the web now – but I find they generally don’t work well: if I sort price by low-to-high, for example, it’ll put games that cost £4.89 above ones that are £0.79. I get from the sense of usability that major brands like Fortnite and Call of Duty are what the majority of people are looking for, so having them front and centre on the PS Store makes sense, but surely there’s room to promote other interesting titles or things I may have missed?
Redeeming voucher codes and PS Store credit is cumbersome, I find, and there was a period of years where my credit card simply wouldn’t play with PlayStation’s payment processing system. I haven’t tried again recently – I assume this was fixed – but the fact that I’m now all-in on pre-paid vouchers has probably lost Sony hundreds of impulse purchases over time; at least I’ve saved myself some money.
My main issue with the PS Store is that I feel like I’m using it grudgingly a lot of the time – and it really shouldn’t be that way. Surely a storefront that’s driving almost 70 per cent of a division’s revenue should be the company’s focus – it should be sticky and addictive; I should want to use it. I really don’t feel that with Sony’s storefront: I want the content, of course I do, but I wish there was a better interface I could use to buy it.
Look, I don’t really have all of the answers, and Sony is making billions of dollars so probably knows better than I do. Little things, though, like a calendar you could browse to see all of the new releases on a given day; better organisation options; more personalised curation to show me content based on my playing and spending habits – surely the shopping experience can be richer and more fulfilling than what we’ve got? This is PlayStation’s money-maker, so when’s it going to actually feel like it?
How would you rate your overall PS Store shopping experience? Are you happy with it, or do you think it could be improved in key areas? Cough up in the comments section below.