The Case for Investing $20 Million into PlayStation Network

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Posted by patrickklepek (2212 posts) -
Xbox Live Arcade has been defined by its staple of exclusives. Sony wants the same for PSN.

No doubt, PlayStation Network is home to some great digital experiences you won't find anywhere else, from Flower to PixelJunk Shooter. But Sony's found trouble generating the same level of attention for its platform as Microsoft, currently in the midst of its fourth Summer of Arcade.

Sony's hoping to move the needle with a $20 million dollar infusion into PSN over several years.

"Our strategy here is simple," explained PSN director of marketing Brandon Stander in a recent email. "We’re doubling down on PlayStation Network exclusive software, and under this investment over the next three years, we anticipate a steady flow of high-quality titles that can’t be found anywhere else."

The money will be spread across multiple avenues designed to bolster PSN's library, including budgets for internal projects and exclusivity from third-parties, some of which goes towards Sony's "Pub Fund," allocating money to small developers in exchange for exclusivity. Okabu, Eufloria and Papo & Yo are three games coming out of Sony's Pub Fund. Papo & Yo generated discussion at E3 for its noteworthy design influence: the designer's alcoholic father.

Sony Online Entertainment's Payday: The Heist directly comes from this investment but not Pub Fund specifically.

Pub Fund isn't an officially publicized branding of Sony's (you won't see a Pub Fund logo on a splash screen--something I think should change), but it's responsible for some great PSN games in the past, including Joe Danger.

When asked how Sony determines which games the company goes after with this sack of cash, Stander outlined three avenues of research.

You probably don't remember PlayStation-edu. I didn't, either, until Stander brought it up. Started in 2008, it's Sony's initiative to supply universities with PlayStation 2 and PSP development kits, encouraging students to become familiar with hardware they may be working on after graduating. Within PlayStation-edu is the SCEA Developer Support program, which works with various universities in the US, Canada and Latin America to connect students with internships and jobs.

It's not hard to imagine how Sony employees would find projects worth investing in while speaking with students.

It's unclear whether Papo & Yo will end up being a truly great game, but it's something you won't find anywhere else.

The other ways Sony sniffs out possible games for PSN are a little more well known, such as recommendations from its already existing developers, communicating with local groups, and attending events focused on independent development, like Culver City's IndieFest, the Independent Games Festival pavilion featured during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

"These things have allowed us to find awesome talent and have given us the opportunity to reach out to more people about the potential for PSN exclusive development," said Stander.

Sony's PlayStation Blog has done a respectable job of increasing awareness of PlayStation content in general, PSN or not, but more could be done. While Xbox Live subscribers may decry the advertisements, it's much harder to avoid alerts to new content on XBL than on PSN. You actually have to boot into the PlayStation Store itself, an additional step in the process.

PSN didn't get Playdead's first game, Limbo, until a year after XBLA. But what about their next one?

And no, that weird scrolling bar in the corner doesn't count. When's the last time you actually read that?

What does more than advertisements or scrolling bars, however, is word of mouth, and a hungry playerbase eager for more good games.

"We’re putting a major stake in the ground with this investment to show our dedication to providing PSN users with unique game experiences that can’t be found on any other game platform," said Stander. "Our goal is to work with developers, both established and independent, to bring great games to our users."

$20 million should do well to bring more content to PSN, but Stander denied it's a response to criticisms that PSN is full of interesting experiments, but lacking the bread 'n butter of games like Shadow Complex or Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Limbo, for example, just hit PSN--a year later.

"With PSN, it’s not about filling holes as much as it’s about bringing truly innovative storylines, visual styles and game mechanics to the platform," he said.

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (2212 posts) -
Xbox Live Arcade has been defined by its staple of exclusives. Sony wants the same for PSN.

No doubt, PlayStation Network is home to some great digital experiences you won't find anywhere else, from Flower to PixelJunk Shooter. But Sony's found trouble generating the same level of attention for its platform as Microsoft, currently in the midst of its fourth Summer of Arcade.

Sony's hoping to move the needle with a $20 million dollar infusion into PSN over several years.

"Our strategy here is simple," explained PSN director of marketing Brandon Stander in a recent email. "We’re doubling down on PlayStation Network exclusive software, and under this investment over the next three years, we anticipate a steady flow of high-quality titles that can’t be found anywhere else."

The money will be spread across multiple avenues designed to bolster PSN's library, including budgets for internal projects and exclusivity from third-parties, some of which goes towards Sony's "Pub Fund," allocating money to small developers in exchange for exclusivity. Okabu, Eufloria and Papo & Yo are three games coming out of Sony's Pub Fund. Papo & Yo generated discussion at E3 for its noteworthy design influence: the designer's alcoholic father.

Sony Online Entertainment's Payday: The Heist directly comes from this investment but not Pub Fund specifically.

Pub Fund isn't an officially publicized branding of Sony's (you won't see a Pub Fund logo on a splash screen--something I think should change), but it's responsible for some great PSN games in the past, including Joe Danger.

When asked how Sony determines which games the company goes after with this sack of cash, Stander outlined three avenues of research.

You probably don't remember PlayStation-edu. I didn't, either, until Stander brought it up. Started in 2008, it's Sony's initiative to supply universities with PlayStation 2 and PSP development kits, encouraging students to become familiar with hardware they may be working on after graduating. Within PlayStation-edu is the SCEA Developer Support program, which works with various universities in the US, Canada and Latin America to connect students with internships and jobs.

It's not hard to imagine how Sony employees would find projects worth investing in while speaking with students.

It's unclear whether Papo & Yo will end up being a truly great game, but it's something you won't find anywhere else.

The other ways Sony sniffs out possible games for PSN are a little more well known, such as recommendations from its already existing developers, communicating with local groups, and attending events focused on independent development, like Culver City's IndieFest, the Independent Games Festival pavilion featured during the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

"These things have allowed us to find awesome talent and have given us the opportunity to reach out to more people about the potential for PSN exclusive development," said Stander.

Sony's PlayStation Blog has done a respectable job of increasing awareness of PlayStation content in general, PSN or not, but more could be done. While Xbox Live subscribers may decry the advertisements, it's much harder to avoid alerts to new content on XBL than on PSN. You actually have to boot into the PlayStation Store itself, an additional step in the process.

PSN didn't get Playdead's first game, Limbo, until a year after XBLA. But what about their next one?

And no, that weird scrolling bar in the corner doesn't count. When's the last time you actually read that?

What does more than advertisements or scrolling bars, however, is word of mouth, and a hungry playerbase eager for more good games.

"We’re putting a major stake in the ground with this investment to show our dedication to providing PSN users with unique game experiences that can’t be found on any other game platform," said Stander. "Our goal is to work with developers, both established and independent, to bring great games to our users."

$20 million should do well to bring more content to PSN, but Stander denied it's a response to criticisms that PSN is full of interesting experiments, but lacking the bread 'n butter of games like Shadow Complex or Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Limbo, for example, just hit PSN--a year later.

"With PSN, it’s not about filling holes as much as it’s about bringing truly innovative storylines, visual styles and game mechanics to the platform," he said.

#2 Edited by Kasswara (178 posts) -

I think it would be great if PSN had an indie games section, like XBL.

#3 Posted by Sinful (211 posts) -

hmmm i see

#4 Posted by RobotHamster (4177 posts) -

Hopefully we'll get to see some more great titles, there are a bunch of great games there and I'd love to see even more.

#5 Posted by jozzy (2035 posts) -

They must be looking at the success of XBLA with some envy. Sony seems to have more interesting exclusivity deals on the retail gamefront though.

#6 Posted by Protome (349 posts) -

Eufloria? Exclusive? 
Someone might want to tell Sony that game came out on PC years ago.

#7 Posted by aspaceinvader (257 posts) -

Sony needed to do this as it is falling behind Microsoft in the indie(small developer) games market, there hasn't been as much for me to buy on the psn compared to xbla, but if this investment does just what its is proposing to do, then this could only be a good thing.

#8 Posted by kingzetta (4307 posts) -

We want people to buy stuff and make us more money in return. You know because that's the point of investing in anything. You really needed that to be explained?

#9 Posted by benjaebe (2784 posts) -

Good. There have been some great games on PSN and a lot of them that I've really enjoyed have been sort of outside the norm (Flower comes to mind.) Hopefully we'll see more.

#10 Posted by Arath (58 posts) -

It's definately about support and how easy it is to get started. You type XNA into google and bam, within 5 minutes you can download the development tools and begin tinkering. If I want to begin developing for PSN... where do I begin? Is it really any surprise that the barrier to entry is simply much higher on PSN for indie developers than it is on XBL.
 
Further to this Microsoft has done a fantastic job of really categorizing Indie development titles as it's own separate niche, through XBLA, which has definitely helped. While 20 Million is nothing to scoff at, I wonder whether this is really addressing the accesibility issue at it's roots.

#11 Posted by Redbullet685 (6085 posts) -
@XlxLionhearTxlX said:
I think it would be great if PSN had an indie games section, like XBL.
The minis basically the same thing.
#12 Posted by skrutop (3615 posts) -

"And no, that weird scrolling bar in the corner doesn't count. When's the last time you actually read that?"

That bar is annoying. I always wind up looking at it half-way through the scroll, so I have no idea what game they're talking about.

#13 Posted by VincentVendetta (274 posts) -

Dammit, I still haven't played Joe Danger!

#14 Posted by buft (3320 posts) -

theres a great point in the article about the extra step needed to actually see the content thats launching, when i had my ps3 i maybe bought 1 title and 2 pieces of DLC in a year, by comparison on xbox in the last 6 months(according to rewards "my stats section") i have purchased 57 pieces of content. 
 
hopefully the playstation network will get some great games out if this regardless.

#15 Posted by Branthog (5597 posts) -

You have to boot into the store to see new games? Since when? As soon as I boot my PS3, it launches into the "What's New" section, where they're always advertising a dozen things. The last thing I want is for the PS3 to become a bloated piece of shit interface filled with ads like my 360 is. Just have awesome games and great content and give them a shout-out in those "what's new" boxes that appear when I boot up and I'll be sure to check them out. It's not really that complicated.

#16 Posted by Questionable (619 posts) -

Did Wizardry even release on the EU PSN yet?  
PSN is pretty much dead to me as long as they keep all the content region locked, especially the PS1 games. 
 
I will definetly pick up Journey  and from dust  and just bought Section 8:prejudice so maybe that makes me a hypocrite.
  
Strongly recomend Section 8:Prejudice that game has a crazy amount of content for 15 bucks 

#17 Posted by Foggen (900 posts) -

I think you mean "stable", not "staple".

#18 Posted by Zaccheus (1805 posts) -

This is great. XBLA has had some great exclusive DLC games, although most of them come out eventually on PS3 or PC. Flower was great and I'm looking forward to Journey, more would be nice.

#19 Posted by Krakn3Dfx (2502 posts) -

Sometimes I read the scrolling bar in the corner, but I always only catch the last half of whatever it says, like "...is 50% this week only!", which sounds cool, but then I lose interest before it comes around again and just go play something.

#20 Posted by Xer0Signal (32 posts) -
@Branthog said:

You have to boot into the store to see new games? Since when? As soon as I boot my PS3, it launches into the "What's New" section, where they're always advertising a dozen things. The last thing I want is for the PS3 to become a bloated piece of shit interface filled with ads like my 360 is. Just have awesome games and great content and give them a shout-out in those "what's new" boxes that appear when I boot up and I'll be sure to check them out. It's not really that complicated.


This. 
 
People just want PSN to be like XBL, rather than just taking the few seconds it takes to understand a different system. You know when the last time I checked the scrolling bar was? Last night. When I turned my PS3 on. It wouldn't hurt most of the gaming press to actually do the same every once in a while.
#21 Posted by Plasticstars (171 posts) -
@Branthog said:

You have to boot into the store to see new games? Since when? As soon as I boot my PS3, it launches into the "What's New" section, where they're always advertising a dozen things. The last thing I want is for the PS3 to become a bloated piece of shit interface filled with ads like my 360 is. Just have awesome games and great content and give them a shout-out in those "what's new" boxes that appear when I boot up and I'll be sure to check them out. It's not really that complicated.

Pretty much this. I always know what new content is available in the store, without multiple rows of ads being forced down my throat,.
#22 Posted by mnzy (2925 posts) -

Fucking exclusives.

#23 Posted by Aetheldod (3735 posts) -

As long as this means good games Im all for it

#24 Posted by bug9329 (49 posts) -

$20 million for game development is an adequate amount of money, but "over several years" sounds bad -- it may not be enough if it is spread too thin.
 
The other issue Sony has is general underinvestment in the Playstation platform and brand. 
 
PSN itself probably needs at least an extra $5 million a year in funds to improve.  Why are downloads from PSN still slower than on XBox Live?  Why does the Playstation Store hang repeatedly during navigation?  Why haven't obvious user interface issues like a lack of sorting options been addressed in the time that the Playstation Store has been out?
 
In terms of the brand, the Playstation commercials are at best okay and don't really make you want to go out and buy a Playstation.  The marketing message is weak across the board.  They also rarely ever pay for ads to feature the Playstation logo on cross-platform games.  I would say that they need another $50 million/year just to get this revamped and fixed and they need to reach outside the normal Sony channels to get some new ideas. 

#25 Posted by njean777 (46 posts) -

TBH I love the fact the Playstation does not have adds, there is nothing more annoying then seeing advertising for sprint, cars, or any other items not related to gaming.

#26 Posted by AmericanNinja (157 posts) -

Best exclusives you won't find anywhere else.

#27 Posted by laserbolts (5368 posts) -

I have never bought anything off of psn. Do they have points cards or do I have to give them my credit card number?

#28 Posted by Xer0Signal (32 posts) -
@laserbolts said:
I have never bought anything off of psn. Do they have points cards or do I have to give them my credit card number?
there are points cards, yes.
#29 Posted by kelbear (491 posts) -

Maybe they should put some of that $20 million into improving the UI. The Xbox360 has already gone through 2(maybe 3 if you include Kinect) major UI revisions. The PS3 XMB just feels clunky and poorly laid out. For one, why do you start alll the way on the right? Start in the middle and allow scrolling off the edge to kick you to the other side. Way too many menu jumps to get to where you want to go. It's especially ridiculous when you're turning on your bluetooth. That sort of thing should take a maximum of 2 menu presses considering how much use it gets. It should also keep an activated accessory icon at the top rather than making you go all the way back to the menu again. I like the unique games I get on the PS3, but boy, it's high time for a revamp.

#30 Posted by Gaff (1888 posts) -

@Xer0Signal: @Branthog: @Plasticstars: I could've sworn that booting into the "What's New" section is completely optional? I can't quite remember what the default option is though (on/off).

And as for the news ticker: that crawls past so slowly that any worthwhile information is lost. At least, that's the case on the EU PSN Store. And while we're at it, the EU Store is still awkward to navigate through. It's gotten a bit better in the last few updates, but still. Also, God forbid that you live outside of the UK.

You know what? After the PSN hack debacle, the Store discrepancies and this flying under every consumer's radar, Sony needs a better PR department to communicate news and features like this.

Online
#31 Posted by spilledmilkfactory (1899 posts) -

I've loved many of the PSN-exclusive releases, like Flower and Stardust, but there haven't been many of them. If this initiative pays off, I look forward to seeing some excellent games spring from relatively unknown developers.

#32 Posted by aceofspudz (935 posts) -

@Krakn3Dfx said:

Sometimes I read the scrolling bar in the corner, but I always only catch the last half of whatever it says, like "...is 50% this week only!", which sounds cool, but then I lose interest before it comes around again and just go play something.

Same here. The scroll bar is a ludicrously ineffective way of conveying information. It's as if they think they are working with a pager screen and not a high definition flat panel. The XMB wants it both ways: it wants to be hip and minimalistic, but it also wants to tell you things. So it fails.

#33 Posted by Branthog (5597 posts) -

@Gaff said:

@Xer0Signal: @Branthog: @Plasticstars: I could've sworn that booting into the "What's New" section is completely optional? I can't quite remember what the default option is though (on/off).


I'm pretty sure it can be disabled, but I'm fine with it. It's only one small area just at boot that has ads to point out stuff that's going on or for sale or just released. One button press and you don't have to see it for the rest of your session (plus, it has the latest thing or two you just did in the same area - like watching netflix or playing a game). I think it's just right and doesn't ruin the rest of the interface by blasting ads everywhere else.

#34 Edited by nERVEcenter (190 posts) -

What I wanted: I nice run-down on the financial gains and market flow analysis resulting from this investment. 
 
What I got: Same-old marketing bullshit of "Helping developers discover, getting users quality content, blah blah, etc etc." 
  
Why the fuck do I even read these articles, anyways?

#35 Posted by TwoOneFive (9459 posts) -

i had nothing to complain about when it comes to PSN or the content it offers... So this is a totally surprisingly welcome news. What was awesome is about to get... awesomer?! YES!

#36 Posted by MikkaQ (10344 posts) -

I think the fact that while the PSN has a store that has to be specifically visited, the entire xbox interface is a store, almost everything is for sale with crazy MS play-money, that and the choice of games has to have contributed to their success.

#37 Posted by whatisdelicious (1290 posts) -

@Branthog: I'd be fine with the What's New section, but it takes too long to load sometimes. When I boot up my PS3, I want to DO something, not sit and wait for What's New to load its information. With the PS3's XMB, it's probably the most elegant way of delivering information, but it just takes too long, so I disabled it. I'd rather boot up hovering over a game I want to play.

#38 Posted by Hizang (8532 posts) -

I have both a PS3 and 360, so I can compare both stores. I personally prefer the 360 Store, despite the fact I spend most of my money on the PSN store.

#39 Posted by Surkov (990 posts) -
@laserbolts said:
I have never bought anything off of psn. Do they have points cards or do I have to give them my credit card number?
You can buy points cards at most retail stores. Or you could do what I do and purchase game codes/psn points from Amazon and just type in the code Amazon gives you. I don't have to go to the store, and Sony doesn't have my CC info. It's a win-win. 
#40 Posted by chrissedoff (2167 posts) -

i don't want great games to come out on psn. i'll never buy them anyway because i don't my shit to get hacked.

#41 Posted by thekingoftoilets (194 posts) -

I like having more games to play. Who doesn't?

#42 Posted by 4f3f4324f342 (115 posts) -

I hate PS3 buying exclusive titles, its a poor way to do business, The only exclusive titles should be 1st party ones like super mario is for the Wii

#43 Posted by 4f3f4324f342 (115 posts) -

@mnzy said:

Fucking exclusives.

Yeap

#44 Posted by Slaker117 (4843 posts) -

As someone who uses his Xbox as the primary console, I would love to see PSN completely overhauled. Throw a few scraps of that 20 million to a UI designer and give him an engineer, make the store experience better, and I might be compelled to spend some money there.

#45 Posted by Rhythm (26 posts) -

Why's Patrick turned this into an "us vs them" argument? More money to promote/develop promising indie titles is a good move, regardless of who's initiating it.

As for the whole "what's new" bit, the default mode for a PS3 is to boot onto the advert screen detailing new additions. More crucially to actual users though, you can disable it. People bitch about the usability of the PS3 without crediting that it's more customisable than the 360 dash. The machine's been out 5 years this "holiday". If people haven't been able to get used to the XMB by now then maybe the problem's with the person, not the UI. Then again, maybe constant revisionism is the key

/looks at 360 with 4th version of the dashboard

#46 Posted by phantomzxro (1583 posts) -
@Slaker117 said:
As someone who uses his Xbox as the primary console, I would love to see PSN completely overhauled. Throw a few scraps of that 20 million to a UI designer and give him an engineer, make the store experience better, and I might be compelled to spend some money there.

Honesty i don't see the problem in the PSN design or at least not as big a problem as you make it out to be. Granted it could use a bit of tighten up because i feel they need to work on a way of broadcasting sales and discounts better. But i think the store handles quite well and i would say it works better then the xbox store. PSN gives me previews to see and watch so i know what i'm buying because how many times have a got a theme on xbox and been disappointed by how it looked or was displayed. Also i like adding thing to m cart if ii want to window shop and pick things as i go.  
 
So i fail to see how xbox has a way better interface other then looking flashy which has in my opinion made the xbox store worse because it harder to find things now.  The only big edge xbox has which i can understand people getting mad over or using xbox over is the load times and installs you have to do on the ps3.
#47 Posted by Raineko (431 posts) -

I think the PSN store blows. 
No demo section and no 16/18 rated games for my country. lol

#48 Posted by troll93 (388 posts) -
@Protome said:
Eufloria? Exclusive? Someone might want to tell Sony that game came out on PC years ago.
The PC might as well not matter for exclusivity. 
#49 Posted by MadScientist18 (15 posts) -

Yes it's easier to develop indie games on XBLA...but nobody buys them, MS doesn't promote those titles much at all.  There have been stories about developers going to steam and making more money in a week than an a entire year on XBLA indie section.   
 
I prefer the XMB and how it's not cluttered with adds and it's way easier to use and find things than Xbox dashboard.  However, I do prefer how every game on XBLA allows one to get a demo of the game...not always true on PSN....now that's a problem that Sony needs to work on in the future.

#50 Posted by 234r2we232 (3181 posts) -
Yay exclusives. That's going to make EVERYONE happy obviously.

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