October 17, 2006
Playstation 3 interface in detail
Eurogamer wrote a very extensive article about the upcoming Playstation 3 online network. How it’s going to work and what kind of new features will we be seeing in the future? Of course one of the main questions is whether it can compete with Xbox Live or not.
The article starts out by telling a little bit of history about Sony’s previous online attempts. We know that Sony was theoretically first with bringing people an online network, but then Microsoft launched Xbox Live. Xbox Live quickly became way more popular than Sony’s network, not in absolute numbers but in percentages of people who used the service. At this date Sony has the largest amount of online users, but that’s only because of their user base which is an impressive 5 times bigger.
The Playstation 3 network is built from the ground up and doesn’t have much to do with its predecessor. It’s completely redesigned to profit from the superior PS3 hardware. Every console will be shipped with a hard drive which means 2 things: Every console will be able to go online and secondly, it’ll allow you to dowload updates for your operating system which can add new features or improve previous ones. Previously this was quite a pain in the ass because to configure your network settings you had to boot up a special disk to connect to Central Station which was quite time consuming and when an updated version came out you had to order a new CD from Sony. Luckily Sony does have some experience in the downloadable update field, the PSP also uses this technique and we’ve seen quite a bit of new features and improvements there.
When booting up the Playstation 3 you’re presented with the Cross Media Bar, a row of icons each representing some functions. Some icons are new, but most icons are familiar to PSP users. Settings, Photo, Music, Video, Game, User Profiles and Network are the categories of which you can choose.
No, we’re really here for the new buttons on the bar. On the far left, the first thing you highlight when you log in is called User Profiles. On the far right, you’ve got two buttons called Network (which appeared on the PSP in a firmware update) and Friends. User Profiles looks like a little house with a smiling face on it; Network is a globe; Friends is two little houses with smiling faces sort of touching, in a platonic way. They’re friends, you see. Friendly houses.
The user profiles icon is new and it’s quite obvious what it does. It’s very similar, if not an exact replica of the Xbox 360’s user profiles. It allows you to personalize the Playstation 3 and it saves all your settings. If you’ve got a partner or just some friends visiting you all the time to play with your new toy, you can have them make their own profile. When you sign in you’re automatically logged in the Playstation Network.
The network icon allows you to open a pretty advanced internet browser and visit Playstatic. It really doesn’t do that much more according to Eurogamer. The friends icon on the other hand is pretty interesting. When you open this baby you get two types of icons, friends and icons which allow you to manage your Playstation Network account. There are two types of accounts, a master account and associated accounts. The latter is usefull for families where parents are able to put limits on their kids accounts for example so they won’t spend too much dough in the Playstation Store.
At heart, there are two types of PlayStation Network account – a master account, and an associated account. The chances are that most gamers will use master accounts, but associated accounts will be especially useful for families – where, for example, a parent (who holds a master account) wants to be able to limit the amount that their kids (with associated accounts) can spend in the PlayStation Store.
Now what can you do with your friends? Well, just the basic stuff like checking if they’re online, sending messages, checking if you’ve received new messages and last but not least, voice- and videochat. The accessories to make this happen have been announced but a release date is unknown.
And then there’s the Playstation store, which is very similar to the Xbox Live Marketplace and it’ll allow you to download demos, purchase content and manage subscriptions to whatever services Sony will think of, Eurogamer said every transaction goes through Sony so if you purchase a subscription to a MMORPG, you give your money to Sony and they’ll work it out with the game’s publisher.
Far from being just a simple list of things you can download, it’s a really attractive interface which highlights key content and lets you filter all of the available bits and pieces according to your own preferences – so even when there are thousands of pieces of content on the store, which doesn’t seem improbable, it’ll still be easy to find what you want. The Store also utilizes a shopping cart – so it’s easy to browse through items, find the stuff you want, and then go to a checkout page where you proceed to make a sad face and empty the whole cart again, just like we do on Amazon about four times a week.
Sony is one of the biggest movie and music companies in the world and they’re already selling music digitally. There are no official plans to make movies or music available in the shop, but Eurogamer is pretty sure this might happen in the future. Sony already announced a while ago that you’ll be able to download Playstation and Playstation 2 classics that you’ve missed out on in the past.
It may not end there. Sony, after all, is one of the biggest music and movie companies in the world – and it already operates a music store, Connect. While no official plans to allow you to download music and movies directly to your PS3 have been announced, Sony insiders are adamant that that is on the roadmap for the service – so within a short space of time, the money in your Wallet could be used to buy any type of digital entertainment you fancy.
There have been some rumors that the Playstation Network wouldn’t be available at launch but Phil Harrison said it exists, it’s working and will launch alongside the console. At this point we can’t really tell whether Xbox Live or the Playstation Network is better than the other. Both of these services have their pros and cons, Xbox Live allows you to send messages or chat with a friend even during a game, but the Playstation network is free on the other hand. It’s obvious that Sony studied its competitor and learned/copied quite a bit of them. We know Microsoft had their initial problems with server capacity and so forth, and only time will tell if Sony is able to deal with these sort of problems. One thing is for sure, we got exciting competitive times ahead of us!