Wednesday, 7 July 2010

PSN v's Live

Whoa.  Debate was a raging on da twitter today.  Well between me an AT (@maverick99sback) anyway.  And low and behold AT has written a post about it where he airs his grievances with Sony and reviews the new map pack for MW2.  Go read it, good stuff.

So here is my take on it and why, despite my own issues with Sony, I still think they offer better all round value.

PSN is free.  Forget that I chose to upgrade to the new PSN+ service for a second, the basic offer is free and has remained free.  Sony, until very recently haven't had a revenue stream from their online service and that has led to something of an acceptance for the occasional balls up and the rare bit of bugging out and complete drop outs.  And to be fair to Sony this has got better and better over the three years since the PS3 launched.

Microsoft have had the upper hand for a number of reason.  Their service existed before the launch of the 360 and they have years of experience running online products for their customers in various guises.  Xbox Live just works, but you pay for the privilege to game online, around £40 a year.  What you get for that is a solid service, with a machine that's built with gaming over the internet in mind.  Microsoft revolutionised gaming on consoles by totally driving their machine to deliver on that front.  Sony were always playing catch up.

PSN+ is new and maybe Sony will give those that take it up the opportunity to get their hands on DLC early, but I don't believe that giving punters a few hours advantage over others, would make any difference for a number of reasons.  Mainly you'd have to be at home to take advantage of those few extra hours and lets say take up for PSN+ is at the moment 'slowish', the chances are, even if you were at home, there'd be very few other people online to play once you'd got the content.  The PSN+ service is not trying to give it's users that kind of opportunity, it's about exclusive BETA testing of new product, the chance to play new titles before choosing to buy and getting a discount on some DLC.  I was never expecting to see any product from Activision come out with any discounting on release day, they are notoriously money grabbing.  Where I could see it working is PSN+ giving users the chance to download exclusive DLC that neither 360 owners or non paying PSN users could get hold of for a single player title and maybe that's where Sony might head in the future.

Microsoft have the money to throw at games developers to get content and titles first.  Sony quite simply do not.  In a few short years they have gone from leading the pack to trailing in third place behind the 360 and the Wii (spits).  So owning a PS3 can be frustrating, I get that, but the PSN service has got so much more stable and Sony keep improving it all the time.  Microsoft lead the way and Sony should have been quicker to recognise where the gaps in their service were instead of spending years and scary amounts of money on 'Home'.  (A subject I'll come back to on another day.)

Now AT has said that he thinks the online shopping experience is more 'aesthetically' pleasing on the 360.  It's not often we disagree (it is) but here we really don't [agree].  The Sony online shopping mode (PSN Store) does exactly what I want.  It's in full HD, loads quickly and is simple to navigate.  It's easy to jump between games and films or PSP titles and Sony have continued to tweak the design making it easier to use.  It looks classy frankly.

Trying to find a picture of Xbox Live Marketplace that looks as cool as the PSN Store is a struggle.  It's a clever design and last years reboot has certainly helped.  There's a lot more content available but it is not as easy to navigate, with lots of different menus that you have to work through.  However there is one feature that I love, it's just there, no need to load it, the store is just part of the 360's Dashboard.  It is though, for me anyway (and I get this is completely subjective) less clean looking and far more garish.  It's slick enough, but personally it doesn't hold a candle to Sony's more professional looking store.  That whole green thing would have to go if it was up to me.

Sony have their  flaws, the biggest being each territory having it's own set up.  Sony Europe are often behind their American counter parts and whilst games are now seeing World wide releases, downloadable content is often not released at the same time.  Often this stretches beyond a few days to weeks.  That just irritates the customer knowing an American has the content first.  Microsoft negate that by releasing at the same time everywhere and that for me, on a global service just makes more sense.

However, Sony's offer is free and in all honesty the two services are so close to each other that free is just better value.  You have to be patient sometimes and accept that Microsoft will be there first with content because they're prepared to pay for exclusivity and I understand why that's a bug bear, but having invested in both machines my PS3 still gets more use than my newer toy.

But it is a close thing and PSN+ is going to have to seriously feel worth it to make me spend another £40 next year.

The debate will no doubt continue to rage but next week AT and I argue whether Mario is better than Luigi.