Bolding exploring the aughts.
Did you know that Duck Dynasty for the Playstation 4 is a quality game? It is! Do you know what I’ve purchased before? I don’t! Do you think matching prices matter? Sony clearly doesn’t. The PS4 online store is a collection of outdated design decisions that haven’t been seen from their PC brethren for years. It’s shocking given the importance of the online store and the obvious examples from which to draw from.
Let’s get back to Duck Dynasty. Metacritic rates it at a 2.1 user rating and has zero professional reviews on record. Screenshots show a game that wouldn’t look out of date on the PS2. In short, Duck Dynasty is yet another cheap cash in designed to separate naïve show fans from their money, yet it’s got a solid 4 out of five stars on the Playstation store. It’s hard not to conclude that Sony believes that artificially high ratings in its store help it sell more games. Unfortunately for Sony, the Internet exists. It only takes a few minutes to determine if a game is good making inflated ratings seem quaint and useless. Even if the high ratings convince a few poor souls to buy the game, I have to wonder if that actually helps Sony in a meaningful way. Any purchaser is unlikely to remain dazzled by the high score for long. As soon as they figure out that Duck Dynasty is a terrible game, they are likely to also realize that the online store ratings are manipulated. Whatever benefit Sony derived from their deception is lost along with some goodwill. Compare that with Steam that has actual user reviews that are helpful to determining the value of a product. When I find an unknown title on Steam with a good rating, I’m happy to impulse buy. If I find the same on PS4, I’ll probably pass it by.
Since we’re on the topic of Steam, now is a good time to mention how effective it is at inventory management. Steam presents a one stop screen that has all the games that I have purchased, lets me know if they’re installed, and allows me to categorize them to my liking. The PS store has…well…a worse version of that. In its attempts to be everything to everyone, the PS4 lumps all media together along with a slew of features that merely clutter up the screen. Finding just an alphabetical list of games I own is damn near impossible, particularly since the library screen comes prepopulated with every Playstation service. Programs are represented with blocks that both take up a large part of the screen and don’t include additional useful information beyond the title. It’s clunky, it’s cluttered, and it doesn’t come close to matching Steam.
One of the great advantages of the digital revolution was its effect of pushing down prices for consumers. Retail costs disappeared for the publishers while extreme competition forced vendors to reduce their prices. Sales spread at the speed of the Internet and checking prices is as easy as visiting a website. Sony finally got on board with sales, but still doesn’t seem to understand reducing the base price. Final Fantasy Type 0 regularly retails for $30 to $40 yet it remains its original sale price of $50 on the Playstation store. In fact, most things not on sale remain at their original list price. I can’t imagine that older games like Far Cry 4 or The Last of Us Remastered are really selling in big numbers, yet their prices are those of games just released. This is counterproductive. Sony doesn’t get new sales from the lower price point and gamers don’t get cheap games which means everybody loses. Once again, Steam just does it better. Prices decrease over time and the sales are regular. There is no excuse.
The short and long version is that Steam is playing the digital storefront game far better than Sony. While I could understand it if many of the Playstation store’s issues were new, they’re not. Sony is grappling with problems that Steam publically dealt with years ago. Sony has no good reason not to follow the Steam model. PC is already experiencing a resurgence and, with bone headed mistakes like these, Sony is helping them along.