by Bonzo, HSM Editor
You may have noticed the PlayStation Network store has seen an update. Not just an update — it has been overhauled from being a direct-access web catalog to a plug-in you have to download.
There are a few reasons for this. The store sees an update weekly, and when there is a functional change to be made it requires a firmware update. These can be a bit annoying at times. The benefit of the store accessible through an application is that the application itself is updated, rather than the firmware of the PlayStation client itself.
There was a bit of a necessity to the store seeing an update, mainly a functional need, but an aesthetic update was also necessary. The old look was getting to be just that…old.
This new update gives the design a facelift, and it’s like updating from AOL to Google Chrome. While it might take some people a little while to get used to it, for some of us it’s already a major improvement. It is simplified, and all inclusive. For example: immediately the welcome page shows everything that is new. From games to movies and TV shows. But beneath the welcome page you have subcategories to simplify your search. Before there were three stores; Games, Movies, and Music. But this is simpler, because it includes everything, with specific media sub-categorized. Once you go into game, everything you want to access is here. From day one digital downloads, Plus account benefits, to the games in the store in all it’s sub-categories. There are layers in functionality and even visually. There is simulated parallax from foreground to background which gives the store a perceptual depth that is visually appealing.
What I love the most is the front page access to download history, and code redemption option. Before you had to access account information to get to these features, which you still can but it is far simpler to have them accessible from the very first page you access on the store itself. One key feature which was a long time coming is including everything relevant to a specific game in one page. For example if you access Assassin’s Creed III, you get a game page for this title. This page includes the game, with description and game screens, to the available add-ons, season pass, and even relevant PSN avatars all in one page. I absolutely hated having to dig for all this stuff before. You wanted an add-on, you went to the add-ons page, and search for the game title you wanted to find. You wanted avatars, you went to the avatars store and searched for the title you wanted. It was categorized by item type rather than title, which has its own logic but having it all accessible from the same page is far better.
Every change meets opposition from those who have been conditioned to a specific way that they could maneuver around that space with their eyes closed. It’s understandable; imagine your current living room as it is, and now imagine it were changed one day as you returned from work or school. Suddenly you have to get used to a new setup of where things are. Like most of us, I’m sure you could find your way around in the dark if you had to — you have a mental map of the area — and suddenly when there is a change it is a bit disorienting. There is still some grumbling about the changes made to the navigator in Home. Some of us love it, but some miss the old PDA.
When you have so much content, which includes not just video games but the variety of media which Sony tried to make available to its users, it becomes a monumental task to catalog all of that content in a comprehensive visual manner which won’t dissuade a user from browsing. I feel this new store redesign has achieved that very task successfully. I saw it with fresh eyes, as if I’d never seen the store before. I was used to the old way, but it took me a while, and frankly the last days of the old store with the Plus benefits restructured were very frustrating. Everything felt hidden and I spent more time to see what else was available to make sure I didn’t overlook anything. The main games available as part of the instant game collection were the clearest to spot, but the free Plus avatars, themes, and 60-minute trials felt so hidden I didn’t always find them right away.
The store is more reminiscent of an applications store in a mobile device, which is smart because the reason those stores are structured the way they are is to present a visual catalog of the content as quickly as possible to catch the eye, provide information, and most importantly sell a product. That is after all the purpose of the store, and making it difficult to find what your customer wants is counterproductive. Stacked list method is outdated in this visual age, where we want everything displayed for us. In a way it is a bit of what the current state of the times is: part laziness, part aloofness, and partially it is that we don’t want to spend two commodities while we browse — time and money. Any store which wants a lion’s share of our money cannot make it an effort for us to get it because then we spend time, and that is a non-renewable commodity for your consumer. There is no question that this new interface is a considerable improvement.