PS3 Online Misses the Boat

PS3 Online Misses the Boat

It's a hard time to be a laid-back gamer. I don't mean "casual" gamer - that's a whole different beast altogether. Casual gamers play casual games, pick-up-and-put-down titles like you find on your mobile phone, or bundled with your new PC. Casual gamers are a huge, possibly industry-bending and definitely underrated class, but I am not among them.

Instead, I'm a laid-back gamer. I play hard core games, own four consoles, plan to buy at least one more this holiday season and game with most of my available free time. But there's a whole lot about our industry that I just couldn't care less about.

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Like, for example, every minute detail about the two impending console launches. Don't get me wrong, I think it's fascinating that there's a chart bouncing around describing in detail all of the major retailers' plans for unleashing these products on the suspecting masses. In fact, if I'd ever though about it, I'd have already assumed such a thing existed. After all, how else are they going to track their stock? But I didn't think about it.

Nor did I think about whether or not N64 titles released for the Nintendo Wii over the online Virtual Console service would support rumble features. Apparently they won't, which, again, if I'd thought about it, I would have already assumed. But I didn't think about it. Didn't care to, really. Still don't, even after knowing. These trivial details, like so many others flooding news blogs and fansites, just don't matter to me.

I recognize that this is simply a matter of perspective, and that everything is relative. Believe me, I know. I can recite almost word-for-word every recent news announcement concerning Red Octane's hit game Guitar Hero II, for example. Including those about the brouhaha surrounding it's legal disputer with third-party guitar controller manufacturer TAC (TAC guitars sold after October 1st, 2006 are compatible with both Guitar Hero games, by the way). Also, Trogdor rocks. And a controller signed by Dave Navarro might be cool, sure, but hook me up with Jimmy Page and then we'll talk (I'm radioactive dur dur dur dah). But in a vast sea of things about which I could care two figs, this game is but one (albeit an awesome one).

The problem at this time of year is that the industry demands almost unflinching attention to every minute detail of an overwhelming number of products making their debuts. We do have two major consoles coming out this month, after all, and the attendant launch games, launch details, online services, third-party partnerships, shortages, parties, camp outs, Ebay auctions, gunfights, panic attacks and broken relationships all but demand that one pay attention. Although, at the risk of appearing blasť, I have to say that even most of that hype fails to get a rise out of me.

What I can't resist, however, is kicking Sony when they're down.

According to IGN, Sony's PS3 console will be shipping minus one rather important accessory a working operating system. Word had leaked a while back that the PS3 OS was still being tweaked, even as production units were struggling off the assembly line, and into mostly-empty cargo containers for their long journey into Ebay listings this month, but now it's clear that the software necessary to connect to Sony's fledgling online service didn't make the boat.

imageIf you happen to be one of the lucky few to welcome a PS3 into your home this month, your first order of business will be to head online and download the patch. And if you'd hoped to immediately hook your shiny, black PS3 up with it's shiny, black, PSP cousin, you may have to wait a bit longer. Apparently the PSP won't support that union until rev 3 of its firmware comes out, and there's no word yet on when that will be.

You know what we call it around here when products ship, minus advertised features and requiring an immediate patch? We call that a broken product, and we usually frown on paying money for those. Unless it's a space shuttle, in which case, the cool factor wins out in the end. Maybe if the PS3 could break orbit, I'd lay off Sony a bit. Until then I'm going to keep kicking, and daydreaming about the possibility of JP on GH3.

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Count me in the newly coined "laid-back gamer" group. Also count me in the "frothing at the mouth for guitar hero II" group.
And just to round out the trifecta, count me in the "love kicking sony while their down" group.

It was funny, when the PSP launched here sony was touting how it was gonna be online from day one and be able to do all sorts of cool things like ..... wait for it........ web browsing.

At the launch party I pulled up the president of Sony AUS for a chat and asked him two important questions.

First, when is the PSP actually gonna be online?
answer: it will be from day one!
me: no, I mean actually online with multiplayer games over the net.
answer: um... I don't know really, we're working on it.

Second, These UMD movies you guys are saying are great. When are you gonna have a standalone player that can plug into a tv? You cant really expect people to go for a disc format that is gonna cost nearly as much as a dvd and can only be used on one device with a tiny screen?
answer: ummm, well i dunno. Were working on the standalone player..... in talks with some companies......

It was about at this point that he ran away to go and talk to someone a bit less clued in to their whole scheme and I went and got another sony purchased johnnie.

Unfortunately, I don't work in video game retail anymore so I won't be attending the PS3 launch party, but I'm certainly getting a bit of deja vu when I read about the state of the PS3's feature set.

I cringed when my beloved consoles started moving towards the "SHIP NOW! PATCH LATER!" mindset of so many PC developers, but now you actually have to patch the console, which is absurd.

Yeah, this blows my mind. I understand the inherent intricacies of software and hardware products, but shipping a machine which requires a patch on day one is shipping a car which requires a maintenance visit the day after you drive it home. This happens, but it's not the way to maintain market leadership. not in any sane industry that is. There's a reason Ford is losing market share in the auto industry, and it's because they ship faulty merchandise. If only game consumers were so discerning.

I don't think that car maintenance analogy is quiet right. I think it's more like shipping a car which requires detailing the day after you drive it home.

It will be annoying having to patch a new console right out of the box but as consoles become more computer like we should expect this to continue.

But in the end does this really matter? We all know that the PS3 is going to have a number of patches just like the 360,the Xbox and PSP. I wouldn't be surprised if that Wii start up disc wasn't a firmware update in disguise.

I guess in other words I'm trying say stop living in yesteryear, the good old days of simple plug and play consoles are over, long live the digital console era of complex cables and deceiving acronyms.

Fletch I'm not sure that car consumers are so discerning either - I know too many Ford families who wont buy anything else. I'm pretty sure the only thing Ford does well is make Trucks. I could be wrong on this count too - as I've seen some pretty amazing things from Toyota in the form of the Hilux (Tacoma in the states) on Top Gear.

By the by - Top Gear is recommended watching for any and all who have even the remotest of interests in cars. It's a wonderful show.

I'm not sure that I agree with you Lex - I don't think patching of the hardware should be considered "normal". The computer is a much different beast - It's hardware is nonspecific and the coding for it is intentionally made to account for a LOT of variety. You don't want to make a habit of shipping intentionally defective products before you release. There will ALWAYS be bugs to sort out that will take longer than you anticipate and you WILL lose your brand influence with your customers. If the PS3 comes out and is plagued with the same problems the X360 has seen plus a few of it's own the game is over. Nintendo will win, Microsoft comes in second, and the PS3 in third. I'd put money on that.

 

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