After keeping mum for almost a year, mother SONY finally regurgitated some partially digested worms into the thousand chirping mouths of hungry gamers in their world spanning nest. The open Beta of Home should hit before year-end, and this time it seems that SONY really, really wants it to happen too. This week they’ve been busy pushing hard a demonstration of an aspect of Home that was previously presented merely as an idea.
That idea was public events taking place inside Home and already it has been tested twice, once as an in Home re-enactment of the SONY PlayStation Day event and now the first third party effort has been attempted via Ubisoft and their Ubidays event in Paris getting a virtual counterpart inside Home. This is a great idea; especially in regard to the Ubidays event because so few people could be there for the real event and had to settle for hearing about it piece by piece second hand via the usual news outlets.
I other words, SONY is really serious about third parties supporting Home by holding such virtual events to unveil new games and interact directly with their fans. Who can blame them? More than anything else, being able to get the first peek at some big new game will have PS3 users swarm the service like ants to a cleverly placed sugar lump.
Call me a sceptic
But, you know what, SONY, the PSN is coughing up a lung for ten minutes when trying to load a single page of small bitmaps when I browse the Store. So I ask, if you cannot even stream a handful of tiny bitmaps to my PS3 properly then how in god’s holy goat are you going to stream several HD videos to me during such events inside Home?
I would love to give SONY the benefit of the doubt, but if they cannot even pull off the probable then how the hell am I supposed to think that they can pull off the impossible?
It is pretty much guaranteed that most third parties will stop holding such events once Home launches and the only feedback they get after going through the trouble of setting one up is how much they managed to bollocks it up with lag and how no one was able to see the videos due to classic video streaming snafus etc. etc.
Not to mention how users will stop attending the events when all they get is glitchy videos that when finally streaming correctly are no better than blurry stamp sized youtube videos. Who would want their first peek at a gorgeous next generation game be via a youtube quality video? When looking at game videos I never opt for the streaming version, because nothing hurts like being kicked in the head every time the video stops to stream another 3sec segment before stopping again. With all the technological advancements of the last decade in both processing power and bandwidth it seems that no one has yet to figure out a proper high quality video streaming solution. Let alone the simultaneous smooth streaming of several — in SONY’s words — HD quality videos.
In other words, this is a stern warning; you get one chance at getting this right. One chance and that is it, if you bollocks that chance up so third parties only get negativity as reward for their hard work then I doubt anyone of them will give it another chance ever again. Why would they put the effort into supporting a new and much more difficult way of unveiling games when the tried and tested method of releasing videos via the internet works and won’t piss off people or have them be scolded for things that are out of their hands? If the reward of increased exposure and positive fan feedback is nowhere to be found then this service will be stillborn and Home itself will not be far behind it.
Things look to be functioning right in the videos you have released of Home, but then again why would you show any lag in videos that were made under your controlled supervision running under the absolutely most ideal conditions. I still remember the first videos of the new PSN Store hitting the net. It was everything we wished for and it was running so smooth and buttery that we couldn’t believe our own eyes. But then we got to try it out on our own PS3’s and saw how even on a 4mbit line that I am sitting on a page of 16 or so small images can take up to 5 minutes to load. By the way, that is from any region since I have access to the Japanese, a European and a Canadian account and Store.
Please get it right, we are counting on you
The new PSN Store was an awesome concept on paper, but when I actually have to highlight each unloaded icon so I can find out what the content is via its text description because otherwise I have to wait 5 minutes for its image to load, then the new PSN Store is actually inferior to the experience I had with the one preceding it due to the new PSN Store being completely gimped by the horrendous lag.
I sure hope that one of the things on the agenda for the many Home delays was meant to address and fix scenarios concerning streaming, lag and other such things that could gimp and worsen the user experience during real life scenarios, not just when the PS3 is on a 100mbit direct line to a SONY server close by. You see, any small tweaks or attention to detail that you otherwise might have focused on during the closed Beta will go completely unnoticed when users are trapped inside a black hole of lag.
Kazuo Hirai, the chief of SONY, has said Home is not going to be released until it is just right. I might be overly harsh in criticizing Home before it even launches but first impressions have never been your strong point, SONY, and this time, with all the delays and promises we all expect you to get it right the first time. So, please, SONY, Kaz, get it right.