“We will be expanding the PlayStation Network to hardware other than the PS3,” said CEO Sir Howard Stringer in an interview recently. It’s probably worth mentioning to Howard, nice time you see him, that the Network is already available on hardware other than the PS3 – he might have forgotten the PSP but we haven’t. “The number of PS3 units sold puts a limit on the scale of the network possible. Sony has a vertical structure for each product line, an organizational structure that resists change, so it will take time to achieve this network growth. However, a large number of employees share my opinion on this.” Of course they do, you’re the boss. It’s not like you can say “Oh, we’re doing this next” and everyone can feel comfortable saying “No we’re not, dafty” because that’s not how business works.
We know what he’s thinking, though. The hugely rubbish European non-launch of the PlayStation movie download and rental service only goes to show just how platform independent the Network is – it’s neither on the PS3 or, indeed, any other hardware. So, whilst E3 is just around the corner and we’re certain to find out a date, even if it’s just a year, we can safely assume that when it does finally stumble across the pond to our ageing internet pipes we’ll be able to watch 10 year old movies on our Sony Vaios. In HD. We can hardly wait. “The relationship between Sony and its customers is changing,” says Stringer, “even if some people at Sony may not like it. The Internet and information technology have changed… And if we don’t adapt accordingly, we will lose our customers to the competition. ”
We’ve got a newsflash for you: you’re late. It’s not even as if Microsoft and Nintendo are doing this bit particularly well, it’s just that Sony are doing it rather badly, falling flat on their arse with each major announcement. Home is pretty groovy these days, but it’s taken the best part of half a decade to get to the stage where it’s actually useable as a service, and that’s mainly because of the ARG bubbling under the pavements of Home Square and some particularly zealous third parties wanting in on the microtransaction gravy train. How, exactly, is this relationship changing? Shoe-horning the XMB onto a phone isn’t convergence, and offering a music download service, which is what we assume he’s implying in the interview, won’t wash with gamers looking for that key aspect: games.
He goes on: “We developed brand new, absolutely incredible technology for the PlayStation 3, but the cost was high. We’ve adopted a slightly different approach now, and are evolving the PS3 into a platform for Web services. TV development is also in a period of transition; the fact that sales volume is growing for the Apple TV, a kind of set-top box, might be evidence of an emerging trend.” We wonder, reading this, if he’s implying that Sony are considering something more akin to Onlive than PS4 for the future, and whilst we’ve talked about PS Cloud in the past this is the first time we’ve heard a major executive at Sony lean towards web services. Is such a groundbreaking announcement just around the corner?
Will our PS3’s really live out that rumoured 10 year lifespan? Or is this just Stringer warning us that there’s going to be all kinds of crap heading our way over PSN very soon, regardless of the hardware? The prospect of rental and streamed games over PSN is an exciting one, but Sony’s recent PlayStation Store blanks, like the short movies SCEE tried to push our way and the about turn on Siren’s episodic content, haven’t really worked out. If there’s a market for a small executable download and pushed content on top of that we’ll welcome Stringer and his new customer-facing attitude with open arms, but if all this is just a precursor to having some kind of PSN Store for the PC, which we’re fairly sure is the bottom line here, colour us disappointed.