For those of you not familiar with Xbox Live Arcade’s Summer of Arcade promotion, it’s basically a promotion which has run for the last four years over, surprisingly, the summer. In general, it features games which receive heavy promotion at E3, with a decent mix of promising indie titles and games from larger developers. That E3 promotion is obviously a very significant boost for these titles, many of which would be unlikely to get their way onto the show floor without the support of Microsoft.[drop]On top of that, Microsoft tend to do some sort of promotion for those who splash their points and buy up all the titles. Generally Microsoft will give you some points back – enough to make one of the games free. Although in the first year, 2008, anyone who purchased just one game from the Summer of Arcade was entered into a grand prize draw.
Of course, the promotional aspect isn’t really what it’s about. What really matters is the games, and Summer of Arcade really delivers. It hasn’t all been great titles, there does tend to be something a little weak each year, but with titles such as Braid, Shadow Complex, Limbo and Bastion featuring, can you really complain that much? It does seem like Microsoft are making a genuine effort to push new, interesting titles through their biggest Xbox Live Arcade promotion of the year.
Now, I don’t want to say that Sony are particularly bad at managing the PSN Store, or that they lack interesting content. I would, clearly, be lying if I said that. It’s obvious that the PSN has some wonderful gems on it, and that Sony do a very good job of supporting titles like Journey or the PixelJunk games. However, I feel that they were missing out on a lot of publicity, and therefore sales, of games by not running a similar promotion. And then they announced PLAY.
Yes, Sony are building their very own annual promotion, and whilst I’d say it’s not perfect yet, it’s certainly a solid start. In fact, in some ways it’s better than Summer of Arcade, giving PlayStation Plus subscribers a 20 percent discount is a brilliant touch. Giving away free DLC is also pretty nice… except for the fact that in some instances you have to pre-order the game.
I’m not quite sure why this doesn’t sit properly with me. Pre-order bonuses are a pretty common aspect of the modern games retail industry. Irritating as they can be, I accept them as a good way of driving early sales for a game. There’s just something about pre-ordering a digital game that doesn’t feel right to me. I know Steam has been doing it (along with pre-loading your game) for a long time but it just seems strange in a way that pre-ordering a physical game doesn’t. However, that may well just be me so let’s move on.[drop2]The other issue I have with PLAY is that Sony seem to have picked oddly for their first lot of games. Maybe I’ve missed it but I’ve heard basically no hype for any of these games, no buzz at all. Now that’s not always a bad thing. So many games are so overhyped that they have no hope of living up to the expectation but, for games that are forming the core of a new promotion, it seems a little lacklustre.
The only game I’d heard plenty about before PLAY’s announcement was Street Fighter III Third Strike Online Edition (you couldn’t come up with a snappier title, Capcom?), although I know what BloodRayne is in a very vague sense. That knowledge may come largely from Penny Arcade strips mocking the series but I am still aware of it, at least. The Baconing and Renegade Ops? Sorry no idea. And the free game you get if you pick up everything else, PayDay: The Heist? I’ve seen little of that, either.
It seems like I’m being overly harsh on Sony, but I’m really not. I honestly think they’ve done a good job in building a promotion like this and after the PSN woes earlier in the year, they needed something to further encourage people back to the platform and rebuild the brand. It just needs some actual promotion put behind it and some larger titles included in it. Imagine if we’d had Journey in it? How exciting would that be? Of course it’s not possible with Journey but surely there must have been other titles they could have run.
Being included in Xbox Live Arcade is seen as a pretty big deal, with PLAY it just seems like Sony took what they could. However, it is the first year so hopefully when it comes back, next time around, it will be bigger and better.