Summer Download Promotions: Is PLAY Enough?

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.

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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.

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46 Comments

  1. The idea is sound, but the games hold no interest for me. I may be interested in Payday: The Heist, but if reviews are good, I’ll buy it outright. I’m not interested in buying other games I’ve no interest in just to get it free.

    It’s a similar problem with PS Plus and why I haven’t subscribed to that. It’s a great idea, and it is exceptional value – but only if you’re one of those who buys practically everything on the Store.

    I’ve no real interest in minis or PS1 Classics, nor in the more recently added auto updates, online saves and now automatic trophy updates. So the value of those is irrelevant to me.

    As for the discounts on PS3 titles, that will never be of interest to me unless it gives you a discount on any and all Store content, rather than just the games SCEE choose to offer.

    I’ve had little or no interest in any of the games discounted so far, so it remains cheaper for me to buy the odd title I do want at full price, rather than spend £40 a year on a Plus subscription.

  2. It is a good promotion, one I’m grateful for but it’s completely incomparable to Xbox’s Summer Of Live Arcade because of one word ‘exclusive’.

    Who really cares if you get an exclusive Home avatar or an unlockable character, when a competing platform has a load of exclusive games that are generally 9 or 10/10

    The perception is that the PSN is great with a varied bunch of exclusive content that is of a high quality, this year I’m struggling to see past Journey. Other great exclusives are stuff like SSHD, Fat Princess, Flower and the Pixel Junk stuff and a few others, but its hardly an amazing volume of high quality exclusives when spread over the 5 years of the PSN’s existence. Summer Of Arcade gets 5 quality exclusives over the course of a few weeks and this happens every year along with the rest of the year’s releases.

    The PSN has someway to go, but at least PLAY is a start, next year I’m hoping they build on this OK start with something that’s really worth shouting about beyond the offer itself.

    • I was going to mention exclusive, but I looked back and it turns out a lot of Summer of Arcade games weren’t. Surprising, but true.

      • Timed exclusive for some. Summer of Arcade was the reason why I had to wait longer for Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light last year.

      • Yeah, the game is still good after a year, but really… it’s still a year :|

        It’s a key advantage & certainly worth a bit more than an avatar

      • A year?
        From Dust is expected September on PSN and sooner again on Steam.
        Bastion coming to Steam soon too, although the PSN release will be further down the line as the studio still has to make it.
        Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light was only delayed a couple of months as well. The exclusives ain’t very exclusive.

    • Talking of Fat Princess do you guys still play or fancy playing it again? I fired it up last week after about a year of not playing and had a blast. Would really enjoy meeting up for a bash if you chaps are interested. Team TSA would kick ass!

  3. Checked out Renegade Ops on the GiantBomb.com quicklook. It looks really cool. That is the only one I have pre-ordered to get the 20% discount. I am not bothered by the other games on offer though. I have interest in the Payday game but know diddly squat about it, I will wait for the reviews before I make a decision.

  4. You’ve never heard of The Baconing? Not a fan of DeathSpank I take it.
    :)

    • Never heard of Deathspank???!!! The Vanquisher of Evil??! The Dispenser of Justice ??!! The Hero to the Downtrodden ??!!

      Blasphemy!

    • I had a inkling The Baconing was from the same team, now I may just put my money down on it.

  5. I’m only really looking forwards to Payday, although it definitely has been shown on various websites (even a few articles here) substantially enough. Maybe you just missed it, because it’s quite an anticipated title for PSN.

  6. I dont get it – it’s just a load of advertising & promotion, why does this make it special? The games were coming to PSN or XBLA anyway, so they get frontpaged because they are in the promotion.

    This isnt a new idea, this isnt a clever idea, is a moved designed to sell more games, why is it treated like it’s something good to have? You dont go in to Asda/Sainsbury/Waitrose and look at the big poster for Andrex Bumwipes and go “WOW! ANDREX BOG ROLL! PROMOTED! I MUST BY DIS NAOW!”

    Obviously the promotion is “a pretty big deal” for the creators and publishers, but for gamers? Er, no.

    • I think it is with Summer of Arcade because they’re not just promoting any random old tat. They’re promoting stuff they consider the best they have, that’s why it’s an accoloade to have. I like it as a showcase of “Look what we’ve got.” Plus download games are so frequently not promoted at all I think it’s really good for everyone, gamers notice good content and there’s the obvious benefit on the pub/dev side.

      • OK so its a showcase of “the best of XBLA”. Not exactly a groundbreaking concept is it? http://www.amazon.co.uk/Very-Best-David-Hasselhoff/dp/B00005Q8UG

      • Lol at using THAT as a source! XD

      • I don’t know if Fruit Ninja qualifies as “the best they have.”

        As the guys on the Giant Bombcast said: “Every year there’s a Castlevania: Harmony of Despair.”

        In other words: every year at least one of the SoA titles is regarded as pretty pants.

        (Then again, EDGE did give Castlevania: Harmony of Despair 8/10 so, there goes that theory.)

    • “WOW! ANDREX BOG ROLL! PROMOTED! I MUST BY DIS NAOW!”

      But that’s the precise reason for promotion. Sometimes there is no price drop and sheer marketing is for the sake of product awareness.

      What makes it special (or at least a topic to discuss) is that Sony have been utterly shameful in their ability to advertise games on the PS3. I find their attempts laughable at best. Sure, some titles get a bit of love but the biggest stuff is pushed by the 3rd parties themselves.

      I honestly cannot believe what Sony must think when they see how the likes of Nintendo and Microsoft advertising left, right & centre.

      • I agree but i can see TC’s point because most on here will know about most of the releases on the psn store (well most of them) and so these promotions unless they contain discounts etc aren’t particularly useful for those you know about store releases etc

      • I think so but it still amazes me how many people (even on TSA) don’t enjoy PSN games that much. There are so many not-so-hidden gems on there (and the likes of XBLA) and I think there’s still a tiny degree of snobbishness levelled at these sorts of titles when you look at their more mature disc-based siblings. Saying that, those two comments of mine aren’t necessarily correlated as the snobbishness I’ve seen is from a few friends outside of TSA.

  7. I don’t really see any issue with pre-ordering downloadable games, I’m all for the choice to do it.

  8. i just don’t see the point in paying for downloadable games until they’re ready to download.
    with a physical copy a preorder can be handy to reserve a copy if they’re going to be in short supply, not that that ever happens these days, preorders are just used to lock a buyer to a single store.

    with one of those titles you’ll be waiting nearly two months for the game.
    that’s ridiculous.

    • Still your choice whether to pre order or not though, no-one is forcing you to. Sure, I won’t be pre ordering them, but there’s no problem in having the choice to do so.

      • yeah that’s true, but i don’t like the fact they’ll be taking money for these game and the people won’t get them for weeks.

      • Just the same as pre ordering anything else though?

      • The only reason I think pre-ordering could benefit me is if they let me download the game early so I don’t get caught in the battle of the bandwidths come launch day.

        Just upload all of the game to me and then release a small 6KB unlock code on the day itself.

  9. For me, it’s not that there wasn’t much hype with these games as i’ll happily find out more, but that apart from Renegade Ops and The Baconing, the quality doesn’t seem to be there, whereas pretty much all Summer of Arcade games exude it.

    • clearly not a Street Fighter fan.

      The release of SF33SOE represents years and years of fans badgering Capcom and many consider it to be the pinnacle of 2D fighting games. it is a major, major release, and to get 20% off as well, is icing on the cake.

      I know there isn’t a large fighter contingent on this site, but I was really surprised at the author’s comments that they only had a vague idea of some and no clue about the others in this promotion.

      The Heist: Payday is a big pile of crap though.

      YOURE FIRED!

      • hmm, after SF33SOE I typed “I want to say…Sophie?” in which seems to have made the rest italic.

        I did not mean to come across as special.

  10. I always intended on getting Street Fighter III, and I like the look of Payday, lots of positive word on it too. Just don’t know much about the others. My quandary lies in the fact my girlfriend just gave me a psn card, and with the discount u can get buying online, I could feasibly get all of them (along with ps+) for probably £5 of my own money

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