On 17th of October, everything will change. We’ll have a brand new look and layout to the PSN store on PS3 which will completely overhaul how it handles in every day use.
Sony have been slaving away on the PSN store in secret for almost the last two years, taking opinions on how to improve the layout from numerous focus groups and gradually developing what effectively amounts to a completely new store. That difference starts right from the very first second, as the PSN store bag is now in a nice and stylish white, there’s a new welcome tone and there’s not a shade of blue in sight.
As the interface loads in over the background, there are just a handful of clear categories on the left hand side, What’s New, Games, Movies and TV. The rest of the screen is dominated by large hero images for featured games as before, taken from the What’s New section. The big difference is that rather than it refreshing seconds before you get to what you want to select, it stays put.
Here you can now scroll further to the right through an extended carousel of content, featuring a much larger selection of recent content for you to get at easily.[drop]Each page of the carousel plays host to several items with one particular highlight taking over the full background, and some nice parallax effects shifting the content and images as you scroll across.
Scroll to the right or left and the next page peeks out from the side of the screen, and when you get to the end of what’s being highlighted it gives you options to continue browsing through related sections, rather than trapping you down the rabbit hole with a painful return to the top page in the offing.
It’s a system that will appear in many areas of the new layout, for the various highlights sections, from the latest big content to a new section for popular titles. That’s the first time that such a list has appeared on PSN, and means that popular titles will get to stay at the top of the pile that bit longer.
Beyond the major areas a wholly reworked system of content discovery has been implemented, starting off with a long list from such broad categories as All PS3 Games, Shooters and so on.
From here we will now have more granular filter and sorting options, so that you could narrow your browsing to only show PSN games, games that are lower than £10, those which feature online multiplayer, or even listed by user rating.
Alongside this we also have a simplified and much improved Search. Gone is the obstructive on-screen keyboard, which lead to obtuse and dumb search results. We now have a scrollable list of letters to choose from which is much happier with DualShock controller input, and features reductive input. Say you want to search for Journey, start picking letters ‘JOU’, and the search engine starts to remove letters from the list that would no longer apply, making the ‘R’ you need much more prominent and quicker to find.
Although maybe you won’t need to hit the ‘R’ at all. The search results live update after each letter input, with a selection of the most popular and best results for that string of letters at the top, followed by a full list of other content which features that particular letter set. It’s also smart enough to take into account misspelt searches and acronyms for games, such as MW3, ME3, GTA4 and so on.[drop2]Whichever route you take, once you find the content you’re looking for you’re taken to a game hub for that item.
If it’s add-on content, there’s always going to be a prominent image linking back to the parent title, with further related DLC further down the page. Whatever the title, there’s always a text box which expands to offer more details on request, and where there are images and videos linked to it, these will now be thumbnails that let us quickly drop into full screen images and streaming video.
Not to mention easily accessible game demos and full game trials from these hubs. It draws all of the relevant content into a single, easily navigable space.
One thing that was made clear during the presentation was that this is just the first step in a larger programme of changes. Here Sony wanted to get the core basics to the new design in place, with a whole host of further functionality yet to come over the coming months. Things like adding filters and sorting to the often painfully huge Download List which long term owners still have are on the list of things, much to many peoples’ delight, I’m sure.
This is an update which is to be exclusive to the PS3 for now, and it’s an overhaul that the store has needed for the last couple of years. When the PS3 launched, e-commerce via your TV and console was still a fairly alien concept to many. Now Sony have finally been able to react to the ever shifting digital world, and this looks like it will really get the basics right with plenty more yet to come.