Is PS4's PlayStation Store really ready for a renaissance of gaming?

  • Posted December 11th, 2013 at 15:12 EDT by Glenn Gordon

The "renaissance of gaming" has finally begun with a flow of new indie titles hitting the PlayStation Store since the release of the PlayStation 4 console. Sony’s new publishing practices allow even the smallest developers to get their work onto a PlayStation console. Already, gamers have noticed how similar the indie movement is to the glory days of the PS2.

Unfortunately, not every indie game is a great one. Many gamers were concerned after the February announcement of the PS4 that the PlayStation Store could become flooded with not only great indies such as Resogun and Contrast, but also not-so-great ones.

For example, early reviews of Ouya, the $99 microconsole that temporarily lit up the gaming industry before its less-than-stellar release, complained that Ouya’s app store lacked a way to tell which games were must-plays and which were not.

“There are almost certainly some indie diamonds in the rough,” said PCmag, in its review of the early Ouya model, “but you have to sift through that rough to find them.” Thankfully, Ouya has redesigned its UI (and a few other things) since shipping its notorious Kickstarter units, and the layout of the store is much better.

The PlayStation Store not too long ago received a facelift of its own. That facelift has carried over onto the PS4, and it’s worth wondering whether or not it can offer what the original Ouya didn’t in a means to sift through ‘that rough’ to find the indie gems. So far, we think the answer’s ‘not quite.’

The PlayStation Store’s means of categorizing games looks clean, but could  be more concise. For instance, getting to “Indies” as shown in the picture above is straightforward—simply open the PlayStation Store, select “Games,” and scroll down to it—but to get to the actual list of indie games, there is no choice but to scroll through whatever featured titles Sony decided to list before reaching a box labeled “Indie Games.” What’s concerning here though is that once that list of indies is open, there is no way to quickly determine what to play.

There is in fact a rating system not only in the PlayStation Store, but also on the PS4 console itself (mysteriously, the two do not appear to be linked; a rating on one does not appear to carry over to the other). So far, however, the PlayStation Store’s rating system appears to be understated. In order to see what average rating the community gives to a game, the user must open the page for that game and look beneath its title; there is no filter to sort games by rating and no way to quickly view community ratings from the game list. There are also no suggestions of games to look into based on what games a gamer likes, making the thumbs-up button feel redundant, especially as it is placed directly to the left of the Rate button. The only thing that can quickly help a gamer decide which games he or she might enjoy is that short array of five featured titles that stands between the gamer and the aforementioned “Indie Games” box.

In recent months, Mark Cerny, the system architect for the PlayStation 4 and one of the most revered people in the gaming industry, promised the world a renaissance of gaming. Gamers seem up for that, but in order to get the most out of it, they will need a quick and easy way to find the ‘diamonds in the rough,’ something that the PlayStation Store does not yet provide. Fortunately (at least in this context), there are not yet many games for the PlayStation 4, and with DLNA and MP3 support rumored to be coming in a future patch, perhaps Sony will add a gentle tweak to its PlayStation Store as well to accommodate the rush of indie games and gamers that it expects.

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