The PlayStation store recently celebrated its 10th anniversary in both North America and Europe.
The virtual plaza launched alongside the PlayStation 3 in both territories and has expanded to a variety of different Sony manufactured products, including the PSP, PS Vita and PS4, as well as other discontinued devices like the Sony tablet S and the ill-fated Xperia Play.
We thought it would be interesting to look back at how the PlayStation store has evolved over the past decade, as it's gone through some pretty seismic changes over the years.
So it all started in 2006, with what was essentially a webpage that you accessed via the PS3's built-in web browser. The HTML-based storefront was slow, cumbersome and honestly kind not too great, but it did help build the foundation for the more rounded product that we’re all familiar with today.
Launched in North America, there were a total of two games available for the PS3's PlayStation store - Blast Factor, a kind of biological shoot-em-up created by remaster specialist Blue Point, in collaboration with Sony Santa Monica and Cashguns Chaos DLX, a game similar to smash TV rip-off, developed by the then Sony online entertainment.
The launch lineup was a bit better in Europe, where the PS3 was infamously delayed by six months. The extra time enabled Sony to assemble a much better selection of games, where the excellent Tekken 5 Dark Resurrection and Gran Turismo HD Concept were the headline names (Gran Turismo HD Concept was a free demo that provided a taste of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, itself a demo for Gran Turismo 5).
Interestingly, hidden within that European PlayStation store launch lineup was Flow, the first game from that game company who would go on to release the Journey several years later.
The PlayStation store bubbled along for a little while in its HTML-based format. Sony added in background downloads to the PS3 firmware, which allowed you to pull content while watching movies or playing off-line games, but it wasn't until 2008 that it went through its biggest change.
So, on the 15th of April 2008, Sony launched a new firmware update for the PS3 which removed the web-based iteration of the PlayStation store and built it into the console’s operating system.
- New slimmer, lighter PS3 system, Wireless controller
- 320GB HDD for storing games, music, videos, and photos
- Streams thousands of movies and TV shows instantly from Netflix
It was a huge step forward, loading light-years faster than its predecessor and being much easier to navigate in general. It also expanded to the PlayStation portable later that year and there was compatibility between the two units, as you were able to download PSP content on the PS3 and then copy it across to the hand held via USB.
Despite some minor tweaks and enhancements, it is pretty much the way the PlayStation store stayed the majority of the PS3's lifespan. PlayStation Plus launch was an optional subscription service in the summer of 2010, providing members with a selection of free monthly games, add-ons and trials and it would later go on to become the backbone for the PlayStation 4’s online infrastructure.
But it wasn’t until 2012 that the biggest change came. A year after the PSN outage and shortly after the launch of a custom PlayStation store for the PS Vita, Sony announced that it was completely overhauling the PlayStation store's PS3 design.
We now know that this was done in anticipation of the PS4, but it seemed somewhat random at the time. The new layout was billed as being much more visual – screenshots, trailers and other items were all added under the umbrella of a single game page.
Smart search was also integrated and the whole thing was supposed to be much more visual as a whole. But that the problem was that the PS3 couldn't really cope with it. The layout launched on 22nd of October 2012 in Europe and it was supposed to follow soon after in North America, but it broke due to a variety of bugs and glitches.
- Over 1000 Games: Many PlayStation Vita games, such as Final Fantasy X, God of War Collection, and Minecraft, classic games from PS One and PSP systems and more
- Remote Play: Stream a wide range of your PS4 games on your PS Vita system over a local wi-fi network when away from your PS4 system or TV
- PlayStation Now: Play over 150 PS3 games directly on your PS Vita system with PlayStationNow Game Streaming. (Service not available in all areas. A steady broadband connection greater than 5Mbps hardwired is HIGHLY recommended)
Sony was forced to actually roll back to the old storefront in the UK while it fixed the problems and it ultimately didn't launch in the US until 2nd of November 2012 – and, even then, it was considered a big step backwards, because it wasn't hardcoded into the OS like the previous version of the PS3 PlayStation store, it took a long time to load and needed to be patched independently.
Moreover, it never felt like the PS3 could properly cope with what it was trying to do, and even if you visit the PS3's PlayStation store today you'll find choppy performance and a ton of bugs. But of course, it all paved the way for the PS4, which we now know the redesign was created for.
- Includes a new slim 1TB PlayStation 4 system, a matching DualShock 4 Wireless Controller.
- Play online with your friends, save games online and more with PlayStation Plus membership (sold separately).
- All the greatest, games, TV, music and more. Connect with your friends to broadcast and celebrate your epic moments at the press of the Share button to Twitch, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.
Sony added some bells and whistles for its new console, including pre-loading, which rolled out around six months after the console itself. This basically allows you to pre-order digital games and download them to your hard drive prior to their launch, meaning that they’re ready to go the instant that their release day arrives.
That brings us up to where we’re at today. Slight design changes have been made to the PS4’s PlayStation store, but it still pretty closely resembles that 2012 redesign on the PS3.
It makes us wonder - what's next for the PlayStation store? Digital is now such an enormous part of Sony's gaming business that it must be a question that is asked a lot in boardrooms.
The only thing that is certain from our perspective, is that the digital storefront is only going to get more important as consumers slowly migrate from physical purchases to the impending digital future.
What is PlayStation Now?
- Month-to-month subscription for the most flexibility
- PS Now delivers unlimited access to a growing library of over 800 PS4, PS3, and PS2 games, all with one subscription
- Unlimited download access to 300+ PS4 and PS2 games in the PS Now library to your PlayStation 4 console
Often billed as Sony’s solution to backward compatibility, the cloud-based service instead represents the foundations of the future where consoles don’t exist. The PlayStation 4 may be breaking sales records fantastically, but there will come a time when placing a box beneath your television just isn't relevant anymore.
Like it or not, that is the future that we are moving towards. PlayStation Now then aims to ensure that PlayStation is available anywhere, whether it's on your phone, tablet or more. Currently, the service can be accessed on selected TVs, as well as the PlayStation 4, Vita and PC.
What’s so Special About PlayStation Now?
The advantage to the streaming service is that while you do need a fast Internet connection, it can run on pretty much anything with a screen. All of the processing is handled in-cloud, so your hardware just needs to be able to run the client.
And while you really will need a fast Internet connection, it does actually work, perhaps better than anyone could have imagined. We’ve tried the service across the PS4, Vita and PC, and all work startlingly well.
The Vita struggles the most, but once in a game it works fairly well, and we even thought the Borderlands the pre-sequel felt more responsive on the handheld than either of the aforementioned platforms.
What Can You Play?
It's worth keeping in mind that at the moment the service only includes PS3 titles, undesirable aspects included. This means that despite the processing being handled in the cloud, performance issues from the original games remain, including frame rate drops, texture pop-in and other common last gen complaints.
Aside for a few stutters and streaming glitches though, PlayStation Now rarely hurts the performance of the originals, but some PS3 games are starting to feel dated by today's standards. That said this is a viable means of revisiting some of the greats from yesteryear.
How Much Is It?
A monthly sub will cost you around $20. There is a better selection of games in America compared to Europe, so Sony Europe does need to put in the legwork to catch up to the overseas library.
As mentioned earlier in this article, it really does work control. Controller lag is evident, but much less noticeable than you’d anticipate, especially when playing slower-paced games. Tell-tale titles are a perfect fit for example, we found hack-and-slash hit God of War 3 to be very responsive too.
Even old school arcade games like Crazy Taxi and Super Hangon play alarmingly well, though you're probably not going to win many online bouts of Ultra Street Fighter 4. The bit rate isn't great, so the graphics can look a little crushed at times, though coming off the clean 1080p presentation for the PS4, the 720p output can hurt proceedings a little.
If your Internet connection dips, then the visual quality will take a hit to compensate, resulting in macro blocking similar to what you'd see when streaming a video over YouTube or Twitch. This is obviously not ideal, but we only encountered it a couple of times.
What Could Be Better?
The big problem with PlayStation Now - right now - is that we're not really sure who it's for yet. Despite its name, this seems like a service for the future, rather than the present.
It really does work surprisingly well, but with just PS3 titles on offer, you’re probably better off picking up a used console if you are desperate to work through that device's back catalogue. After all, you’re not going to be paying a whole lot more in the long run if you adopt that route.
That said, if Sony can continue to improve the technology and expand the services library beyond last gen, incorporating PS1, PS2, PSP and potentially even PS4 games, then in the long-term, this service could potentially offer PlayStation's entire back catalogue on demand. And as Internet infrastructure improves over time, it may just find a new home for its iconic gaming brand in the cloud.
A Few of The Best PSN Store Games Right Now
The PSN Store
This means the PlayStation store is going to need to stay at the top of its game. Hopefully, we’ll be able to revisit this article in a decade and talk about another 10 years’ worth of evolution.
Until then, please let us know your thoughts on the PlayStation Store and what you think could be next for Sony’s online efforts.