Why The PlayStation Store NEEDS To Change

VOICE OVER: Ty Richardson WRITTEN BY: Ty Richardson
It's no secret that Sony is wanting to make a massive push towards big-budget AAA titles. Despite warnings from former Sony Interactive Entertainment of America President Shawn Layden, it seems Sony could be heading down a dark path - one that is void of the wonderful, game-centric space we know as the indie market, and it's all because of the PlayStation Store. For this video we'll be looking at why the PlayStation Store NEEDS to change!
Script written by Ty Richardson

Why The PlayStation Store NEEDS To Change

It’s no secret that Sony is wanting to make a massive push towards big-budget AAA titles. We’ve been seeing that mindset through interviews with certain executives and how it's been marketing its games. It’s this vicious cycle of “dumping millions of dollars in the hopes of making millions of dollars”. Despite warnings from former Sony Interactive Entertainment of America President Shawn Layden, it seems Sony could be heading down a dark path - one that is void of the wonderful, game-centric space we know as the indie market, and it’s all because of the PlayStation Store.

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen of the internet! My name is Ty with MojoPlays, and this is why the PlayStation Store NEEDS to Change!

Since the early 2010’s the indie gaming space has only become bigger and bigger. As more big budget studios burn people out with heavy monetization and rushed launches, more attention has been directed towards smaller titles like “Hades”, “Disco Elysium”, “Cuphead”, and the “Shantae” series. However, not every title can achieve the same level of modest fame these games have been blessed with. These days, anyone can make a game, but how many of them can stand out from the crowd? Even with a good thumbnail and title, how easy is it to catch someone’s eye in the digital marketplace, more specifically, the PlayStation Store?

According to Sony, the newest iteration of the PlayStation Store on PlayStation 5 is designed to adhere to my interests. What you’re looking at here is a collection of my games, and as you can see, there are a handful of bigger titles, but a LOT of smaller, more obscure titles like “Pumpkin Jack”, “Chicory”, and “Shakedown: Hawaii”. In case they look at playtime, let’s check out my trophies real quick. Once again, a lot of smaller titles here. So, with all of this in mind, we’ll head on over to the PlayStation Store and see what they advertise to me.

Unsurprisingly, some of the first images you see when entering the PlayStation Store on PS5 are of big titles. Three of the six squares advertise “Madden 21”, “NBA 2k21”, and a sponsored spot for “Fortnite” with Rick Sanchez in his drunken glory. Nothing else on the front page shows anything new that might have popped up in the store. Just pre-orders for more big-budget titles (excluding “Hades”, though it’s already a mega-popular indie game by this point) and a section of DLC. (I’ve been almost exclusively playing “Dead By Daylight”, so no surprise that a game with microtransactions has dominated my “Expand Your Game” section over the several dozen games I’ve already played.)

Let’s switch on over to the Collections tab. With this name, this should be a great way for us to discover new titles, and yet this section of the store that is proudly “curated by PlayStation” shows no promise here either. Once again, most of the upcoming titles advertised on the front page here are all from much bigger studios. And here’s our first, last, and ONLY example of PlayStation learning my gaming habits. Out of all the games I have played on PS5, they chose “PAC-MAN” to base recommendations on. Just to give you perspective on how absurd this is, I only played “Pac-Man” for two nights across a single weekend. “Dead By Daylight”, on the other hand, I have been playing almost exclusively and clocked in dozens upon dozens of hours into since finishing my review of “Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart”, a SONY PLAYSTATION 5 EXCLUSIVE game which did not release too long ago! Of all the titles I’ve been playing recently, you choose the one that lasted TWO NIGHTS to recommend titles to me!? This is what learning player habits is??? The best way to discover newly released games seems to be by entering the general PS5 Games and PS4 Games menus and manually sorting them by Release Date (New - Old). Basically, you, the customer, will have to do your own digging to find games you might enjoy!

The way some of the “Collection” menus are assorted seems kind of manufactured, too. I’m not necessarily accusing Sony’s staff for not playing video games (though, there are plenty of interviews and statements in previous articles that come off as such), but it’s pretty coincidental that “The Last of Us Part II”, “Mass Effect”, “Saints Row”, “Resident Evil: Village”, and “Rust” are games that “deserve attention” as the description reads. As for games that PlayStation supposedly “cannot wait for”, they’re really amped for these $60 games. I’d be amped too if I was getting a cut of someone’s $60 sale.

But surely the PlayStation Indies menu has proof that Sony champions indie games and shows small developers that they do care, right? That’s some wishful thinking right there. Upon exploring this menu, it was disappointing to see most of the titles listed are games you can get on other platforms. Not even their newest console exclusive indie, “Chicory: A Colorful Tale”, made it onto this menu.

I can’t say anything better about the PlayStation Store website either. The Latest tab pushes expensive AAA titles to the front page by default regardless if you left the filter set to something else. The next time you visit, it’ll shove high-priced games back to the front. As for the search engine, it’s appalling how searching for “Ty the Tasmanian Tiger HD” generated more than 500 results. What’s more baffling was how none of those 500 results were “Ty the Tasmanian Tiger HD”! No, my top results were “Final Fantasy Type-0 HD”, “Jisei: The First Case”, “Okami HD”, “Cel Damage”, and “Life of Black Tiger”. Yep, because folks are always looking for that quality gem!

I bring all of this up because Xbox and Nintendo seem to be doing a better job at operating their stores, and they do so without that hint of favoritism Sony displays. Exploring those two storefronts was vastly different from the PlayStation Store, and it shows how the two carry a much different attitude when selling games.

Over on the Nintendo eShop, there was not a single bit of favoritism on display. No title got pushed to the front over other titles unless you explored the Best Selling list. Coming Soon clearly arranged titles by the earliest to latest release dates. The Great Deals tab was sorted in a grab bag fashion, randomly placing big and small titles in no particular order. And shockingly, there were no manufactured “Nintendo Recommends”, no “Our Most Anticipated”, nothing that would prioritize one game over another. Not even Nintendo’s own titles are pushed to the front!

Xbox, on the other hand, showed some prioritization, but under a different light. Like Nintendo, the Microsoft Store lists new releases in order of their dates by default, not by price point like PlayStation. However, Xbox wants to be more involved with the user, which sounds kind of creepy, but actually benefits the user in a handful of ways. See, the Microsoft Store won’t recommend titles based exclusively on one game you played. Instead, they have a devoted section for users labeled “Based On Your Recent Activity”. While browsing through this, I noticed that games I had only viewed in passing were being taken into account. Many of the games that were being suggested had some relation to my purchases and games I simply viewed in the store, even if I watched a muted trailer through other menus. Not a single title felt out of place. The way Microsoft Store operates here, it didn’t come off like they were hoping I’d buy the most expensive thing on the market. This was akin to a merchant eager to find something that fit in line with what I’ve been playing and eyeballing, even if it was something at a significantly lower price than most of their other products. There is a philosophy at play here that focuses more on satisfying the user than pushing product, and the same can be said about Nintendo eShop.

After having gone through these three digital storefronts, it’s no wonder why Xbox and Nintendo get so much praise from smaller developers. On those platforms, developers big and small receive the same chance of being discovered by new players. There are no favorites, there is no prioritization - everyone gets a fair shot because at the end of the day, the goal is to get a game in the customer’s hands that will make them happy.

PlayStation Store is just a whole other vibe that’s unsettling and comes off like a cheap car salesman. Not only are higher-priced games being pushed more aggressively, but it’s almost impossible to properly search up a game. Even developers may find it difficult to track down their own games! It’s clear that the PlayStation Store needs a change, and its biggest weakness is discoverability. There’s barely any care for anything below forty bucks, and if smaller developers are going to be buried underneath AAA games, even when those AAA games turn out awful, why should they bother prioritizing their games? Why not charge more on the platform that gives them no benefit when they can make more money at a lower price on other platforms? If the PlayStation Store was in a better state, made discoverability easier for everyone, and proved to be just as profitable for indie devs as other platforms, I guarantee you “Hades” wouldn’t have launched on Switch and PC first, and it certainly wouldn’t be launching on Xbox Game Pass on the same day as its PlayStation launch. The PlayStation Store NEEDS. TO. CHANGE. For the betterment of developers, players, and PlayStation itself.