When the PS3 was launched in November of 2006, many people did not know what to expect. This is the first time Sony would have a console that came with online capability at launch, plus have a store to sell games and other media. The first iteration of the PlayStation store was mediocre at best, offering little to nothing as far as demos, games, and content. The PS3 also suffered from only having a hand full of launch titles and very few features that PS3 supporters expected. Firmware updates gradually added functionality and features that were initially promised at launch. There were quite a few gripes and complaints, but Sony eventually turned up the heat and started cooking.
Over time the PSN store started to bear fruit and the PS3 functionality started coming. [email protected], which is now Life with PlayStation, was introduced early on. This feature allowed people to use their PS3 to help Stanford University do DNA research by using the power of the Cell in each and every PS3. Media server capabilities were added, which was a great addition for anyone with a thick library of music, movies, and pictures that did not want to fill up their hard drives with media. In-game messaging and Divx support was added next, which was a highly touted feature that should have been added much earlier. These features along with added features and functionality for Blu-ray movies helped the PS3 continue to be the media power house Sony had described. Then after two years, the Home open beta was finally released to mixed results, although it was nice to see what Sony had accomplished up to that point. But what about the games you say? Ah yes, the games, oh the wonderful games.
First, the PSN store was revamped to look and function differently than the original PSN store. More and more demos and games were released along with a video store that enabled users to download movies and TV shows for a fee. This feature was widely talked about and is loved by many PS3 users. But the crown jewel of the PSN store is the games. Many innovative new games have been released over the past year including Flower, Flow, Super Stardust HD, Everyday Shooter, Noby Noby Boy, Crash Commando, Blast Factor, Brain Challenge, Echochrome, Go Puzzle, The Last Guy, Piyotama, High Velocity Bowling, Pain, and many others. All of these games show the diversity that each developer tries to reach to differentiate themselves from other games and developers. Most of these games are very innovative and fun to play, which leads me to believe that Sony finally got something right. They have given developers a forum to express themselves with little restriction. XBL Arcade and the Wii Marketplace offer many fresh games too, namely Braid which may eventually come to the PSN store, but the PSN store far exceeds both of these virtual stores in my opinion.
What Sony has done is allow the developers to come up with new ideas and think freely about games that people can enjoy that are different and refreshing. A game such as Flower has very simple game play, but the game itself sucks you in and makes you feel like you are part of the game in a way that no other game I have played has done before. The Last Guy is probably one of the most enjoyable games I have played in a long time. Super Stardust HD had me glued to my PS3 controller and TV for many, many hours. Piyotama, an almost forgotten game buried on the PSN store, is a fun Tetris style game that only costs $1.99. It is a game I still go back to and play for hours (if you have not played this game I suggest you spend the few bucks to get it if you like those types of puzzle games). I cannot stress enough how much the PSN store has brought me joy on Thursdays when a few new games and demos are released for me to try out. Most recently I purchased Zuma, a highly popular puzzle game that has been on PC for years (honorable mention goes to Mahjong). This game has me playing for hours not realizing how much time I have actually spent playing it until I take a break and look at the clock (THREE HOURS!!!!). And don’t even get me started on High Stakes Poker. I still have a few million and I still go in there and play after having the game for over a year. With game prices ranging anywhere from $1.99 to $19.99 I truly believe we are getting adequate value for our dollars. Many games, such as High Velocity Bowling and Pain, allow you to download new characters and maps for a very reasonable price. Both games offer new characters for $0.99 and many other games offer the same variety of new features and reasonable prices for their downloadable content.
I could write a novel on my experiences with all of the games on the PSN store (Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer is another good one but VERY, VERY difficult), which brings me to my point. The PSN store is becoming the goose that lays the golden eggs for the PS3 and Sony. In between games such as Killzone 2, there will always be a Flower, or after a long session playing any one of your favorite games online, there will always be a Zuma or Mahjong to help you kick back and relax for a while. This is the silver lining in the dark cloud that some say has surrounded the PS3 since its release, and it may be one of the reasons the PS3 has held on to many of its users through some of the tough times when games were few and far between. Although I have spent much more time playing disk based games such as Killzone 2, Midnight Club: LA, Resistance 2, Little Big Planet, Street Fighter IV, Burnout Paradise (still), and Madden 09, I continue to go back to the strong library of PSN games that I have purchased over the past two years. If you haven’t checked out many games on the PSN store, I suggest you give them a try. I can guarantee that you will be pleasantly surprised by at least a few of the games popping up on the store or the current games that are already available.
I would like to take the time to thank the developers of all these games, including the ones I did not list but thoroughly enjoy, and Sony for allowing them to have a platform to express themselves and give us games the simple satisfaction I think we forget about sometimes because of the hype other big name games receive. These games take me back to the times of the Nintendo and Atari days when you could just pick up a game and play for a while then put it down without getting too deep into it, but still enjoy it. This is part of the reason games like Tetris are still huge today (and for the record Dr. Mario was one of my most favorite puzzle games EVER) and always will be. So take a break from Killzone 2 and smell the Flower or take Noby Noby Boy for a walk. I have a feeling you may be surprised by what you find on the PSN store.