Having just recently survived Microsoft's Summer of Arcade promotion, I can't help but feel that PlayStation Network PLAY is a remarkably similar concept. Similar in that it is almost exactly the same in practice: participants purchase a handful (or in this case, just under) of polished downloadable titles to receive a free game. Remarkable in that no-one has really thought to reprimand Sony for their near-duplication of a competitor's marketing strategy; not even a week after they've finished proceedings. Sure, all retailers (digital storefronts and brick-and-mortar stores alike) employ different sales gimmicks regularly, and the "Buy X, Get Y Free" transaction isn't new either; but I can't help but feel as though my two consoles are only really different in name and appearance. The online experience, software offerings - even the way they are sold - are too familiar to generate any sensation that PlayStation Network PLAY is new, or even worthwhile.
Stop me if you've heard this one before...
Let's start with the lineup. Not one of the included titles is exclusive to the PSN: Renegade Ops and The Baconing will also be released on the Xbox Live Marketplace and PC while Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online Edition and BloodRayne: Betrayal will only be made available on consoles.
In the case of BloodRayne: Betrayal, it will be on sale via the competitor's service a week before it can even be downloaded by PlayStation 3 owners. That's right! Partake in the PlayStation Network PLAY promotion to play a game a week later than Xbox 360 owners; what an offer!
Where the 2011 Summer of Arcade was a showcase for some promising new -and in one case, exclusive - IPs including Bastion, From Dust and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet; the inaugural Sony effort will feature only one, in the form of Renegade Ops. Fruit Ninja Kinect featured support for the Xbox 360's signature motion-control peripheral, whereas no PSN PLAY games will feature Move support. There is nothing about the promotion that effectively serves to differentiate it from the competitor or - worse yet - match it. The only positive thing I can think to say about PSN PLAY is that I won't need to spend as much money to take advantage of it. With only four games to buy and a discount thanks to my maligned and near-expired PlayStation Plus subscription, my "free" game will cost me about sixty dollars as opposed to the eighty-something bucks I ended up paying for Crimson Alliance.
I will concede that the pre-order system is new in the context of the "PSN Vs XBLM" paradigm, but the benefits are questionable in terms of value. In the case of Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike Online at least, players are downloading a key for something they could've unlocked through sustained play. Otherwise we're generally looking at themes and (*shudder*) PlayStation Home items. It's better than nothing, however, once again we're looking at two promotions with little to separate them.
What's the solution to the deadlock? I'm not sure, but duplication of services and benefits is not the answer.
- I survived the "Summer of Arcade," and all I got was this avatar shirt: http://unbearabledutch.blogspot.com/2011/08/i-survived-summer-of-arcade-and-all-i.html
- Minus PlayStation Plus: http://unbearabledutch.blogspot.com/2011/08/minus-playstation-plus.html
- Sony launches PSN PLAY program: http://au.gamespot.com/news/6327408/sony-launches-psn-play-program?tag=result%3Btitle%3B1
EDIT: Gamespot had the release date for BloodRayne: Betrayal listed incorrectly. The game was not available from the XBLM on Wednesday.