Playstation Network and the Rise of the $5 Game

Well, PS3s are finally selling, and there are finally some games out that really make the purchase look justified for the long term. With more users able to buy more content the new Playstation Network is finally beginning to look slightly interesting.

For the uninitiated – the Playstation Network is the “online” portion of the PS3 experience. Most consoles nowadays have something like it, and the PSN is kinda the new kid on the block. With an internet connection, it does all the things you’d expect: you can browse the web, buy games, download additional content, etc. You can even play online multiplayer for free – which is a significant selling point for people who balk at the infamous PS3 price tag. Or, it would be if online multiplayer experience didn’t suck so badly for the average (read: non-troglodytic) gamer. More on that later.

When I first bought my PS3 and plugged it in, I wandered into the Playstation Store section out of sheer curiousity, took one look at the (lame) movie previews, (crippled) game demos, and tiny smattering of (mostly bad) real games for sale… and wandered right back out again.

I didn’t return until just last week. In the post-thanksgiving week, PSN was offering some mini-games that I hadn’t played yet for about $5 a pop. It seemed like a reasonable time to take a risk on a few.

They were mostly pretty good. I’ll be playing LocoRoco for some time. Everyday Shooter was pretty cool, too. Think of it as a high-def mating of Defender and Asteroids with more guitar. Calling All Cars is good fun, but I need to play it with some friends because it really looks like it’s meant to be a party game.

Most of them were cute arcade games — which the gaming community has decided to call “casual” now, whatever that means. Aren’t all games casual? None of them sucked so much that I wanted to throw my controller at the TV — more than I can say for some $60-a-pop super-mega-action-blockbusters of late (ahem, Spiderman 3). It’s amazing what a $55 price differential will do to your attitude about a game.

When I read the game news sites, I’m hearing more and more about downloadable games, mini-games, arcade-style games, and casual games. They can be produced on-the-cheap (I hear Everyday Shooter was written by one guy). They require no expensive physical distribution channel. So they can be sold cheaply. Users don’t feel as cheated when a $5 game isn’t entirely their cup of tea.

Me, I plan on buying some more $5 games, and maybe even some $10 games on the Playstation Network. A successful ecosystem of cheap-to-make downloadable console games might be just what big game developers need to shake off their creative slump.


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