PSN and Xbox Live have changed tremendously over the years and we owe a lot of those innovations to Steam. Although there are some some features that are hard to defend in this day and age (why do I must have a Gold subscription to play multiplayer games in Xbox 360?,) both Sony and Microsoft proved that they are willing to make necessary changes when the time’s right. Still, Steam is tremendously popular and Valve managed to do that by providing a solid service that respects its large userbase. Without further ado, here are some of the features that console services should adopt.
Christmas it’s about to start? Let’s celebrate with a sale. What about Fall? Sale. Kwanzaa? Sale. For a long time, consoles didn’t understand the benefit of discounting a portion of their catalog during special occasions, but as soon as they saw that Valve started making money hand of over fist during sales, XBLA and PSN changed their minds. Both Sony and Microsoft have a long way to go, but it’s great to see that they are willing to launch a sale every now and them.
Assassin’s Creed 2 came out years ago, so there’s no way that I’m going to pay full price for that game. Dynamic pricing means that the price of the game changes as time goes by and though popular interest in that game decreases, so does its price. So it’s more likely that I buy a three-year-old game if I find that’s $9.99, instead of $29.99.
Fast, seamless downloads
This is really important. If I’m playing a single-player game for hours, I want the console to download patches, games and updates as soon as possible. If I’m going to sleep and I want the console to do it for me.
Consoles are giving away games to Gold and Plus subscribers, but that needs to change. Shouldn’t you show the appreciation to all your console owners instead of the gifted few who paid $50 for that privilege? Valve has given away some of their best games with a “no strings attached” basis. Left 4 Dead 2 and Portal are some of the games I remember, but there are probably more.
Regular client updates
Steam is being updated on a regular basis (once every 15 days, I’d say) and while not every single one of those updates brings new features and fixes everything wrong with the digital distribution service, it proves that Valve is paying attention and bringing new things.
Maintaining servers is really expensive. I get it. PC architecture works different than console architecture. I understand that. But I’m pretty sure a lot of people aren’t paying for PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold and all those people are missing a significant part of games because you’re asking for an additional fee. That has never been a problem on PC.
I don’t use this feature on a regular basis, but I’m pretty sure a lot of people do. Sharing your entire library with friends and without having to pay anything is a great idea. On Steam, there are some caveats (for instance, two people can’t play the same game at the same time if the game’s been shared,) but it doesn’t force users to spend a lot of money on games they aren’t sure if they are going to like.
I enjoy logging on Steam and checking out what other people are doing there. This ranges from the games they recently bought to the number of hours they spend playing games. Additionally, you can comment, take screenshots, create wishlists, work on curator lists, post videos and so on.
Fast and slick client
Navigating on the client should be fast and effortless and companies should spend a lot of time developing them. After all, you spend a lot of time using the main UI, since you’re always choosing games or checking out third-party applications.
If you install games on your hard drive, the client should detect the games you have and it should download the latest patches automatically. This is a terrific feature especially for games you play on a regular basis and that receive patches regularly.
A lot has been said about this feature in particular, especially when Microsoft announced the Xbox One. I think backwards compatibility is one of the best features a platform can have and with the PC, that’s not even a problem most of the times (there are exceptions of course, but most of the games work right off the bat.) On consoles though, this is usually a serious problem, since new consoles usually change the architecture and games from the previous generation are usually not compatible anymore. There are workarounds though. For instance, PlayStation is working on PS Now, but spending a lot of money on games you already own is a drag.