Op-Ed: Sony Desperately Need To Start Curating The PlayStation Store
A slew of trophy bait and barely functional budget games are plaguing the PSN Store for PS4 and PS5. Sony need to do something about it before customers like me stop using the service all together.
For more than a decade, I’ve had a routine. On every Tuesday, ever since I first owned a PS3 (because that used to be new release day), I’d log into the PlayStation Store and I’d scroll through the new games. You see, for all the marketing and PR, streaming and social media sharing that is done these days, there are still some quality games that manage to launch without much of a furore or fanfair. There are still many developers making their games as good as they can be but largely ignore one of the most important parts of game dev – finding or cultivating a market that’ll buy your game. Sometimes the first thing many potential customers know about a game is it’s appearance on a store front.
It has been a pleasure of mine for over a decade to hunt out these games that have launched on PlayStation and to shine a spotlight on the diamonds in the rough. Sure, in the past many of the games I’ve taken a chance on haven’t been game of the year nominees but some of them have become personal favourites. I stumbled onto the likes of Papo & Yo, Velocity, Tales From Space: Mutant Blobs Attack, Deathspank, and many more top quality smaller/indie games over the years simply by finding them in the PlayStation store. I wouldn’t pick up a game every week but over the years, I’ve managed to purchase more than 2000 games across PS3, PS4, Vita and PS5 many of which I’ve got fond memories of.
This is a practice I’m now going to stop. I’ll no longer be checking the new releases for those hidden gems. I’m giving up the search for the diamonds in the rough.
That’s because Sony have allowed the PlayStation Store to slide into such a state that it feels unusable. Load up the new releases on PS4 and PS5 on any given week and you’ll now see the same names over and over. Jumping food. Jumping Food Turbo which is just a clone of the same game but slightly more expensive and with a Platinum trophy that takes even less time. A themed Breakout clone. A clicker game that’s only mildly thematically different from 10 others on the store that released in the past few months. Games being sold level by level, piecemeal over weeks and months. Asset flips.
Of course, I’m not the arbiter of taste or quality and there is of course a market out there for these games. A lot of these games are getting lapped up by trophy hunters because they’re cheap, have Platinum trophies that take seconds to unlock and have multiple “stacks” (the practice of unlocking trophies for different regions on the same game). Some unsuspecting gamers are picking them up too, falling for store descriptions that border on fraud. I’ve reviewed a lot of these types of games over the past few years – Road Bustle, Chickens on the Road, Round Invaders Rush, The Bronze Age, The Wine Story – and have played a few others that I couldn’t stomach writing about. I’d challenge anyone, even the most ardent of trophy hunters, to say that these games have any artistic merit to them (The discussion on if these types of trophy bait games have totally undermined the trophy system can wait for another day).
It has got to the point where it is now difficult to find those games releasing on PS4 or PS5 that aren’t just a cheap cash grab. Open up the PSN Store and it looks like a restaurant menu rather than a list of games – Jumping Nuggets, Burger Run, Jumping Sushi Turbo, Jumping Brownie, Jumping Taco, Candy Break. The Run, Break and Jumping games are all mechanically identical to one another. They’re basically the same game with a different skin, 30 times. Gone are the days when you could load the PSN store and find the cream of the indie gaming crop. I’m not alone in my frustrations about this either. The decline in quality on the PlayStation Store is a regular topic in many of the big PlayStation gaming Facebook groups.
Sony need to do something about this and not just from a customer perspective. A number of developers have publicly complained about the state of the PlayStation store. Back in 2021, myriad developers complained about discoverability on the PSN store for indie devs. Because of the poor structure and sheer number of guff games you’ve got to wade through, many indie devs have found their games under performing on PlayStation. Because of poor sales of their game Nowhere Prophet, with discoverability cited as a reason, the indie publisher No More Robots stated that they doubt they’ll release any other games on Sony’s systems. Quietly, a number of developers are finding frustration as they watch valuable store space dominated by clones of the same game with a different coat of paint.
For me personally, this feels like the end of a decade long love affair with PlayStation’s store front. For years it has been my preferred place to buy my games. Until Sony get their act together and curate their store, preventing it from being flooded by trophy bait, I’ll be shopping elsewhere. I can’t keep searching for hidden gems only to find that I’ve just rebought the same game for the third time, only now it has red art instead of blue.