While Sony’s lax attitude to PS4 firmware updates compared to its rival can be given a positive spin by pointing out that there was much more that needed fixing in Xbox One’s launch dashboard, by the time PS4 system software 2.0 arrived, the system’s OS was beginning to struggle. Friends lists and new messages could take a couple of minutes to load in, and it was pleasing to see that the October firmware update sped things up a little in addition to bringing new features such as YouTube uploads and Share Play’s virtual local multiplayer. Much work remains to be done, however, particularly on how games are arranged on the main menu. That horizontally scrolling list has become rather bulky to navigate as PS4’s library has grown, and Sony’s latest solution – having 15 recently used items on the Home screen, with everything else in the Library submenu – doesn’t quite cut it. to full-fat Minecraft on the market. With that in mind, it’s staggering that the two haven’t been bundled together for launch; the £85 bundle comes with download codes for OlliOlli, Velocity Ultra and, for reasons that presumably made sense to somebody along the line, Worms Revolution Extreme. A Minecraft bundle has to follow at some point – at least assuming that Microsoft, Mojang’s new owner, has been honest in its promise not to block the game from appearing on other platforms – but having one on shelves for Christmas could have made all the difference.
Yet regardless of compatibility issues, PSTV’s support for PS1, PSP and PS Mini releases means it launches with a library of some 700 games, giving it a clear competitive advantage over other set-top boxes. That, it turns out, is just as well given how far PSTV lags behind the likes of Apple TV, Chromecast and Amazon’s Fire TV as a media box. While a Netflix app was on the PlayStation Store when Vita launched in North America almost three years ago, it has never made it to Europe. As such, PSTV launches in the UK with no support for the world’s most popular subscription video service. Amazon Instant Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube and Now TV – all, like Netflix, available in app form on PS3 and PS4 – are absent from the PSTV store. Bafflingly, you’re even forbidden from accessing the PS4 versions of the apps over Remote Play, the system throwing up an error message and then booting you unceremoniously back to the PS4 Home menu.
It’s all a bit confusing. Set-top boxes should be simple to set up and easy to use. While PSTV’s setup is straightforward enough, the problems begin the minute you sit back and start using the thing. It is an irresistible idea in theory, and a fine bit of industrial design too, but it is blemished by substandard software support. It is, in that sense, a perfect metaphor for the current state of Sony. After Microsoft spent most of 2013 leaving its goal untended and gently ushering Sony towards it, the latter half of 2014 has been very different. DriveClub, the game Sony used to dull the pain of charging for online multiplayer on PS4 by offering a cut-down version of the title to PS Plus subscribers, has endured a disastrous launch. The only thing saving it from reaching Sim City and Diablo III levels of shame is the fact that it can still be played in singleplayer when the servers are down. However, at the time of writing, the game has been on shelves for almost a month and it remains an almost entirely offline pursuit. The long-promised PS Plus Edition, meanwhile, has been delayed indefinitely.
It is a sorry tale for Evolution Studios, whose supposed PS4 launch game was 11 months late onto shelves and then arrived stripped of key features by network troubles. But Sony’s response – or lack of it – is the more damning part. It took three weeks for Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida to acknowledge the problem, while senior Evolution staff, who were open on social media during development, fell suddenly silent.
Sony’s network problems extend far beyond DriveClub, however. While extended periods of PSN downtime for ‘scheduled maintenance’ were an inconvenience in the PS3 era, they are
There’s little wrong that isn’t fixable, but who, given Sony’s current form, would expect it to be fixed?
PlayStation TV’s slender, 6x10cm form factor is just big enough for all the necessary ports on its rear. The power button can be ignored once you’ve synced a DualShock 3 or 4 to the device, since it can be woken from standby by pressing the controller’s PlayStation button. Next to it are ports for a Vita memory card , USB drive , HDMI cable , Ethernet cable and power supply . A flap on the side of the device conceals a slot for PlayStation Vita game cards, and the device also has 1GB of onboard storage to hold your game and media downloads. unforgivable now that Sony is charging for its service. Once a month, Sony takes down its £40-per-year online service for up to eight hours, taking with it alwaysonline games like Destiny, the multiplayer component of many more titles and, in our experience, blocking access to digital purchases because PSN refuses the console’s handshake to check for the proper licences. The network has a recurring DDOS problem – one recent attack was conducted specifically to show that Sony has not invested in improved network protection – and since Destiny’s launch in early September, PS4 users have had to endure five protracted periods of downtime, only one of which was planned for.
It affects PSTV, too. A bug in PS4 system software 2.0 – the console’s first substantial firmware update since launch – meant its standby mode, for some reason renamed Rest mode in the update, didn’t work properly, shutting the console down fully after a time, and even locking up the unit. Remote Play only works if the PS4 is in Rest mode, so our tests meant a few disconsolate trips back downstairs to turn on the machine by hand. Version 2.01 followed a week later to fix the