Sony Addresses Home Content, Deployment, and Regional Complexities

On Europe’s PlayStation forums, one user by the name of “EssexJames” has written an open letter to Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, naming a number of questions and queries the community has had about regional disparities, particularly within Sony’s online community, PlayStation Home.

And in case there was any doubt that Sony keeps an eye on such things, the community manager and staff saw it as a matter which needed to be addressed, and did so through Home Business Manager “Dan,” who wrote out a lengthy response.

Dear SCEE,

I don’t know how much attention you pay to these forums. Perhaps you have focus groups and other methods of receiving customer feedback too. However, if the views which are often expressed on this forum are representative, then I strongly suggest that some changes in approach are required.

We are all PS3 fans. This is why we are here. We all want Home to be the killer app that it can be. It certainly seems to have that potential.

But there are several tweaks to the development and communication approach which I consider will help to significantly alleviate much of the disappointment and unhappiness that is expressed on this forum.

Firstly, Communication.

There are many frustrations which result from shortcomings in communication. These shortfalls exist in both the quality and quantity (frequency) of communications. A case in point is today’s teaser in which it was stated (in relation to next week’s update) that “patience will be rewarded”.

This is not good enough. If there is something to be announced, then announce it. It will save a week of frustration, needless overhyped speculation, and potentially a shortfall in expectations when the update happens. It is a truism of human nature that people are more likely to recall the week of abject frustration than the few hours of delirium when something good is released. I fear that key users, those who bother to come here to express their heartfelt views, will be alienated in the longer term.

We are adults. We can handle things like “There are contractual reasons why details can’t be provided. However we are able to confirm that a new game space including some mini games will be launched”. Phrases such as “be patient” and “good things come to those who wait” are frankly patronising. Even if we complain, these “good things” will come anyway. The complainers are “rewarded” in exactly the same way as the fanboys. We’re not stupid!

If you treat the community here like adults, people will be less inclined to behave like children.

Secondly, the Regional Issue

I have yet to see a reasonable explanation behind the reasons why other regions appear to consistently receive things earlier than the EU region. (This applies to game releases as well as Home). Language issues don’t cut it. There are multi-languages in the US region (English, French, Spanish and Portuguese), but they don’t appear to suffer the same issues.

Again, treat us like adults and tell us why. I understand that there may be reasons you can not divulge – perhaps you are as frustrated as us by Sony’s international strategy and it would be understandable if you are unable to openly criticise your employer in public. But the total lack of a reasonable explanation is very frustrating. Please speak to your marketing department to help craft an honest answer to this one.

Thirdly, Listening

In most of its consumer divisions, Sony has a global reputation as a builder and provider of well-built goods and services. However it’s also a common criticism that Sony doesn’t listen to its customers. It seems to have an approach which says “we know best, we’ll build what we think customers want, we’ll build it well, and they’ll buy it”.

In the 70’s and 80’s this worked. There were few genuine global competitors. But the world changed and Sony didn’t. There is still time to recapture the public’s hearts and minds with the Sony brand – but it will require a root and branch cultural change. Why not put Home at the forefront of this change. Listen to your power users. Treat them as your business partners. Learn from them. They are your future.

Despite what I’ve said above, I remain a loyal and supportive buyer of Sony’s goods and services. But I don’t like feeling that I’m being taken from granted. I look forward to your assurances that I’m not.

And, Dan’s response:

Hi everyone,

Some of you may know my name already – I’m Dan (aka Drexl), and the business and operational development of PlayStation Home for the SCEE region falls under my control.

TedTheDog, known to probably almost all of you, works in my team, and recently we’ve been chatting together about some of the feedback and opinion expressed within these forums about the status of Home in SCEE.

I’d like to directly respond to some of the comments and posts we have seen recently.

I want to make it clear that your views and opinions are VERY important to us, that we read them all, and I want to thank those of you who contribute positively, and who feed back constructively and intelligently, regardless of whether that feedback is positive or negative. As you rightly point out, community is integral to Home, its success, and its long-term future. We need you, rely on you, and appreciate you greatly.

However, some of the recent posts I have seen have been extremely negative, and on some occasions, inaccurate

I can understand some of your frustrations, and can assure you that myself and my team – not to mention the development studios who build Home, and my colleagues from other regions – are absolutely committed to the success of the platform. This evidently is not reflected in the current assessment of Home by the minority of you (and Home is still a beta service) and it is to those people specifically who I’d like to address my comments on this occasion.

Home content and deployment

Let me start by saying that the architecture behind Home is built for global implementation. There are four main regions that constitute the Home business – Europe, America, Japan and Asia (which covers Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Taiwan). We are all set up differently, and indeed we often all launch games at different times (and not at all, in some cases). To a degree, at present, Home mirrors the way our existing business is set up, but it’s a hugely complex platform, and we’re refining the way it operates. At the moment, yes, some regions have received content and spaces before SCEE, and I realize how frustrating this must be for you. However, we are working to improve our processes at a global level, and to increase the efficiency of our localisation and QA systems. In the near future, you will see a marked difference in how Home is populated with new content, games, and activities, and where possible we will be aiming for simultaneous releases of new spaces, items, mini-games etc. What we’re trying to with Home is a very ambitious undertaking, and we’re learning as we go along – it’s challenging, but also exciting. We do take into account your feedback, and it continues to help us shape this service in the direction we all want it to move, and I can assure you now that in the coming months you are going to see some very positive changes.

Regional complexities

It’s also worth remembering that SCEE is a very complex region, consisting of many different countries and languages. These aren’t excuses, they are just facts. PS Home is the first time we’ve tried to do something on this scale, and I’ve said before in various interviews that there will be a period of learning as we go along. We’re all in this together, and we all take it very seriously but we’re making improvements and refinements all the time. The needs of our customers are always paramount, and in a community-based service like Home, it can only benefit us to pull together with the community, not work against each other. My feeling – and it’s a feeling that I’m confident you’ll share once you see some of the changes I mention coming into effect – is that we are at an exciting turning point, and we’re in a position now where we can take all our learnings and channel them into delivering more of what you want, in a more timely and efficient fashion.

I can almost hear some of you now saying, “We’ve heard all this before” I’ve always tried to been very honest and open, and have always been passionate about making changes for the better in terms of how we manage this potentially fantastic service in the future. So, I’m making a commitment to you now – and I’m doing this with the blessing of my management team here at SCEE – that things are going to improve, and you are going to see that some of the initiatives we’ve all been working on coming to fruition.

As a final point, I’d like to put all this into some sort of context. Home is a FREE service to download and use. None of our competitors is doing anything like this, on this scale, and with this ambition. Also, we’re in Open Beta still. We’re in Open Beta precisely for the reasons I mention above – to learn, to refine, to evolve, and to work with the PS3 community to build Home into a platform we can all be proud of, and that we’ll want to visit every day. We see this as a very long-term ambition. We’re doing it because we believe in it, and because we want it to become an integral part of the experience you have on your PS3.

I’ve been about as honest and frank as I can be here, without divulging company-confidential information, and we want to ensure clearer channels of communication, so we can get the chance to have a frank and open dialogue more often with you as we move the platform forward.

As I said earlier, we totally welcome all feedback – we need it, we read all of it, and we thrive on it – but often, comments are based on a lack of understanding of the facts of a situation, so please don’t just flame us without thinking through some of the things I’ve said.

Thanks for reading – and once again, your continued support is greatly appreciated by ALL of us.