When the PlayStation Network launched in 2006, many saw it as a sea of untapped potential, but Jon Webb from the SCEA Developer Support Group says Sony's made strides to correct that and that now it's up to developers to capitalize.
Webb spoke today at GDC about the PSN's past, present, and future. While a lot of the discussion focused on the nuts and bolts of running the service for the 20 million registered users, Webb did talk about all the improvements the company added to the PSN last year.
Sure, a lot of lip service was paid to Trophies and the in-game cross media bar, but Webb said there are a wealth of other options the late '08 upgrade added that developers didn't drop into their games because of time constraints; the PSN booster shot came about halfway through the year and that didn't bode well for adding functionality to the holiday releases.
What beauts are hiding under the PS3's hood? Well, Webb says the PSN currently supports voting systems, integration of external media sources from the web (He mentioned pulling Twitter photos into a game.), location-specific information based on your IP, group functions such as clubs and club challenges, and in-game ads.
Web also detailed the ability for drop "socially based commerce recommendations" into games so that if you and I were friends, you could buy things in Burnout Paradise, the game would tell me you just bought that product, and I could follow a link to pick up the goods as well.
However, the biggest mention Webb made in terms of untapped potential is PSN sub-sign in. Granted, LittleBigPlanet already allows you to play a local multiplayer game using more than one PSN profile on the system, but Webb said that this functionally will soon be patched into "a couple of high profile titles."
He wouldn't say which games, but he did say that the system will pull save data from both users' personal saves and that making this work falls on the game itself supporting it. Sadly, at this point in development, the sub-sign in doesn't allow the second player to earn Trophies while playing as the red-headed stepchild.
With so much talk about the PSN making strides onto the PS3, PC, and PSP, I asked Webb if Trophies were any closer to coming to Sony's portable. His response wasn't super-inspiring. With so many of the older PSPs hacked and modded, he says that there's concern about what that would mean to the Trophy playing field. Webb said the PSP is a different iteration of the PSN because it's not always on like the PS3 so the team is working on expanding the experience, which may or may not include Trophies.
"We're always looking at how we can bring more parity to the PlayStation Portable," Webb said.
When he was done with that Greg Miller gem, I threw the same question I throw at every Sony person I meet: what's up with avatars?
"We're looking to expand avatar functionality," he said citing this year. "I don't have any details on that."
Even when that update comes, don't look for PlayStation Eye support - Webb said that using the camera opens up too many monitoring issues; odd, Xbox Live seems to handle it just fine.
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