PlayStation Network's Director of Operations on Future PSN Functionality

It's been more than a year since the PS3's launch, giving Sony a year's time to tweak its online platform. I just recently became a PS3 owner and was a little perplexed by some of the PlayStation Network's "quirks," you might call them. After dealing with Xbox Live pretty extensively, it's tough to enjoy using a platform with lesser functionality.

At least some of my concerns are being addressed, however. I e-mailed the PlayStation Network's director of operations, Eric Lempel, with my questions, and I've posted the salient stuff below.

Most importantly, in-game XMB access should hopefully be coming sometime in the future, allowing you to message friends in-game and invite them to matches. Eric also touches on why we won't be seeing demos for every downloadable game, why downloads on PSN are slow, and why the PlayStation Store lags behind Xbox Live Marketplace in making content available.

Thanks to Eric for answering my questions.

Shack:

It's nice to have a PlayStation Network username, but right now the

features associated with it (messaging, etc.) can't be accessed within

games. Will this functionality be implemented in the future? If so,

what's the timeline on this?

Eric Lempel:

We are looking at a number of enhancements related to accessing some of the XMB features during gameplay, including messaging your friends. While there's no timeline to announce at this point, we've heard loud and clear from consumers that in-game XMB access is one of the most requested PS3 enhancements.

Shack:

Why hasn't Sony made it mandatory for developers to supply trial demos to go

along with full downloadable games?

Eric Lempel:

We've actually offered several demos of downloadable games since PlayStation Store launched, including a demo for Blast Factor, which was a launch title, as well as Nucleus, Lemmings, Go! Sudoku, PixelJunk Racers, Super Puzzle Fighter II, etc. You can expect to continue seeing more free demos of downloadable titles in the future.

It's something that SCEA encourages developers to do, but it is ultimately up to each developer to make that decision. We want PlayStation Network to be as open as possible and not restrictive for developers, some of whom may have smaller teams and need to devote all of their resources to shipping a great title vs. creating a demo.

Shack:

How do content providers go about posting a game, demo, video, or

other content on the PlayStation Network? What does the process

involve, and where/how are the files actually hosted?

Eric Lempel:

Both 1st and 3rd party publishers submit content to the PlayStation Network department on a regular basis. The submission includes the content itself (game/add-on/demo/trailer/wallpaper, etc.) and any accompanying assets and metadata (the information about the content). Once the content goes through our Quality Assurance tests, it is published on the Store. Everything is hosted on our servers.

Shack:

Downloads from the PlayStation Store, like the demo for the

recently released Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, often transfer very

slowly, even over fast connections. What causes this problem, and is

there any chance for a solution?

Eric Lempel:

Download speeds are affected by a number of factors, including a consumer's own Internet connection and the load on our servers. When a popular piece of content like the demo for Uncharted: Drake's Fortune goes live, a lot of users are of course trying to download it at the same time. We're always working to make using the PlayStation Store more efficient, and optimizing bandwidth is certainly one of the areas we focus on.

Shack:

Developers often claim to submit demos and downloadable content for

multiplatform games to both Sony and Microsoft at the same time,

although this content usually shows up at least a week later on the

PlayStation Network than it does on Xbox Live. This could make PS3

owners feel like they're getting second-class treatment. Is there

anything that could be done to get the content up quicker to create

more parity when it comes to multiplatform downloadable content?

Eric Lempel:

That's interesting, as it relates to Network content I hear the exact opposite from developers. I can't really address this from the Xbox perspective as I don't have any insight as to when they receive content or their publishing process. Last week we both launched the latest GTA IV trailer at the same time. I will say that we have a very efficient process in place.

It's important that every piece of content we receive go through our Quality Assurance processes. While the process may seem as simple as a developer sending us a piece of content and the PlayStation Network department posting it for download, this isn't the case. Behind the scenes there are a large number of attributes that need to be checked and tested to ensure our users will have a smooth, seamless experience downloading content from the store.

I think it's worth mentioning here that the PlayStation Network is free and all PlayStation Network members get new content at the same time, unlike the new tiered model from the competition, which delays the release of content for non-paying members.