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May 17, 2009

Redesigning: The Playstation 3

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Written by: Dalibor Dimovski
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head_ps3red

The Playstation 3 is currently selling less than the Wii or XBox 360, the other modern generation gaming consoles on the market.  Not only is it selling less, but it is selling far less.  The reasons for this are plentiful, minimal, maximum.  In fact, each person has their own opinion about why the system has fallen drastically behind the sales pace of its forefathers, the PS2 & PSOne, and cannot even catch up to its sibling, the PSP.

In 2006, the machine was hyped beyond belief.  It was featured everywhere, starring in millions of dollars’ worth of advertising campaigns.  So what went wrong?

In this article, the first of a series, we’ll examine what it could take to change the fortune of the PS3.  From our perspective — consumers, fans, gamers — the system has potential, but is being held back by a few major issues & design flaws.

The Machine

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As a product designer I’ve been taught about human interface, aesthetics, and innovation.  I know that the first thing you notice about a product is the way it looks and feels.  When I first saw the PS3, I felt as if all of the basics were there for a truly great and iconic design.  The theme: an airplane wing meant to signify elegance, technology, and “newness”.  The result: a large, heavy piece of plastic with badly-designed user interfaces.  The PS3 is designed to be the monolithic hub of home entertainment designed to tower above the competition.  The girth of the system however makes it difficult for a twelve-yr old to pick up and shift to a new location in the house when the parents want to watch “Dancing With The Stars”.  Reducing the size of the PS3 would be ideal.  The recent rumor of a slim PS3 showcases what appears to be a new PS3 model (or quite possibly an elaborate fake).  This model is still too wide and deep.

ps3_slim

What really needs to take place is a thinner AND narrower PS3 redesign.

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Besides this, there are a few interface issues that need addressing.  The power & eject buttons are touch sensitive.  While a cool technology, consumers (especially children) like the tactile feel of pushing a button and hearing it click.  Redesigning these buttons (and placing the eject button next to the disc drive) would be optimal.  As an addition, the PS3 could include the growing trend of lighting in consumer electronics.  The blue Wii disc drive light is iconic, for instance.  The PS3 could capitalize on this trend and add ambient lighting (such as that seen in some Philips televisions of the last few years).  A glowing, shifting light cascading down under the PS3 would not only give it a nice feature but would also allow the PS3 to appear as if it was floating.

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The Guts

Sony has the highest-selling console of all time: The PS2.  So, with backwards compatibility such a focus on other consoles why did Sony decide to remove it from the PS3?  Cost-saving was one excuse, spurring the sale of the PS2 and PS3 as separate products was another.  But in reality, a PS3 with PS2 compatibility would strengthen sales of the PS3 and continue to spur PS2 software sales.  Also a bone of contention is the constant addition of SKUs with changing content.  40GB HDDs, 80GB HDDs, 120GB HDDs — all continue to confuse consumers as to which PS3 is the right purchase for them.  Sticking to one HDD SKU (40GB) with the sale of separate Sony-branded hard drive upgrades would be a better opportunity.

The User Interface

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The biggest issue I have with the PS3 is the confusing user interface.  Once booted up, the system can be nearly impossible and intimidating to navigate to what I need to get to.  By trying to be all things to all consumers, Sony has turned the PS3 into a glorified PC.  My wife needs to call me every time she wants to watch a Blu Ray or browse photos, since each part of the XMB (cross media bar) is a confusing mess.

Sony needs to focus on selling a games machine first, not an all-media browser.  The Wii’s interface, although having its own issues, is much easier for the average non-gamer to navigate.  The 360 has made great improvements as well.  The PS3 needs to have a friendlier, simpler interface.  Focus on the three tiers of what makes the PS3 great: blu ray, games, and connectivity.  Therefore, these should be the only parts of the XMB that should be initially available.

psn_home-1

Placing the three icons — “Media”, “Game”, and “PSN” — on the screen, along with quick one-button access to Global and User Settings, allows for intuitive access and navigation.  These icons would show the current game disc in the machine, the blu ray or downloaded video ready to play, and how many friends are online.  By navigating to the desired icon the XMB will expand to feature the tier’s items, and a simple single click while on the initial icon would launch the game, movie, or PSN without needing to navigate down to it.

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The XMB could also incorporate the ability to customize & add to it.  By clicking the “+” icon a quick link to a specified item on the PS3 can be created, allowing the user to customize the features he or she uses most on the machine.

psn_home-3

The Business

The final point of the PS3 redesign is the most obvious: price.  Bringing the PS3 in line with the 360 ($299), while selling separate Sony-branded HDDs at a profit (like Microsoft does with the 360’s HDDs) would allow Sony sales to pick up.  Although the system would still be sold at a loss (of about $140) it would at least be able to compete with the Wii and XBox 360 in price.  In fact, a price drop now would make for an impulse buy over the Wii.  Another avenue to take would be to include vouchers in Sony’s televisions, in Blu Ray discs, in its cameras, and in the box with the PSP for further discounts on the PS3 ($25-$100) to help spur sales.  The big factor for profits isn’t the PS3, but the software.  By spurring sales of the PS3 (and including several demos of games on the system’s hard drive) software sales would follow.  And by “pulling a Microsoft” and buying rights to timed exclusives for the system the company could nail some key games that would push software even more.  The PS3 also needs a huge re-branding.  Focusing on the three tiers in separate campaigns could be a way to do this, hiring different ad agencies to cater to the different portions.

In Conclusion…

As we know, throwing money at the business end of the product is something that Sony… well, Sony ain’t got the money.  At all.  Instead of a massive price cut (which we would all want) the voucher route might be an interesting way to go, and the branding aspect is immensely important.  The user interface needs a definite improvement, with more of an “Apple”-like approach to connecting to users.  The product’s aesthetic redesign, although a “nice-to-have”,  is on the low end of the importance scale.

Will Sony take the initiative on any of these concerns?  The answer is probably “Yes.”  Sony knows that the PS3 could go into life support in the US if it doesn’t do something drastic to improve its viability immediately.  What those changes could be, we’ll have to wait until E3 2009 to find out.

How do you feel about a PS3 redesign?  Do you think it’s necessary?  What would you change?

[All images courtesy Sony; All redesign images courtesy… us. :) ]



About the Author

Dalibor Dimovski
Dali is the Editor-in-Chief and co-founder of SideQuesting, as well as the co-Founder of CarDesignFetish and the founder of MakLink. Dali is also a car designer, deejay, and introductory beer-brewer.




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  • Aclay

    I don’t think a PS3 redesign is necessary, and I think the User Interface is EASY to navigate and don’t want it to change one bit. The only reason I say Sony should come up with a Slimmer PS3 sooner than later is to reduce cost, so that they can sell the PS3 for a cheaper price…. other than that, I don’t think it’s necessary, but Sony is known for coming out with slimmed down consoles, so it’s going to happen anyway.

    And I disagree about what was said about the Touch Sensitive buttons because I like them and it gives the PS3 a more sleek and elegant feel in my opinion. Adding buttons so that you hear them “click” just sounds cheap and I think the Eject and Power Buttons are located in the PERFECT positions already.

    I highly doubt that Sony would sell Sony branded PS3 hard drives separately and I don’t think they should. In this case I think they should just include a Step-by-Step Video Tutorial pre-installed on the Hard drive on how to change out an old hard drive for a new one. I think Sony would want the PS3 to remain open to user HDD customization like the current PS3 is right now, and I don’t think it would be a good idea if they came out with proprietary branded Sony hard drives that you essentially just “Snap on and Snap off” or that could ONLY work with the Slim PS3 because then the hard drives would be overpriced like the 360’s HDD’s.

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  • Richard Nelson

    Ithink you are a bit deluded as to wha people want,ad just what your preferred choice are. You say your wife can’t navigate the XMB, has she tried navigating the XBOX dashboard, its mental!!?!. Plus my grandma could use the xmb… its so simple….. Your wife musn’t be that bright if she can’t scoll to the video icon and then click on the disc icon.. Then you say the buttons are bad. The buttons are great! The power button is great to press, you lay your finger on it and you get a satisfying bleep. And the eject button, you say it should be near the disc drive? go look at your ps3. Plus you get to swipe your finger over the eject button, that’s cool, Im kinda over disc drives ( LIKE THE 360’s). I just think you’re an idiot. The fact that the ps3 is heavy is good, not taccy and plastic and white, it’s 5kg, its stable, and im from the UK and here 12 years olds can lift 5kg, but in US i guess your not as fit as us…

  • http://www.us.playstation.com/ tiger-spy

    I totally have to agree with Aclay on this one. I personally love the current XMB as it is now. It’s super easy to navigate and you can scroll over to whatever menu you need to get to instead of clicking through a sub menu labyrinth. Creating named folders to seperate downloads is easy enough and you can rename any file to put them in the desired folder you need them to go. It makes organization a snap for everyones varied anal tendencies.

    I really have no complaints about the touch functionality of the power and eject “buttons”. Why have touch sensitivity on the Gameboy? Why not navigate the iPhone through a keypad? Obviously those products offer TOTALLY differnet functions than a simple power and eject disc option, but why do the button thing when the machine responds to basic human touch? Don’t you want to lovingly caress your PS3 to make it do what you want? If sliding your finger over the eject disc “button” is too difficult, you can always press the triangle button and go to the eject disc function through the joystick while on the couch. This way it will be waiting for you by the time you walk over to the machine.

    It seems as if the majority of people see this system as a blunder on Sony’s part when in fact, well, at least i personally feel, that it’s a well designed and amazing machine. I don’t have a 360 so i can’t compare the two, but i prefer the system I buy to have everything i need right on it. Why sell seperate HDD’s as an additional cost for the customer? If you want a bigger hard drive, the PS3 allows you to perform a backup (i don’t kow how much flash storage is alotted exactly) and you can buy a 250GB internal hard drive anywher one is on sale. Then with the removal of just 2 screws, swap the old for the new in 2 minutes. If you’re not tech savvy and don’t want to dissect your machine, you can quickly plug in a 1TB external hard drive for $100 and you’ll be set for life.

    – I hooked up my ipod to my PS3 instead of filling up it’s hard drive with music. The music played just fine and it has it’s own internal swirly global screen saver.
    – I can remotely connect my PSP to its big brother from a wi-fi hotspot to and navigate it’s menu system as i were there sitting on the couch.
    – I can stream files off my pc instead of filling up my systems hard drive with photos/movies/music.
    – I don’t have a tivo but if i did i could connect to that as well.

    I can go on and on with the CRAZY funcionality of the PS3 but the list would be too long. AND most importantly, I only really use it to play games. It works great as a gaming machine in itself so i’m a happy camper.

    People need to stop seeing the machine for what it isn’t, or what it could be, and enjoy it for the great machine it is. Maybe i’m a die hard Sony fan and i can find no wrong in their machine. Yes its a bit heavier than i expected it to be, but once i hooked it up to my TV and stuck it in the entertainment center, i have never needed to move it anyway. It may not have as many game exclusives as the PS2 did back in its day, but there are plenty of great games out there waiting to be played and it’s library is only growing for the better. The price is up there and i think that’s really the only thing i feel that has scared off potential customers. As the old saying goes, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it…then try not to fall too hard when it wins you over.

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  • FriggenHugeOrc

    I sure hope they don’t redesign the user interface…….Ever since the Xbox360 got its new interface Ive had a bad taste in my mouth……I spent like 50 bucks on themes, and now I can’t even use them anymore (as they where ment to be used)….makes me wish I never got a stupid 360 in the 1st place.

  • http://www.Twitter.com/kewlrats Dalibor Dimovski

    They’re going to keep changing the interfaces all the time. In fact I think NXE and the XMB will both be changed again considerably by the time the systems reach the end of their life cycle.

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  • http://insulinfunk.net Wesley J ohnson

    YOUR MOM DESIGNS CONSOLES! PS3 IS 50 TIMES MORE POWERFUL THAN THE XBOX 360!@k5j23k5j;lkajnsdf;ksahdjf90wOI

  • http://www.Twitter.com/kewlrats Dalibor Dimovski

    Wesley Johnson, you’re an evil person.

    We all know the NGage is better than BOTH combined!

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