Our PS3 hates us

Today, Sony released the 3.60 firmware update for the PS3. Apparently it adds some stuff to the already overburdened array of stuff that the lousy interface already fails to accommodate adequately, as well as “cloud saves” for people paying for PlayStation Plus.

Cloud saves should absolutely be this year’s thing, and kicking this off is one of the most forward-leaning things that Sony has done in a while. They should be applauded. Loudly. And then everyone should copy them as quickly as possible. Particularly mobile developers. And especially those making universal iPhone/iPad apps. Or hybrid Android tablet/phone apps.

I applaud regular system updates on any and all hardware, I really do. I think they do a great job of evolving technology to accommodate our changing needs, and they can sometimes change things so significantly that they completely overhaul our relationship with the device. My issue with the PS3 updates is that they’re always so damn intrusive.

These days, we tend to use our PS3 as a Netflix and Hulu player rather than a games system. That’s not a conscious choice, and certainly no indication of bias but we just seem to play more on Xbox 360 these days. We don’t like using that console for media though, because the fan and drive mechanism is so comically loud. Really. You have to crank the sound on the TV up to drown out the noise of the disc spinning and the cooling system going into overdrive. Anyway, I digress. The PS3 and Netflix; great for the kids when it’s raining (which is something it’s doing a lot lately) and Mrs D and I have been working our way through TV shows that we have never watched before, but meant to; Veronica Mars, Bones… the list is ever-expanding. My issue is that unlike the vast majority of other devices; whether it’s the iPhone, the Xbox 360, my Mac, or anything else I can think of – the PS3 is rendered utterly useless as an online device as soon as a new update is available.

So, today when the kids wanted to watch something cartoony on Netflix, the PS3 just refused. “You have to run the system update” it whined and then just completely cockblocked any attempts to circumnavigate its insistence. “But we just want to watch something funny,” we told it. “No,” it bitched unreasonably, and promptly disappeared up its own 25 minute download, install, update hole by which time the kids had taken to hitting each other with plastic swords instead.

After so many updates, and so many complaints from so many people, you’d think that someone at Sony would have put their hand up at a planning meeting and said “hey, maybe we should make the update process suck less?” Hey… I get it. When you’re working with product managers and engineers and coordinating with teams internationally you have to think about all kinds of considerations. Sequencing and prioritizing projects is a real handful, but at some point you have to stop worrying about adding yet another piece of functionality and start thinking about user experience instead.

It would be nice if v3.61 finally showed some evidence of this kind of thinking.

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