When I'm browsing a digital marketplace on a game console, there's only one thing I want to buy: video games.
Go ahead, call me crazy. But when I boot up the PSN Store on a whim, I'm not particularly interested in pre-ordering a digital copy of Terminator: Genysis, or downloading a Reese Witherspoon buddy cop comedy onto my state-of-the-art video game device. And even if I did have a hankering to watch something, I have at my fingertips countless, cheaper options, most of which are already loaded up with previous purchases, or the benefits of monthly subscriptions: Amazon, iTunes, Hulu, Crackle, Netflix, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and YouTube, to name too many. Hell, I think I even came home from the bar one night and drunkenly ordered something on Vimeo. Simply put, I have enough entertainment for several thousand lifetimes, and here I've only got the one.
Of course, I understand how Capitalism works. These days, everyone wants to rule the living room, and companies like Microsoft have wasted hours of our precious E3 time bent on convincing us their Xbox One would be the Set-Top Solution to rule them all. So yeah, it's not surprising to see game consoles performing outside of their primary function—I think I've sunk more hours into the PS4 YouTube app compared to any single game, mostly because I use it to play background music while I work from home. But let's say I actually wanted to download a movie via PSN: Several questions would arise.
Do I have enough room for this on my hard drive? Is this thing locked to my specific PS4, or just my account? Will I be able to start it up if I'm offline or not signed into PSN? Will it be compatible with my PSP, Vita, or possibly the PlayStation app on my iPhone? In the time it would take to look up the answers to these questions, I could have already ordered said movie a hundred times on one of the several marketplaces I've used to buy digital media in the past. The same goes for Microsoft's Xbox One marketplace, which places a similar emphasis on non-game content. Even services I've used for years and fully understand, like Good Old Games and Steam, now offer movies, and their content doesn't necessarily have to be game-related.
I don't mind the presence of movies on Steam and GOG, mostly because these online stores have incredibly intuitive interfaces, where the non-game content rarely butts heads with the available games. On PSN, though, it's a whole different story. A good chunk of the "What's New" section of the PSN store is occupied by movies, giving games less of a chance to thrive. And that's incredibly damaging when you're talking about an interface designed to show you only what it wants to show you, rather than breaking things down into easy-to-use categories. In the past, when I wanted to see what new original PlayStation games recently hit PSN, I'd just have to click on the "PSOne Classics" tab and see each and every one of them listed in chronological order.
In 2015, I have to look up a Wikipedia page on PSN releases first, then head to the PSN Store and search specifically for the game in question. But that doesn't always work out, even with new releases. A few months ago, I wanted to download Final Fantasy XIV for my PS4, since I prefer its controller to the one I use for my PC. I jumped to the search engine, and with each successive letter I typed in—"F... I... N... A... L..."—every Final Fantasy game but the one I actually wanted appeared in the search results. But it wasn't until I typed in "FINAL F" that Final Fantasy XIV appeared, and for reasons that are beyond me. When these are the lengths you have to go to just to search for a game you know exists, you'd better believe space on that front page is valuable.
Again, it's not just Sony. When D4 "surprise" launched on the Xbox One, I immediately turned on my system to download it—and I wasn't surprised to find that I literally had to type in "D4" to find the thing. It's only a minor annoyance for me, seeing as I'm paid to know what's happening in the world of video games, but I can't imagine how many games sunk just because people weren't aware of their existence.
Before I end up sounding naive, I realize fear of specificity isn't exactly new. MTV hasn't been a music video network in 25 years, Barnes and Noble is now a toy store, video game websites are no longer about video games, and cable stations like SyFy (barf), American Movie Classics, The Learning Channel, and Arts & Entertainment have absolutely nothing to do with their titles. Still, these entities don't have a stranglehold on their content like consoles do. While you'll soon be able to watch the newest Terminator movie with ease on just about every platform known to man, searching for something like a weeks-old indie release amounts to the equivalent of going elbow-deep in a filthy, picked-over Best Buy DVD bargain bin. I shouldn't have to say this, but on game console marketplaces, games deserve far better.