In the ever changing world of digital media and the speed at which knowledge and information can spread across the internet, many people have questioned just how long print magazines can continue to sell large volumes to the gaming public, with recent figures showing the numbers dwindling even further.
In an attempt to counteract this and join the digital revolution, Official PlayStation Magazine finally launches its new product FirstPlay today on the PlayStation Store and we’ve been lucky enough to get a glimpse at what is on offer to those that pay either the 99p per week asking price, or registered to buy a three-month subscription for £8.99.
However, more to the point, is it actually value for money or just another outlet for their print magazine?
First of all when you do purchase FirstPlay you’ll notice the size of the file that you are about to download is around 1GB and although this can be acquired quite quickly in today’s UK broadband revolution, it’s going to take time for those in slower connection areas so please be warned.
That said, once you do have the file and have successfully installed it the bright menu that greets you and the dulcet tones of Lucy Porter will immediately make you feel that you have something that actually warrants the admission price.
The menu system is split into four key areas including Featured Downloads, HD Reviews and Previews, a Screenshot Gallery and also Network Highlights.
To accompany all this, the buttons of the PlayStation 3 Dualshock controller can be utilised to subscribe to further episodes as well as contact the FirstPlay team directly over the PlayStation Network, which in my opinion is a good way of them keeping in touch with their readership. For those that miss anything that has been said, you have the option of being able to press Start to hear Lucy all over again – another plus.
We’re sure many of you will head straight for the HD Reviews and Previews section, after all it’s what the print magazine does best and the reason we all subscribe. Each review or preview is preceded by a 20 -30 second advert and to be perfectly honest from what we looked at in our test episode, they were nothing more than 20 seconds of trailer for an upcoming release.
To be brutally honest I personally saw this as a bonus and although I had seen the specific trailers before, the potential to show previously unseen advertisements is most welcomed and it’s also important to note that they are skippable after the first viewing.
Once you’re into the review though you will soon notice the recurring branding with the colours of red, green, yellow and blue that adorn the FirstPlay logo and menu system being used throughout the reviews.
Again it’s Lucy Porter’s job to narrate and through carefully scripted dialogue she always sounds relaxed and never seems to flinch when giving us a sharp innuendo or cute one liner. What’s more important though is the fact that it is all delivered in 720p, and there is nothing better that seeing actual gameplay footage delivered as it actually plays.
Navigation through the reviews and previews is everything you would expect and pressing R2 allows 5x, 10x and even 20x fast forward as well as allowing you to press X to pause, L2 to rewind and Circle to go back from whence you came.
The Featured Content section looks to promote that which can already be found on the PlayStation Store, and will highlight the best of the week’s additions and really acts as no more than a link to the Store. This is also where any exclusive DLC will appear and considering that it is usually priced from 99p upwards, then this surely makes FirstPlay well worth its price and an obvious purchase.
The Network Highlights section brings you a round up of anything you may have missed on the PlayStation Store, as well as some variety with further features such as a PSP Mini’s round-up, a Video round-up and also a SingStar Top 10 taken from user submitted videos. This is a nice touch and provides a little Community atmosphere, allowing the potential for PlayStation 3 fans to submit their own content for such a feature in the future.
As for the rest of the content, the Screenshot Gallery is a chance to see all the latest screens from many of the latest upcoming titles in full visual quality, rather than looking at grainy or poor quality pictures that can be seen on many websites.
To summarise, Future Publishing’s venture into the digital marketplace looks to have a very solid base. The information given during the reviews and previews is informative, humorous but also has key comparisons and some good critique. The menu system works very well, looking incredibly crisp and clean and you won’t find yourself getting lost or frustrated as a simple press of circle returns you to the previous menu.
Although the episode we were able to preview contained some older information, the thought of paying 99p to see 40 – 50 minutes of the latest up to date information that print magazines are sometimes privy to due to press deadlines is a small price to pay. Added to this is the chance to get some DLC for a title that you may be fond of and there has even been talk of exclusive demo’s. All in all, FirstPlay looks like it’s moving in the right direction and we just hope that it’s embraced by the PlayStation community as it is certainly something that the UK has needed for some time.