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About PlayStation Now

PlayStation Now is a streaming gaming service that allows users to stream PlayStation games over the internet. It is available on multiple platforms (e.g. PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and Bravia TVs) and users can rent specific games or subscribe to a library of games.

My Role

The PlayStation devices and the PlayStation Store were designed with a traditional console gaming model in mind: Buy a game and play it on that machine. Sony purchased the streaming technology after the devices and core services were designed, architected, and in the home stretch of being built. My role was solving the problems around "How do we integrate this technology that we bought into our existing products?" The visual design and UI elements came from a different group and were mostly already designed; my responsibility was discovering, defining, and solving problems around the integration of these elements (i.e. "What elements go in the menu?" "What elements go on this page?" "What is the flow from this page to that page?") rather than the visual design of those pages or elements. This integration involved hardware (e.g. PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, and Bravia TVs), system software, and services. User flow, connection to databases, relationship to existing products, usability and user understanding all fell on my plate. The project spanned multiple groups (including engineering, visual design, business and legal), companies (at least four different Sony companies), and countries (the hardware and firmware coming from Tokyo).


As you can imagine, there were a vast array of problems to solve on this project. These included:

  • User understanding and expectations. Because this is a v.1 product we had to make sure that users understood what the service is and that we understood their expectations around it. For instance, if they rent a game, do they understand that they are renting it and not owning it? What are their expectations if after renting a game they then buy it, both around pricing and trophies? Do they know that they are streaming and not downloading? Many many questions needed to be answered.
  • Integration with the existing PlayStation Store. One key part of the PlayStation Now service is its relation to the PlayStation Store. The PlayStation Store is an existing lucrative business, and the streaming gaming business needed to be added in such a way that it augmented that business without cannibalizing it. It also needs a crisp clean UI, so both business and visual design issues need to be considered (i.e. slapping three more pricing options on a page is not the best solution for the look and feel of a consumer gaming device).
  • Connection test. The service is a streaming service that is dependent on a good internet connection and subject to latency and other issues. To ensure that users have a good experience, we created a connection test. Questions around when to do the test, what level of detail to show the user, and when to “fail” the user all need to be answered.
  • Queuing. If there are more users than servers, then people need to wait in line. How long is too long? How do we notify them when it’s their turn? How long do we wait before kicking them off the server if there is no activity? What do we allow them to do while they are waiting? These questions, along with where to implement the answers (in the service or the firmware?) all needed to be considered.

Beta tests and usability studies

To evaluate all of these, there were and continue to be a variety of efforts: Marketing surveys, post-play surveys, forums, press feedback, etc. I had some involvement in parsing all of these, but the usability studies were my primary domain: I both defined the questions that we needed answered and the prototypes that we would use to answer them (i.e. what needs to be a working prototype vs. a paper prototype along with the actual UX of those prototypes). I worked with both the in-house usability group and a 3rd-party vendor to plan out the studies, then I turned the results into actionable spec items (and made sure that members of other teams got the results that were relevant to them, e.g. that the business team received findings related to business model and upsell expectations). Because most of the task-completion issues were part of the existing Store and had been solved as a part of the creation of the store, my studies focused on larger issues around understanding and expectations. And because the user-facing options are tied to the business model (i.e. “How many rental options are there?”) there is a lot of chicken-and-egg between the business model and the UI and thus recurring studies and touch points were required.

The product is still in beta, so I cannot post details on these to the internet, but each involved multiple iterations and collaboration across groups ranging from engineering to visual design to legal.