The good and bad of FirstPlay
We’ve covered FirstPlay here on PS3 Attitude since its launch, in our weekly FirstPlay Thursday articles, and we’re big fans of the digital magazine. However, whilst it has a lot going for it, FirstPlay still has a few issues holding it back that prevent it from being as good as it could be.
Detailed below are five things that FirstPlay does well, and five things that it could improve upon, in the hope of showing what it needs to do to appeal to a wider selection of gamers.
1. It’s in high definition
The biggest selling point of FirstPlay is surely that it is in HD. Yes, you may have already seen a lot of the content on the internet, but it’s doubtful you’ve seen it in this quality. Of particular interest is the HD reviews, as they give you a true visual of a game’s graphics, unlike a video on YouTube which most probably has a terrible resolution. It’s also great that the high-res screenshots can be exported to the XMB and used as wallpapers.
2. It costs 99p or less
It would be easy to be harsh about FirstPlay if it cost too much for each episode, but it simply doesn’t. For the average price of a beer in the UK, you can get nearly three episodes of FirstPlay, which each have at least half an hour’s worth of content, and are yours to keep forever. The £8.99 90-day subscription decreases the already fair price to about 75p an episode, which considering the amount of content per episode is actually a very good deal.
3. It includes exclusive content
It may not happen often but occasionally FirstPlay includes genuinely exclusive game footage and/or interviews with developers, such as the PES 2011 preview a couple of weeks ago. However, if FirstPlay is to succeed then it needs this type of content much more frequently, to give even hardcore gamers an incentive to download. If we had one complaint it would be that the interviews are normally very short, and are therefore not very insightful, but it’s good to see them included nonetheless.
4. It’s well presented and user friendly
FirstPlay is made by the same team as the Official PlayStation Magazine UK so, as you’d expect, the interface is nicely designed, and the four sections (HD Reviews and Previews, Network Highlights, Screenshot Galleries, and Featured Downloads) are easy to navigate. Improvements are being added all the time, such as new video features and the slideshow option for galleries, proving that the team are listening to viewers’ feedback.
5. It encourages the viewer to get involved
FirstPlay boasts many regular community features, including ModNation Top Tracks, Top Ten FIFA Goals, and Skate Tricks and Bails. Each of these has an emphasis on user participation, and includes content that viewers have created themselves. Sending FirstPlay a message is as simple as pressing square at the main menu and typing what you want to say, whether it’s regarding the above features, or an idea for a new one, which is a pretty cool option.
1. It uses a lot of old game footage
The number one complaint that people tend to have with FirstPlay is that it often uses footage that has already been available on the internet for a month or more. This is particularly apparent with previews, which are occasionally just clips of various trailers and other released footage spliced together. This is obviously not always the case, but it’s harsh to charge people for footage they have likely already seen. There are also far fewer game reviews than we’d like to see, and it’s not uncommon for an episode to have no reviews at all.
2. Its free downloads are too sporadic
It’s important to remember that FirstPlay is a digital magazine, not a freebie giveaway service. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t feel a little disappointed by the lacklustre Featured Downloads section. In the first ten episodes, FirstPlay gave away a total of five minis, worth nearly £14 (based on current UK Store prices), but since then there’s been very little to get excited about. Last month, Associate Editor Nathan Ditum revealed that FirstPlay were in talks with various publishers about upcoming content, but we’re still yet to hear anything, so we hope it wasn’t just talk.
3. It’s only available in the UK and Ireland
There must be thousands of PSN users all over Europe who would love to be able to download FirstPlay, but can’t because it’s currently only available in the UK and Ireland. It made perfect sense to launch FirstPlay in its country of origin, but it is now 20 weeks later and it’s only made it across the Irish Sea. The reason for the holdup remains unclear, especially as we reckon most Europeans would prefer an English-language version rather than nothing at all.
4. Its download size is too big
On average, each episode of FirstPlay is about 1.2 gigabytes, which is far too much for some people to justify downloading. With the amount of HD content included, it would probably be difficult to decrease the download size by a huge amount, but surely it could be compressed more efficiently. If you have a fast download speed then 1.2GB is obviously not a problem, but for those people who are stuck with slow connections and small download limits, it just isn’t worth downloading, as it would take such a ridiculous amount of time.
5. It’s humour often feels forced
We like Lucy Porter, and on the whole her upbeat commentary works well with FirstPlay’s content. However, for every one-liner she says that is genuinely funny, there’ll unfortunately be five that aren’t. The main problem is with the screenshots; every single image comes with a short audio commentary, but you can tell that the writers occasionally struggle to come up with something worth saying, so they stick in an unfunny joke instead. This is clearly the most subjective of all the points we’ve raised, but it’s annoying enough to potentially put off some viewers.
As it is, FirstPlay is entertaining and good value for money, but appeals more to casual PS3 users rather than core gamers. The service is of course always improving, but the above issues have been apparent for some time, and currently prevent it from appealing to the vast majority of PSN users. However, we’re sure that if the FirstPlay team can give us more of what they do well, and improve on what they don’t, then there’s no reason why it can’t be a must-download for everyone on PSN.