Last year, Sony launched its own software preview programme for MVP members. Then, as subsequent updates were on the horizon, they began to roll the software preview service out to more people. On the Xbox One, this service is slightly more streamlined and quite widely publicised – it seems less so on the PS4. But, once again, Sony are advertising the chance to sign up to their latest software beta – and this can only be a good thing for PlayStation 4 gamers.
Much like Microsoft’s Preview Programme, Sony are selecting those that take part, rather than giving an open beta process. And, much like Microsoft, how Sony are selecting those that take part is shrouded in mystery. But, whether you’re picked or not, the fact that Sony seem to be making the service more regular, and more open, is a great move on their part.
When Microsoft first launched their Preview Programme, many laughed it off as an attempt to appease disgruntled gamers, as part of a major UI overhaul. At the time, I kind of agreed. But after taking part in the programme for the best part of a year, I have really seen the merits of a beta testing programme for software updates.
Firstly, it’s nice to be consulted on your opinions – even if your suggestions don’t always make the final cut. It’s clear, however, that Microsoft are listening to what the majority are asking for – and there are very few potential features left that I personally feel would better the console (to such an extent that my experience would change drastically because of it). Major complaints of a clunky dashboard, unresponsive party features, a lack of backward compatibility, and a ‘snap’ feature which took longer to load than quitting a game and choosing the app from the menu; have all been fixed. Along with that, we’ve had major social updates like ‘Game HUB’, a community feed and the opportunity to ‘follow’ your favourite games – all of which have really enriched the experience.
Secondly, it’s comforting to know that they’re giving a select few the opportunity to test out updates before rolling them out to the rest of their users. It means that major issues, like those for the beta testers of the ‘New Xbox One Experience’, can be resolved before being sent out on a mass scale. Those brave few, who are willing to risk a broken console just to get the latest update a few months early, are enabling Microsoft to iron out any creases and warn off any potential PR catastrophe that could come from an under-tested update. That’s good for all of us – because it means that the update, when it finally comes out, will be of a much higher quality, but it also means that I won’t be getting it in the ear from my PS4 buddies about how ‘broken’ the Xbox One is.
Lastly it makes you, as a user, feel valued. You really do feel like you’re being listened to, like your views matter and like Microsoft actually cares about your experience. Not only that, but as a Preview Member you feel like you’re at the cutting edge of the console – kind of like you’re part of the team, I guess. In general, it helps to cement that sense of community – something that Microsoft have been working hard to instil in their most recent updates.
So yes, I truly believe that there are great benefits to a similar service to Microsoft’s Preview Programme, on the PS4. I’m really glad that Sony are starting to make their software beta tests a more regular thing – and I hope that they start rolling it out to more people, as they’re developing further updates. It’s a great opportunity to feel like you’re involved in something bigger than you’re own experience. But on a personal level, it gives you the opportunity to help shape the console that you love. So, PlayStation 4 gamers , I would really recommend taking a chance and signing up to Sony’s programme – whilst there’s still time!
What do you think of the concept of a preview programme on consoles? Let me know in the comments below!