PSN Video Delivery Store Launches in the UK: An In-depth Look

Well, it took more than a while but UK PS3 owners can now rent and buy films over the PlayStation Store by downloading them straight to their hard-drives.

The new part of the store launched at a Soho London party this week with a live performance from Little Boots and a set from radio 1 DJ Annie Mac in what essentially felt like a massive house party complete with crazy decorations similar to the zany indoor locations seen between programmes on Dave. The free bar went some way to keep everyone in the party mood too. In addition to the DJ rooms there’re several smaller ones with a few demo screens displaying the new store facilities, and taster screens of The Watchmen and Wolverine. Free booze aside, we at Game Hub were on hand to grab all the important facts for the launch of this long awaited service. So here’s our run-down and early impressions.

Tucked away in the top left corner of the PlayStation Store screen you can enter the movie section. Here you can rent films in High Definition, with prices between £3.49 and £4.99. There are even more films available in Standard Definition with cheaper prices starting at £2.49 for older films like There’s Something About Mary, Spy kids, or Top Gun, and a pound extra for newer ones. As a taste of what you can expect for new releases, The Watchmen is renting at £4.49 for HD, £3.49 for SD and £8.99 for an SD version to own. Coraline and the curious Case of Benjamin Button are the same to rent and £11.99 to own, so expect a little price variation between titles.

Arguably you could get the rentals for less with a disc from Blockbuster, especially the older ones that probably go for 99p for a week. However, with the downloads, you don’t have to leave the house, you don’t have to worry about all the copies being taken by 6pm at the weekend, you don’t have to worry about forgetting to return it five minutes before it’s due back and you especially don’t have to worry about the tossbag before you scratching it or covering it in something sinisterly sticky. No worries then really.

Of course there are online packages out there such as LoveFilm, who have competitive monthly prices and do work well, but only if you don’t mind getting a random film from the long list you pick. LoveFilm have started putting some SD films online to watch, mainly old ones and a few new ones you’ve never heard of, for £2.49 and £3.49 respectively. The quality of the sound and visuals on the PSN Store though are much higher even with SD, plus you don’t have to watch them on your PC.

Once you have finished downloading the film rental from the PSN you have 14 days to use it. However, once you begin to watch it, you only have 48 hours until it expires and it’s automatically deleted from your system. Ok, two days is plenty of time to watch a film and you can watch it as many times as you want, but it’s not like you need to return it to the shop so another customer can have it as you would a DVD. So the sudden deadline is a little harsh.

As mentioned earlier, a number of films available to purchase on a permanent basis to keep stored on your hard-drive. These are all in SD for now, which isn’t much of a problem as the HD films take up a hell of a lot more space. SD films take up between 1.1GB (Wonder Woman) and 3GB (Troy: Director’s Cut) depending on their length, whereas a HD film like The Watchmen is a mammoth 9GB and even shorter kid’s films like Johnny English weigh in close to 5GB. Sony are planning to eventually offer permanent HD purchases too, so you better delete all those unused demos.

There are quite a few big films that are currently ‘purchase only,’ even though the European PlayStation website is detailing them as purchasing and renting options. So I imagine this will be sorted soon enough. For now though there are plenty of new films to buy in SD at £11.99, such as Star Trek, Angels & Demons, Public Enemies and Bruno.

SD Films can also be transferred to your PSP or PSP Go (built-in memory or memory card) via USB. You can’t duplicate the films though; they can only exist on your PSP or PS3 at any one time. There’s currently some confusion over whether you can store your films on an external hard-drive, the consensus is that you might, but not in a playable (on a PC say) format.

The store has a similar layout to the games side of it. The menus are split up into the following sections:

  • New Arrivals: 50 films will be added every week, some old some new.
  • What’s Hot: This will turn into the place to see what’s getting downloaded the most.
  • Available in HD: Straight to your shiny HD rentals, avoiding SD, you snob.
  • Categories: Currently has Action/Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Family/Kids, Horror/Thriller, Romance, Science Fiction, Sports and Other. No Anime section yet, but there are a few titles in there. No TV episodes yet either, but they’ve been a big hit in the US with many top shows getting the latest episodes added each week, so if Sony continues to be fond of money we’ll get it too.
  • Studios: All the big names are present as a list of sections.
  • Special Offers: Hopefully there’ll be some better ones than the gaming section of the store. The first one is buy Angels & Demons and get The Da Vinci Code for free. Not bad. We’d like to see some rental discount offers too, for multiple films etc.
  • Collections: Not much here yet apart from the X-Men trilogy and Wolverine, The Fast and the Furious movies and a well stocked Superhero movie collection. There’s a group of films inspired from games such as the last two Resident Evils, the last Tomb Raider, the first Final Fantasy (the duff one) and a few Street Fighter anime. And for some reason a lot of Marvel character films.
  • Rent: The place to go if you want to only look through rentable and not films to own. Hopefully all films will become rentable instead of buying only.

Thankfully there’s a search option in the top right corner that lets you look for the title, cast, director, writer and even the film’s description. There’s supposed to be a section for trailers soon too which will be handy. There are a few online already, listed as Previews below the ‘Add to Cart’ button.

You can watch the film while it downloads if your internet speed is up to the job. You might want to give it a head start though; maybe quite a generous one if it’s in HD. Thankfully you can at least play your games while it downloads in the background.

The prices to own the titles that vary from £6.99 for old ones (often without an option to rent) and £11.99 for something newer might grab a few impulse buys, but most net-savvy gamers will be able to find cheaper DVD releases elsewhere, with extra features too. As long as the UK’s broadband providers can take the punishment though, there’s no reason that the rentals can’t become a massive success. Not that dropping the price of the older films wouldn’t hurt either.

*I have also posted this article at Game Hub.

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