We've watched this year as avid American PlayStation 3 owners suffered through some truly disappointing weekly updates to the PlayStation Store. Among these fans the conventional wisdom holds that last year's PS Store updates had been more consistent, with more game releases.
After looking over the PlayStation Store release numbers from November 2006 to the present, we can say they're on to something, but it's not quite as clear cut as they may think. The PlayStation Store has had just as many games released in the first half of 2008 as it had in the second half of 2007. On the other hand, half of the games released can't be played on a PlayStation 3!
And what of Xbox Live Arcade on the Xbox 360 and the Virtual Console on the Nintendo Wii? In both cases the number of games released in the second half of 2007 exceeds the number of games released in the first half of 2008 to date (all graphs are current as of the second week of June).
In short, there has been a slowdown in the number of games digitally distributed games published on each system's service, and therefore a slowdown for the medium as a whole. Below we'll break out the figures on each console to show how things have changed in the past 18 months and point out the indicators of what things may be like for the next 12.
The PlayStation Store is updated weekly with new media: games, downloadable content (DLC) for games, theatrical and Blu-ray trailers, as well as themes and wallpapers. While there have been some compelling offerings for Rock Band and Guitar Hero III, the marquee items are often the downloadable games specifically for the PlayStation 3.
These range from smaller titles like Super Stardust HD to full-scale retail games like Warhawk. Starting in May 2007, the store began offering downloads of some original PlayStation (PS1) games (like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night) and then in November 2007 began offering full PlayStation Portable (PSP) games (like Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee). The PS1 games are fully playable on a PlayStation 3; however, the PSP games can only be played on a real PSP.
With this context, here is a graph of the monthly game releases on the PlayStation Store since November 2006.
Other than identifying the importance of May 2007 in the history of the store and by contrast the utter weakness of the store in May 2008, the data in this graph is too noisy to be of much use. A graph of game releases by half-year is more instructive.
Now we can begin to see some justification for the complaints about the service during the first half of 2008. The same number of games was released through the store in both the first half of 2008 and the last half of 2007. However, half of the games released in 2008 have been for the PSP, and therefore cannot be played on the PS3 itself.
If we compare just games that can be played on the PS3 itself -- those coded for the PS3 and those for which the PS3 does PS1 emulation -- then there is hardly any contest: PS3 owners got 19 games in 2H07 and only 12 games in 1H08.