When the Xbox360 and Playstation 3 first made their appearances, there was a huge gap between them if you were a blind person. One that could really separate those who chose to get a PS3 from those who chose the Xbox. On the one hand, the PS3’s interface was easier to navigate, and the audio visual cues you sometimes got when highlighting a game or saved data were a tremendous help. on the other hand, the PS3’s store, from where you could download full games, demos, and downloadable content to add to the experience of a game, was absolutely inaccessible to those who could not see it. The very first PSN store was actually a web interface that you used the thumbstick to slide a cursor around. That was no good. Then they updated it to a more gamelike interface complete with sound effects for moving between items, but this still wasn’t good enough. We couldn’t rely on menu memorization in an ever-changing environment like the Playstation Store.
When Sony launched their Idea Share program, the blind community became hopeful. Here was Sony asking us, the gamers, to give them ideas moving forward. They said they wanted to know what we wanted, and they’d do their best to implement it. The blind community went insane, went straight to the board, and the outcry began. PSN store! PSN store! We had success there as well once people understood our situation. Some sighted folks actually started agreeing with us, and helping us campaign for this feature. Then, the program sort of died out without any sign that our prayers would be answered. Well, ladies and gents, I’m now convinced that they have been.
It happened in two waves. First, Sony announced they were completely restructuring the PSN store. We figured this would apply to their web site, but, and this is me being perfectly honest here, a lot of us blind people are very jaded nowadays. We tend to doubt we can use something because there are still so many things we can’t. It’s not a good attitude to have, but it’s also a difficult one to get rid of. Anyway, up comes the new web site… and the store is open to us. Using our screenreaders, we can now navigate it via the site, add content to our carts, and complete the purchase. Still, there was one thing missing. We couldn’t put the download into our PS3’s download queue unless we went to the console. We had to memorize our way over to the account management option, and to the giant download list.
This was technically enough, in that I wouldn’t have complained if it hadn’t gone further. The download list was sorted by newest to oldest purchase by default, so what we just bought was always the first item there. This helped, but there was still an occasional issue where content had both the main game file, and the unlock file to download. The purchase from the store didn’t inform us of this, so we had to work that out on our own.
Just today, I have learned that all our troubles are over where that is concerned. Having just grabbed some of the latest Playstation Plus content, I was looking at the order confirmation page, and there I saw a new link. “Download all to PS3 system.” “No way,” I thought. “Like, noooo way!”
Yes way. I clicked on the link, and a few seconds later, the link’s text changed to “in download queue.” I then clicked on that link, and low and behold I was viewing my PS3’s download queue with my screenreader on the web site. I saw that the game was in waiting, as was its Playstation Vita counterpart, which I hadn’t even selected. Hurray for the crossbuy program!
This is truly great news for us blind people. This kind of functionality has been available on the Xbox360 for years now, and we’ve enjoyed it, but it’s wonderful to see this gap finally bridged. Personally, I want blind people to grab themselves up a console because they want to play this game, or that game on that console, not because they live alone without a sighted person willing to help them through the store, and therefore only really have one choice. At last, blind people can choose PS3 and Xbox360, soon to be PS4 and Xbox1, based on content, not interface restrictions. Now the Wii You on the other hand… Well, let us not get into that now, shall we?