Blame Blu-ray for lack of PS3 game downloads

Don’t expect Sony to offer its full PS3 game catalog for download over the Playstation Network any time soon.

In an interview with IGN, Sony’s senior vice president of marketing and head of the Playstation Network, Peter Dille, deflated hopes for a wide selection of large scale downloadable PS3 games. He said the company is evangelizing game downloads in general with smaller releases, but “the notion of getting all your games digitally, I just don’t see it happening,” he said.

Part of the reason is, ironically, Blu-ray. The format allows Playstation 3 games to be considerably larger in size compared to DVD-format Xbox 360 discs. Unfortunately, Blu-ray’s 50 GB of headroom makes it harder to deliver a game over the Internet. “Maybe this point will come at some time, but today to download 50 gigs of data before you play a game, you could probably go buy a car, bring it home, put your family into it, drive to the store, buy and bring the game home by the time you [could download it],” Dille said.

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Dille also alluded to pressure from retail stores to keep them in the loop. Sony is “working very hard to make sure we do this thoughtfully so that retail has a part to participate in the ecosystem with us,” Dille said. This is telling, because Sony appeared to be challenging retailers last year with the PSP Go, a handheld gaming device that has no optical drive and gets all its games over the Playstation Network. PSP sales as a whole plummeted last year, so clearly the PSP Go hasn’t taken off. Perhaps Sony has realized turning its back on retail stores isn’t wise.

Still, Microsoft is building its own online storefront for full retail Xbox 360 games. The storefront doesn’t have the newest titles out there, but games like Mass Effect and Bioshock are popular, and selling them to gamers before a big sequel comes along is bound to make retail stores happy, because they’re likely to score a sale as a result.

It’s too bad that Sony’s dropping the ball on digital downloads, but having sat through excruciatingly long updates and installs for new PS3 games, I can understand that offering entire games for download poses a technical challenge.