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In-Game XMB vs In-Game Messaging

Patrick Steen over at Ripten makes a point. He says that lots of people are asking for in-game XMB, when all they really want is in-game messaging.

Really, do you need to access your settings, photos, videos, the store, etc, while in a game? No, not really. (Though I would like to fiddle with my headset settings.) What you really want is in-game communication. You want to be able to communicate, via headset or messages, with your buddies. If you’re playing Warhawk and get a message from a friend inviting you to play Call of Duty 4, you’d like to be able to read that message and respond. Or if you’re chatting, to be able to talk to someone playing a different game.

That part, I agree with totally.

But then Mr. Steen goes on to say: “Sony is spending so much time making sure that an in-game XMB is perfect — this could take them another year to get everything ‘under the hood’ working to their ridiculously high standards.” I can’t say I agree with that part. As far as I can tell, Sony isn’t working on the full XMB shebang, they’re only working on small parts. How can I tell? If you’re a Sony GAP member (which I am), you can see that a poll Sony recently put up asked about what XMB feature we’d rather see. One of the options was “In-game access to PSN messaging”. Note that it didn’t say “In-game access to the whole XMB shebang”, or even something similar. (And in case you’re curious, the other two options were “Ability to play my own music from the XMB while in-game” and “Larger buddy list and buddy-list features such as categorizing”. Surprisingly, to me, the most popular answer so far is the music feature!) So obviously they see in-game messaging as an atomic feature that they can add to the system, and they seem to be proposing it to us gamers that way.

To sum up, I don’t think Mr. Steen really has anything to worry about. While he complains that maybe Sony is spinning its wheels trying to provide us with stuff we don’t want, I don’t think that’s what’s happening. Do you want to know what I think? I think the problem is memory. Microsoft is a lot better at stuffing features into a small amount of memory than Sony is. The 360’s dashboard takes 32MB of memory while the PS3’s XMB takes more than twice that. So Sony has a memory problem. Since Sony can’t increase the amount of memory being used without pissing off developers, they need to add this feature without increasing the memory footprint. And I think that this is what’s holding Sony up.

Edit: So here’s the list of what we really need from in-game XMB.

  1. Access to the PSN messaging system.
  2. Voice chat across games.
  3. Music access.
  4. Ability to see progress of downloads.