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Playstation 5, total flop as a home media center

February 1, 2023 Leave a comment Go to comments

Like most developers I like to do something soothing and calm after work. Simple stuff, like watching Netflix, play a game or listen to music. I have a Synology NAS (network active storage) where I keep my music albums, documentaries that I have bought, home movies and probably 20 years worth of photos and videos from our phones. For me, PlayStation 4 more or less covered all our needs: we could do a spot of gaming, access streaming services like Netflix et-al, and most importantly – play music and video straight from our home NAS over the network.

You would imagine that Sony understood the importance of easy media access by now, but they quite frankly never seem to learn. They have been hardcore on DRM checking of both video and audio to the point of lunacy, where you cant even play a home movie if it uses commercial music. I have several videos of birthdays, holidays and camping trips where I added a few musical soundtracks straight out of iTunes. And while PlayStation 4 does play the video, sometimes the DRM cuts the audio about 60 seconds into it. This is music that I bought via iTunes and the video was put together using Apple’s video suite that comes with the iMac. Sony just don’t care, they DRM bulldoze everything without any question.

Sony have in their quest for sucking money out of their customers effectively made their product irrelevant as a home media center by tightening the string too much

I don’t have that iMac any more, so I cant go back to “digitally sign” my media either. And the very idea that you have to buy a digital certificate to sign your own media annoys me deeply.

Above: Norwegian taxes are absurd so I ended up forking out $749 for the PS5 with a charging dock and media remote control

Having spent some 3 years trying to get my hands on the PS5 (talk about unobtanium!) I decided to get an Xbox X while I waited. And what do I find in the apps menu? VLC! The mother of all media players. Yeah, I kid you not. Xbox allows you to play pretty much any media under the sun, and Microsoft recognizes that people want to have one device that does it all: streaming, gaming, music and video over the network. Then, lo and behold, the PS5 became available locally and I figured what the hell, I have too much software for PS4 to not get the PS5, so I bought that as well – figuring I could sell the Xbox second hand since surely Sony must have gotten to their senses right?

“if this is about piracy or something like that, then why on earth would they allow Plex on their platform to begin with?”

But no. Sony has not gotten to their senses. In fact, they have lost what little sense they had when designing the PS4. Not only have they removed the media player completely on the PS5, but they have stripped the system of all and any means to play media except through external, commercial services! So for music you have Spotify, YouTube and Apple. Home videos? Oh you need a Plex account and server!

I’m sorry Sony but this is the biggest mistake you have done since removing Linux for the PS3, seriously!

Is Plex so bad?

Plex is awesome. But why on earth should I need to install Plex and buy a commercial license for something that my NAS (or any NAS for that matter) does out of the box? This is not how things work in this part of the world. Yes, a lot of people run Plex, but I can guarantee you that there is a hell of a lot more people running Kodi or streaming straight from a shared network drive. I don’t think you can buy a TV today that doesn’t have network playback functionality and media server detection (and a fair bit of codecs bolted into the firmware). So right now, accessing my NAS via my 10 year old TV is a better experience than my $749 PlayStation 5 “super console”.

I would have understood this if there was some technical issue preventing Sony from adding VLC or media server detections. But there is none, they have in fact gone out of their way to remove network playback of media.

I believe it was the Buddha that said “if you tighten a string too hard, it will snap; and if you loosen it too much, it wont play“. Sony have in their quest for sucking money out of their customers effectively made their product irrelevant as a home media center by tightening the string too much. PlayStation 4 was a great buy for adults and teenagers, because you got a Blu-ray player, home media center and a gaming platform all rolled into one. I have two kids so the PS4 was amazing and covered all our needs for entertainment. My son and daughter got to play games, I got to listen to my music and watch downloaded documentaries (that I paid for!) – and we all enjoyed looking at old memories and videos from way back. It was almost perfect except for that damn DRM ruining the audio. Right now though, PlayStation 5 will only give you Blu-ray and gaming. Netflix and so on doesn’t really matter any more because even my TV offers that built in.

And if this is about piracy or something like that, then why on earth would they allow Plex on their platform to begin with? That is 99.9% piracy and media sharing on a scale that even dwarfs Torrents!

“why settle for your limitation when Microsoft gives us the exact same, at a lower price, without any of the restrictions?”

Sure, I can understand the DRM thing to some extent. Sony is a company and obviously they cant support piracy (I suppose Plex is white-washed piracy then?). But who is talking about piracy? I cant watch the video I made of my kids baptism, their birthdays or any activity from the past that we recorded. I also have a ton of movies that I own and have bought digitally. Whatever media I play on my devices should not be any of Sony’s concern. Their business is to sell machines, not meddle in what people watch in a household.

Xbox to the rescue?

I was planning to sell my Xbox. Not because it’s bad, but because I have been a faithful Sony customer since PlayStation came out in the 90s. I probably have 200 games from PS2 through PS4 on physical media. I took for granted that their software would evolve, so if their media player on PS4 was a bit strict – I imagined that their PS5 offering would be better and that they understood how the western world works.

Above: VLC is available for both the Xbox one and X models. Problem solved.

Right now I am at a crossroads. I was hoping to code for the PS5 (a friend of mine is qualified developer so he was going to hook me up), but I am starting to wonder what the heck they are doing. Becoming an Xbox developer is a piece of cake compared to Sony’s cloak & dagger operation. Download Visual Studio or opt in for a ready-made game engine and IDE, knock out a prototype of your game, seek funding, finish the product — and keep in touch with Microsoft until they are happy with the product. Sony? You cant even get them on the phone, unless you know some of the old Psygnosis guys in the UK personally.

So under my TV right now is the Xbox. The PlayStation 5 which was my pride and joy has been resigned to the den. I might even just give it to my son since it’s pretty much useless for my needs beyond gaming. Paying two gaming subscriptions is not happening, I typically play only 3 games so it’s pretty much a no-brainer to opt out of Sony’s offering. My kids are now 20 and 16 years old and they game on either a phone or a PC.

Sony, please wake up!

Apple tried to box people into DRM and it ended miserably, Sony really should learn from their mistake and stop playing copyright police. When your DRM is so tight that you end up causing problems for ordinary home made family memories or legally owned, bought and paid for documentaries – YOU have become the problem.

When you further block all access to common devices like a NAS, you have tightened the string so much that it snaps.

Just stop the nonsense and let VLC onto the platform. Case closed. Right now you stand to lose every adult customer above 30 years of age, because why settle for your limitation when Microsoft gives us the exact same, at a lower price, without any of the restrictions? The west is not Asia. Some of the legal concepts you are so obsessed with means absolutely nothing to the average Joe over here.

And speaking of piracy, let me end with this little paradox:

There was a survey a few years back of who bought the most movies and music, and the results were shocking. It turns out that the people who bought 10 or more movies a year were the same people that downloaded movies illegally! The rest bought 1-2 movies per year. DRM is the biggest mistake the music and movie industry has ever done, because all they had to do was to make sure people had easy access and could manage their the media as they saw fit. But the moment you start to digitally analyze every piece of media a user plays, blocking every signal you cant find a certificate for — it is YOU that these people will end up hating.

So, anyone looking for a second hand PS5 in Norway?

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