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Opinion: Consoles Should Mimic Steam’s Library Feature

The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 have been out for eight years now. For those of us that purchased them at launch, digital libraries have grown with the advent of Games on Demand, PlayStation Plus, and more compelling digital-only titles. If you’re like me, after eight years (especially with the more recent digital sales), you might not remember everything you’ve purchased.

There are many times when weekly deals hit Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network that I’m surprised to find out that I’ve already purchased a game. I contrast that with Steam and GoG, both of which have easy to organize libraries that are always just a click away.

Microsoft’s online Marketplace portal has been established for a number of years. Sony’s is more recent, but equally robust. Nintendo has just merged its Wii U and 3DS accounts (though its system still involves licensing to hardware rather than a user).

My hope is that as platform holders increase the emphasis on digital that their web portals will grow to match. I also hope that Microsoft and Sony make library browsing a bigger part of the console experience. Without a way to peruse my digital collection, I lean more heavily toward retail purchases. It's less convenient to have to change discs, but being able to easily look at what I own makes up for it and then some.

The problem is compounded when a game becomes unavailable for purchase. Marvel vs. Capcom 3 has been removed from the PlayStation Store and is scheduled for the same on Xbox Live on December 26, 2013. If you purchased this title (or its Ultimate edition follow-up), the only way to re-download will be to go through your transaction list until you locate the item(s). The same thing happened to Marvel Ultimate Alliance and Ultimate Alliance 2 DLC.

For games that are still available, the only way to find out if you own it is to search for it (unless you purchased recently, and then it might still show up on your list of recent items). It’s not possible to simply browse a collection as you would look at a shelf of disc-based games. 

If Microsoft and Sony want to further incentivize digital adoption, the experience must be as easy as browsing a collection of retail discs. Both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 have a lot of room to grow in terms of user experience. A sortable, searchable library should be high on the priority list for both manufacturers.

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