PS3 VidZone Critique

Last night VidZone, an interesting new free service cropped up on the PS3, curtesy of the lovely people as SCEE and Rants Ltd.  VidZone in a nutshell is a music video channel where you choose the music; you queue up tracks from VidZone’s playlists, search by artist, song or genre, and build up your own playlists.

Despite a few teething problems, common to any new free service these days, VidZone works remarkably well. On my connection videos start streaming within a couple of seconds, there’s a good selection for a fledgling service, the video quality is decent for the majority of videos and the audio quality is as good as any other streaming service or music channel. There are however a number of minor niggles:

  • Searching is a pain; it’s slow, especially when searching by track, and when searching by artist, you end up with results that when you follow them, there are no tracks available. It also doesn’t allow you to use a keyboard/chatpad unlike most apps/games on the PS3. Also bands with names beginning “The” are sorted under “T”, and searching for the prefix of the following word doesn’t seem to work.
  • Adverts; not a pain in themselves, they are fairly unobtrusive, however when you click on them you are whisked out of VidZone to view the content the advert links to, close that and you are bought back into VidZone. The problem is your Now Playing content is lost so you have to queue up your tracks again.
  • Video size; 4:3 videos are scaled to use the entire vertical resolution, widescreen format videos are not and appear in a small area in the centre of the screen. Apparently they’re working on this.
  • Volume normalisation/Replay gain; seemingly non-existant, some videos are very quiet, some are very loud. This makes it quite hard to just leave VidZone on in the background for some ambient music. Edit: Excellent, they’re working on this one too.
  • Startup; a minor niggle, but on starting VidZone you’re greeted with a startup progress twizzler thing (i.e. an infinite progress bar) for a considerable amount of time before it starts downloading track list data. I can’t work out what VidZone is doing on start up – it’s not accessing the network and it’s only a 30MB application to load. Then when you finally get into VidZone, your Now Playing queue has been cleared, so music won’t start playing until you queue up some videos. Possibly an option to reload your list, or start a-fresh would be nice.
  • Inconsistent controls; when browsing songs, you have to use the square button to play now. Normal PS3 practice would be to use the ‘X’ button (which does seem to work in a few places.) Edit: Figured that one out – ‘X’ will play a song if your Now Playing list is empty (for example, the first time you find a song and press X, somewhat setting your expectation that it’ll always work like that.

There’s also a lot of unexplored opportunities that I’d love to see Rants Ltd and SCEE explore in VidZone:

  • Take a leaf from and spotify; build in social tools, for example: playlist sharing, ability to show friends what you’re listening to, user-based video rating and associated “people who enjoyed this video also enjoyed” listings.
  • Web integration; at least the ability to browse the track list online and ideally the ability to edit our playlists.
  • Surely more can be made of the adverts? The best thing to sell to me when watching a video is something related to that track. What about Cross-selling track-related PSN content? For example, let me add a Rock Band or SingStore DLC versions of the track I’m currently watching to a basket. Don’t interrupt my viewing/listening experience though; it needs to be a quick 1 or 2 button press affair with an unobtusive interface overlayed on the bottom of the video (where ads and song information is currently shown). Give me the option to checkout there and then, but don’t force it.
  • Track/band/video trivia would be a nice optional addition, similar to the overlays on some music channels. Has to really be optional though as many prefer to see the videos unobstructed by any overlays.
  • A quick crossfade or some other smooth transition between tracks. Start streaming the next track earlier so there’s less of an abrupt break between each video.

Let me say again, that despite these quibbles, I really do love the service; it’s a great idea with a pretty good implementation. Seeing how receptive those behind the service are to feedback over Twitter, I’m sure that the creases will be ironed out over coming months. Every PS3 owner should at least give this a try – it is free after all.

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    2 Responses to “PS3 VidZone Critique”

    • Now 6 months later I’m able to use Vidzone her in Denmark, and it’s great!
      I agree 100% with this review, and I would really love it, if I could search and make playlist via the internet, the search is paintakeing.
      -I only experienced the first startup to be extremely loooong, now the load-time during startup is ok!
      -The widescreen problem seems to be solved!
      -I haven’t detected differences in the volume between videos, so I guess they solved that one as well.

    • Hi Toben,

      Yep – it’s great and you’re correct, now they’ve addressed pretty much all the main problems above, even better.

      Two thumbs up for the VidZone team!

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