On Thursday, Sony Interactive Entertainment made a surprise announcement about a new service for PlayStation consoles. Most of the details about the new “PlayStation Stars” initiative, which is similar to the “rewards” perks of other gaming services, sound promising, but at Ars Technica, Sony’s choice of a two-word phrase immediately struck fear into our hearts: “Digital collectibles . “
Luckily, members of SIE’s PR team were quick to the draw with an email response to allay our fears: No, this isn’t Sony’s attack on NFTs.
“They are not unique”
The new service, set to launch “later this year,” is free and will exist outside of the PlayStation Plus family of subscriptions. PlayStation Stars, as vaguely described in Sony’s Thursday announcement, revolves around a soup of connected concepts, but at first glance it’s fundamentally similar to the Microsoft Rewards system in the modern Xbox family of consoles. The TL;DR version: Get digital rewards for playing video games.
PlayStation Stars members can play certain PlayStation console games to complete “campaigns” and “activities”, although Thursday’s announcement only described campaigns. These range from tasks as simple as playing a specific game in a given month, to more specialized tasks like collecting game-specific PlayStation trophies, or even unlocking a game’s elusive “Platinum” trophy for the first time in a region as large as a time zone. As described, these campaigns may correlate with games tied to the PlayStation Plus service – similar to how Microsoft Rewards favors Xbox Game Pass titles.
As you complete campaigns and activities within PlayStation Stars, you can expect at least two types of “rewards”. The first item described today, called ‘Loyalty Points’, can be spent on a ‘Catalogue’ of digital offerings and these include credit towards PlayStation Network purchases or redemption offers for ‘select’ PSN products such as games. And I’ve already mentioned the second reward type, dubbed digital collectibles, which sounded suspiciously like NFTs in Sony’s initial announcement:
They are digital representations of things PlayStation fans enjoy, including figurines of popular and iconic characters from games and other forms of entertainment, as well as treasured devices that draw on Sony’s history of innovation. There will always be a new collectible to earn, an ultra-rare collectible to strive for, or something surprising to collect just for fun.
In a statement emailed to Ars Technica, SIE Senior Public Relations Manager Aram Jabbari clarifies that this is the case Not NFTs. “These digital collectibles are created solely for our loyalty program and while some may be rare, they are not and are not unique [PlayStation Stars] Leveraging blockchain technology,” Jabbari writes.
Therefore, as described, these digital collectibles may merely resemble a more old-fashioned approach in the gaming world, where 3D cosmetic objects can be displayed after something unique or challenging has been done in a video game, without a financial system adding artificial scarcity. The PlayStation 5 pack-in video game Astro’s playroom already includes a similar system as the game includes unlockable 3D models of older PlayStation hardware as secret in-game gems, no purchase required. (Speaking of PS5, Jabbari declined to clarify whether PlayStation Stars will work on all PlayStation console families or if it will be tied to the newer PlayStation 5 console.)
Should we expect DylaNFTs soon?
Ars Technica readers may already be familiar with many, many, many, many NFT-related pitches from modern gaming companies. (Many.) Should you need more information on this topic, my Ars colleague Kyle Orland has written an in-depth guide on the intersection of video games and staking related assets on a blockchain.
SIE has been careful not to hint that concepts like NFTs or blockchain staking are coming to PlayStation consoles or services, but parent company Sony has found other ways to invest in the concepts. The largest came in the form of a $1 billion investment in Epic Games, which Sony chairman Kenichiro Yoshida described at the time as an opportunity to “deepen our relationship in the Metaverse space.” The statement also mentions other initiatives such as digital video production, thus clouding the exact dollar-for-dollar equation of how much Sony is investing in gaming-related blockchain content.
At least one other Sony division has been far bolder in tying directly to NFTs as a commercial concept. In March, Sony Music partnered with Bob Dylan’s son to develop NFTs based on Dylan’s work, although at press time the service in question doesn’t indicate such digital items (DylaNFTs?) will be commercially available anytime soon come.