Today, Sony announced that they are rolling out a new version of their video store for the PlayStation Network, called Video Unlimited. Actually renting movies won’t be too much different, but there’s a whole host of pretty neat extra tricks added in that should make for a pretty satisfying (and maybe time-wasting) user experience.
Upon entering the store, you are greeted by standard browsing categories like weekly deals, collections, new releases, movies, and TV shows. You can browse around these until you find something you like. Once you do find something that catches your eye, you can rent it directly from the store. But, Sony has an extra surprise in store at this point.
For every movie or TV show, there is a sidebar that will appear on the right side of the screen. This sidebar features different attributes of whatever you’re looking at. The attributes can get pretty tangential, too. For example, Thor had obvious attributes like heroic mission and legendary heroes, but had some more oddball choices like New Mexico and Natalie Portman. Click on Natalie Portman, and you’ll be able to browse through all of her films. Click New Mexico, and you’ll get to browse through a bunch of films that have something to do with New Mexico. From here, you can go on a Wikipedia-esque romp through category after category, hopping from one tangent to another. Natalie Portman might take you to Black Swan, which might take you to a ballet category, which might take you who knows where. But what if you just wanted to watch Thor? Don’t panic, just hit the start button, which will open another menu. From there, you can view your recent browsing history, and scroll right back to Thor’s page, where you can rent it in HD or SD. If this proves to be anywhere near as fun as the hours wasted hopping from page to page on Wikipedia, this is bound to be a fun addition (or addiction).
If you know exactly what you want, you can use the search feature, which has a few cool twists. Instead of using a virtual keyboard, you use a scroll bar to type what you want, letter by letter. If it seems like that would take forever for any search longer than four letters, don’t worry. As your search gets longer, the engine automatically drops letters that it knows will not be coming next. So, if you search for baseball, once you get to BAS you’ll only have a few letters that you need to scroll through, instead of the entire alphabet. Pretty smart. You can also search directly for all 3D or HD offerings.
In addition to the initial browsing options, you can also browse by genre and by movie studio or television network. The entire presentation is clean, with that Windows 8 boxy frame look that guarantees order and simplicity. The service appears to be incredibly intuitive, and might even succeed in making the act of renting a movie fun in and of itself. That’s quite an accomplishment. The new store goes live October 11th, and you can download it for free from the PlayStation Network. SD movies will cost $2.99, and $3.99 for new releases, while HD movies will cost $3.99, and $4.99 for new releases. You can keep your rentals for a month, but once you hit play, you can only hang onto them for the next 24-48 hours, depending on what you rented. Who would have thought renting movies could look this good?