On Thursday, Sony Interactive Entertainment posted a surprise announcement about a new service coming to PlayStation consoles. Most of the details about the new “PlayStation Stars” initiative, which resembles other gaming services’ “rewards” perks, sound promising, but at Ars Technica, Sony’s choice of a two-word phrase instantly put fear into our hearts: “digital collectibles.”
Thankfully, members of the SIE PR team were quick to the draw with an email reply to allay our fears: No, this is not Sony’s stab at NFTs.
“They are not one-of-a-kind”
The new service, slated to launch “later this year,” will cost nothing to join and will exist outside the PlayStation Plus subscription family. PlayStation Stars, as vaguely described in Sony’s Thursday announcement, revolves around a soup of connected concepts, but on its face, it basically resembles the Microsoft Rewards system in the modern Xbox console family. The TL;DR version: get digital rewards for playing video games.
PlayStation Stars members can play specific PlayStation console games to complete “campaigns” and “activities,” though only campaigns are described in the Thursday announcement. These range from tasks as simple as playing a particular game in a given month to more dedicated tasks like collecting game-specific PlayStation Trophies or even getting the first unlock of a game’s hard-to-attain “platinum” trophy in a region as large as a time zone. As described, these campaigns may correlate with games tied to the PlayStation Plus service—much like how Microsoft Rewards favors Xbox Game Pass titles.
Should you complete campaigns and activities within PlayStation Stars, you can expect at least two types of “rewards.” The first one described today, dubbed “loyalty points,” can be spent on a “catalog” of digital offers, and these include credit for PlayStation Network purchases or redemption offers for “select” PSN products like games. And I 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 that PlayStation fans enjoy, including figurines of beloved and iconic characters from games and other forms of entertainment, as well as cherished devices that tap into 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 an emailed statement to Ars Technica, SIE Senior Public Relations Manager Aram Jabbari clarifies that these are not NFTs. “These digital collectibles are created just for our loyalty program, and while some can be rare, they are not one-of-a-kind, nor does [PlayStation Stars] leverage blockchain technology,” Jabbari writes.
Thus, as described, these digital collectibles may merely resemble a more old-fashioned approach in the gaming world, where cosmetic 3D objects can be displayed after doing something unique or challenging in a video game without any financial system adding artificial scarcity. The PlayStation 5’s 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 trinkets, no purchase required. (Speaking of PS5: Jabbari declined to clarify whether PlayStation Stars will function across all PlayStation console families or whether it will be locked to the newer PlayStation 5 console.)
Should we expect “DylaNFTs” any time soon?
Ars Technica readers may already be familiar with many, many, many, many NFT-related pitches from modern gaming companies. (Many.) Should you require more information on the topic, my Ars colleague Kyle Orland has written a lengthy guide on the intersection of video games and the staking of related assets on a blockchain.
SIE has been careful not to suggest that concepts like NFTs or blockchain-staking are coming to PlayStation consoles or services, yet its parent company Sony has found other ways to invest in the concepts. The biggest 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 field.” The statement also mentions other initiatives like digital video production, thus muddying the exact dollar-by-dollar equation of how much Sony is investing in gaming-related blockchain content.
At least one other Sony division has been much bolder about attaching directly to NFTs as a commercial concept. In March, Sony Music partnered with Bob Dylan’s son to mint NFTs based on Dylan’s works, though as of press time, the service in question doesn’t suggest that such digital items (DylaNFTs?) are going on sale any time soon.