Digitally comical improvements?

January 6, 2010, Author: Andy Corrigan

My PSP has seen little action of late, mainly because I’ve not been anywhere that’s warranted using it, and partly because there’ve been great games galore on the big systems. However, along with the recent purchase of an 8GB memory stick, the acquisition of Final Fantasy VII, there has been another new feature of the PSP that has given it a new lease of life for me, and it’s not remotely game related.

I’m talking about the PSP’s new Digital Comic reader released in the latest firmware update in December, and as a massive Spider-man fanboy I was delighted to hear that Sony had teamed up with the likes of Marvel, 2000AD, Titan and Disney to bring the growing trend of digital comics to the Playstation Portable. The service works brilliantly, with unexpectedly reasonable pricing too, but I’m not here to tell you about how it works, you can try it for free should you own a PSP. I’m here to detail what I’d like to see in the future evolution of the service.

While I’ve already mentioned the reasonable pricing per comic, I think an alternative subscription based system would be a much better model, and would see far more use of an already excellent service. There are arguments against of course. Would publishers be willing to adopt a subscription service? It would depend on the publisher, but for example, Marvel already offers a subscription service for their fans so would it be unrealistic to expect them to extend that to other digital distribution services? It would be much harder for the service providers to keep good relationships between many different publishers; however would it really be that different to what Spotify offer to music fans? The use of pre-paid cards for PSN potentially throws a spanner in the works, however it could be possible to say that £10 buys you 30 days of unlimited access, even if it was simply for one particular series or publishers output.


The menu, displaying some of the comics that Marvel already offer on their own subscription service.

In lieu of a subscription model, bundles of particular story arcs for a cheaper overall price would be a good substitute and would be extremely beneficial to some of the smaller and more unknown titles amongst the current line-up. The service offered up a number of free first editions (I recommend checking out ‘Cages’ and ‘Cancertown’), and while I enjoyed some of these a great deal, I’m always going to opt for something of proven consistent quality over an unknown, no matter how much promise it shows early on (Heroes, anyone?). A free taster and then a bundle could prove to be the smartest way to market things. Bundling story arcs on the big comics like Spider-man are especially important, as some of the bigger stories go across the various Spidey books available.

In addition to this, it would seem the perfect system to deliver full graphic novels. Imagine classics such as Watchmen, V for Vendetta or The Killing Joke appearing on there? Of course those particular titles all depend on other publishers jumping on board, which is my next point. We need Batman, Spawn, The Darkness etc, all making an appearance, which I’m sure the providers are already in talks about. Something as simple getting DC or Dark Horse on board can make all the difference to the credibility of the service, and especially to my expenditure.

Finding what you want can be a little tricky.

Lastly, the organisation of the comics on the PSN store in particular is something that could use attention. While it’s early days the current system works fine with a small number of comics on there, but it still can be a little confusing to browse, especially in the case of the bigger name brands on there. Perhaps a system to purchase comics through the comic reader could help cut through some of the treacle, and means it won’t be restricted to the PSN store layout, which in fairness works fine for games, but not so much with publications.

Still, like I said before; it’s very early days with the Digital Comics service, and I’m sure those working on the service have much of the above already in mind. It’s already looking like it could be one of the best non-gaming features that Sony’s portable system has to offer, but I can’t help but feel that 2010 is vital to how successful the service might prove to be. I look forward to seeing exactly how it progresses and what titles they can add to their stable over the next year or so.