Why SingStar PS3 is the Future

SingStar executive producer Paulina Bozek shows us why the PS3 iteration is going to be awesome.

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Of all the exciting stuff to be found in development at Sony right now, SingStar has to be one of the most imaginative we've checked out recently. The best-selling karaoke franchise has been a runaway success on PlayStation 2, particularly in Europe (and isn't the only mainstream hit Sony's had that'll be coming to PS3, from what we hear) and the reinvention of the series on PS3 has to be the ultimate in next-generation karaoke fun - there's no doubt about it.

Executive Producer of the SingStar franchise, Paulina Bozek

Let me just give it to you how it is: before you turn the page, just picture it, for a moment as a party-lovin' karaoke fanatic: The extensive selection of music and music videos (some in HD, where available), the smart new PlayStation Eye camera for PS3 hooked up, the Network connectivity integral to the game, sharing videos of your pals having fun with the in-built YouTube-style community platform, and the limitless potential of the SingStore online store, where things are taken to this slick new system for extending your karaoke library. Work on SingStar PS3 has come a long way since Phil first demonstrated the concept now more than a year ago at E3 - although they're still not revealing the track pricing yet, which will be a big factor in the game's overall value and appeal.

"The main thing about the SingStore," explains Paulina Bozek, executive producer of the SingStar franchise at Sony's London Studio, "is that it's built directly into the game - you don't have to exit the game, at all - you're playing, you hit one button, and you're there." All the simple instructions are on screen, and you know what's going on with the legend icons - even drunk girls can play SingStar and it's easier to get tunes than spilling a cocktail on a jukebox.

There are going to be some 350 tunes available to buy in total, according to Bozek, and they're not just stuff borrowed from licensing pals next door at Sony Music, either. "We always work with all the music labels," she schooled us, while demonstrating a completely online purchase download - it wasn't fake either, but downloading at a snappy rate from the real, live SingStar PS3 servers.

And of course, background downloading makes the SingStar experience fluid and uninterrupted. "We worked really hard to get background downloading in," Bozek explains, "because if you have a party or whatever, and you have everyone demanding different songs, you can choose ten songs, queue them up, and then play the game - and as they download they just appear in your carousel."

SingStar has functionality with just about all aspects of PS3, including the quite sexy new PlayStation Eye camera

Every song has a music video that you can see before you buy it. It's quite fun to just see what's there on offer and there's a great selection of old and new. But will some of the modern music videos be in HD? "The more recent videos, we'll get HD if we can, but it's quite difficult to get HD music videos at the moment, but the music industry is only just getting into HD itself, so they'll be there," Paulina told us.

And what about those music videos - particularly older ones - that were originally 4:3 aspect ratio - are they being stretched out to 16:9 default display we see on the huge Bravia that Paulina has in front of us? We like these kinds of details so we had to ask. "We do a combination, we do a crop and make sure we get the key frames and get it perfect." So sort of like pan and scan but the other way around. It's this attention to detail and presentation that we like to see from game makers.

But do you have the option to download 'just' the audio with no video, if you want to speed things up, we ask? "No. You have to download the audio with the video." But when the average video size is around 40MB, who cares? A 40MB download is nothing these days. You can also get a wide range of localised, foreign-language songs (represented by different national flags), which will be particularly useful, for example, to students living abroad. These are easily filtered out from the list of available tracks, though, if you've had quite enough Eurovision trash for one month.

The ability to share your SingStar home videos and interact with the SingStar community is going to be popular, because as Paulina points out, there are already thousands of creations up on sites like Google Video and YouTube that people have made with the PS2 games in the series. Here, it's going to be feature-packed and, just like the music store, built right into the game.

Sony's London Studio has ticked all the boxes with its new-generation iteration of SingStar, and it comes together beautifully. "We're at the very end of development," Bozek confirmed. But, like Home and the PlayStation Network itself, the service is going to grow as Sony watches the sort of features and content that users are enjoying most. "This is really kinda just the beginning," she told us.

And, for Sony, it also represents a more robust business model than before - kind of a harmony between boxed product (SingStar PS3), digital download and microtransaction content (tonnes of SingStore tracks, and an evolving/improving central product) and revenue share with suppliers (music studios). And as it inevitably pays off, London Studio deserves all the credit.

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