Sony’s Digital Manuals Miss the Point

I had to install an instruction manual today. Install. A. Manual.

The idea of a digital manual is appalling. Let’s preface all of what’s to come with that. For a $60 product to not include well written documentation is flabbergasting. It’s a cheap means to make consumers more accepting as we push into a digital era.

That said, Little Big Karting’s approach to the digital manual is ludicrous. Forgive me if it’s commonplace. Short of exclusives, my gaming leans towards the Xbox 360.

What I needed was simple: A layout of in-game modes. I wanted to see what was offered, which I couldn’t do within the basic game menus; too much of it was locked. So I found the manual… on the XMB. I had to cancel my in-game session to actually install the manual. Small install or not, it had to happen. What if I needed to reference something mid-race? What if I needed a quick overview of the menus? I could do all of that with a physical manual. I can do none of it with this digital version, which even post-install, still needs to be accessed from the XMB.

As an aside, the digital manual is quite fancy. It has full musical accompaniment and great images.

I do have to wonder though about the more casual kart racing follower, maybe someone who is just getting into the swing of the genre, or maybe hasn’t touched a Little Big Planet title prior. How are they going to get around? How will they even KNOW there’s a manual on the disc?

Like it or not, the PlayStation 3 has consistently been the most user unfriendly console this generation. Say what you will about ads on the 360, and the motion interface on the Wii. They’re valid concerns, but the sheer amount of installs, infamous downtime, and updates has been ludicrous – certainly record setting – on the PS3. Now, digital manuals (and the online pass that blocks half the game!) are another hurdle for someone to pop in a disc and play, and it’s one that is utterly needless, inconvenient, and preposterously cheap.

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