Sony Online Entertainment is opening its usability testing services to external developers and studios.
Usability testing is the practice of placing target audiences in front of games – in a controlled environment – and seeking their feedback on the play experience itself.
Some developers believe the service can notably improve a game's critical reception.
Usability testing is not seeking to eliminate bugs, but instead rid the hurdles of gameplay that may be found in GUI, HUD, navigation, control layouts, and in-game tutorials.
The SOE Usability Lab, based in California, features high-end PCs as well as PS3 test kits. As well as usability testing services, the studio will offer heuristic evaluations services, focus group services and product evaluations.
“By opening the doors to the Usability Lab we are able to share our industry expertise with other development companies, while offering a cost effective way to test their products and services prior to launch,” said Paul Venuti, SOE’s director of development services.
"New product development lends itself to a host of potential obstacles, many of which could be overcome with preemptive testing," he added.
The lab was first used to apply usability test to Free Realms, SOE’s MMO title that has over five million registered users.