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Opinion

PlayStation Plus, And How Sony Look Like They've Got It Just Right

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PlayStation Plus might just be the smartest thing Sony have ever done. It is, on the surface, an extraordinarily generous offering from the platform holder: in exchange for roughly the price of one new game subscribers get access to literally dozens (the official line is ‘up to 65′) of other games.

It verges on ridiculous. You could, for example, join now (even if it’s just a 90 day subscription) and get immediate access to BioShock 2, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Guardians of Middle Earth, Big Sky Infinity, Gravity Rush, Cubixx HD, LIMBO, Infamous 2, Mortal Kombat, LittleBigPlanet 2, Ratchet and Clank: All For One, Vanquish and MotorStorm Apocalypse.

Now, sure, you need to actually download those games (and for some people on slower connections or those with bandwidth caps this can easily be a bit of an issue) but the fact remains that there’s 13 games, ready to play, the minute you buy a subscription.

Within a week or so, some of those games will rotate out. On the 6th of February subscribers will get access to F1 Race Stars, Sleeping Dogs and Quantum Conundrum but the likes of BioShock 2 (and a couple of others) will no longer be available to download. Unless, of course, you’ve already added them to your download queue. If you’ve grabbed them, naturally they’ll still be available to you to play whenever you like – they won’t vanish from your PS3 or Vita.

Unless – and here’s the catch – your Plus subscription runs out.

Actually, it’s disingenuous to call it a ‘catch’, but this is the beauty of Plus – the longer you’re a subscriber the more reliant you’ll become; the more games you build up from the collections offered, the more you’ll need to keep that (admittedly rather small) fee leaving your wallet. If you don’t, the games simply won’t load up. Re-join at any time, though, and they’ll be available to you again.

It’s genius, because the value to the gamer with plenty of free time to play is tremendously high and yet the outlay is almost negligible, and if you’re smart and grab a yearly sub then once paid you won’t even need to worry about it.

And it’s not just games, of course – Plus subscribers get better online storage for save games, automatic patch and firmware updates, discounts on games in the Store and early access to demos and betas. It’s like an exclusive, high value club without the high value joining fee. And, crucially, against the likes of Xbox Live Gold which is pretty much a necessity if you’re a 360 owner, Plus simply offers a secondary level without alienating anyone else.

Because the PS3 offers online play out of the box without any other commitments (a selling point that Sony never really made the most of) Plus acts as a tier above what Sony’s competition think people should be paying for anyway. Xbox Live Gold’s paywall approach to pretty much everything is a huge turn off if you’re not a dedicated gamer wanting to spend lots of time online, but Plus never really feels like anything other than a good deal.

Let’s not pretend that every game offered in the Instant Game Collection is a top notch title, though. Sure, BioShock 2 is a wonderful shooter and next month’s Sleeping Dogs is a beauty, but there’s been a few lesser games thrown into the mix, sometimes with the impression that Sony are having to make up the numbers occasionally.

And then there’s the issue that I’ve seen almost every time there’s a PlayStation Plus update post – the games are rarely brand new, and thus there’s a high chance that the game offered as part of the subscription has already been bought – either full price or (as seen with Sleeping Dogs) purchased cheaper as part of an online sale.

Does this point Plus towards being for the more casual gamer, looking to expand their library gradually, or is this just a case of eager gamers unwilling to wait for the possibility that their chosen game will eventually end up as part of a Plus promotion, either reduced in price or – crucially – free? And is there a risk (as anecdotal evidence suggests) that some will simply just wait it out regardless, meaning new releases suffer as gamers just wait and see whether they’ll appear on Plus?

It’s a tricky balancing act for Sony that obviously needs to keep its cards close to its chest. But some of the timing recently has been sublime (the latest Batman coming onto the service for free just as it lands on the Wii U at upwards of £50, for example) and the reasons for keeping upcoming Plus games a secret shouldn’t really need pointing out.

The inclusion of Vita games was a masterstroke though – Sony know its most loyal gamers have both a PS3 and a Vita, and the recent move towards offering free games to the portable in addition to the main console was a sharp one. Now, more than ever, Plus is really getting into its stride, and doesn’t show much signs of slowing down.

I have a suspicion that Plus will be hugely important next generation, and now that Sony have laid the groundwork for the service and ticked all the right boxes, the PlayStation 4 may well offer up two (or more) levels of functionality, depending on whether or not the individual user is a subscriber. I’m hopeful that online play will remain free for all, but it’s likely that Plus, whilst not necessarily being about free games at first, will be used to great effect.

Gaikai, of course, is the big one – Sony’s acquisition of the online streaming service was a lauded one last year, and whilst we’ve not heard much since chances are the two companies are gearing up for something special for PS4 owners. Will that be the way the PS4 can offer backwards compatibility? Online streaming of PS3 (and, naturally, PS1 and PS2) games via Gaikai’s network and know-how seems a no brainer. Perhaps you’ll need Plus to do this, too.

But regardless, Sony have got (at the moment, anyway) Plus just right. It’s great for the consumer, publishers and developers love it (as it gets their games some much needed publicity) and it’s hopefully got Microsoft thinking that they desperately need to revisit their current subscription structures, which now seem greedy and unrealistic in the face of what Plus offers.

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44 Comments
  1. Zephyre
    Member
    Since: Aug 2009

    One (surely?) unintended side effect of Plus is I’m cutting down massively on impulse purchases from the PS store because of the possibility they’ll end up offered as Plus games a few months down the road. Excellent value though.

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 09:50.
    • avengerrr
      Member
      Since: Oct 2012

      Yeah absolutely. I haven’t bought games like all-stars BR because it could easily be on plus within a year or so. I sold wipeout on because of plus too. But like the article says the games are rarely new (exceptions for indies) and I think we can roughly gauge what games will and won’t be featured. For example will Blops 2 be there – no. It is truly amazing what Sony have done with Plus, but sometimes there has been a little stutter in the awesomeness of the titles.

      For me any kind of attachment is down to the fact they keep chugging out titles every month, and with Vita the effects are greatness like Gravity rush and Uncharted. I could just end my 3 months and have had all those games for 11.99. But then all the other games coming out, i’d like to stay on there, it’s literally less than a pound per game for the whole lot… that’s value, and even if u keep paying it is still cheaper because we’re always getting something new. And then they discount the subs sometimes as well so.

      Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 11:11.
    • anthro
      Member
      Since: Apr 2011

      Very true. I played the Trial and Unlock version of The Unfinished Swan, and loved it, but when it came to purchase time I decided to hold off because it’s likely to be at least discounted within the next month for PS+ subscribers.

      However I have impulse-bought other things via PS+ because they were discounted – without the discount I wouldn’t have bought the games, so that probably balances things out.

      Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 13:54.
  2. Youles
    Member
    Since: Feb 2011

    I think Plus is great. I do wish you could buy stuff that you got free with Plus though, because if something gets removed from the Store and you stop your PS+ subscription, you won’t be able to play it even though you can re-download it from your download list. What I’m saying is, some of the stuff I got for free I’d like to own so I can always play it.

    Although I hear MicroSoft’s online service is better, I can deal with the occassional (ok, frequent) maintenance if it means we get a shit-load of free games for our £30-£40 a year rather than just online access!

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 09:53.
    • Taylor Made
      Member
      Since: Oct 2011

      I don’t want sound like a fanboy here but their online service might be better but it doesn’t come with free games, for plus we paying for free games & discount which is a sweet deal.

      I agree with only if you could purchase the games after sub is done but knowing Sony or whoever set the price you better off leaving the game lol

      Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 09:58.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        Yeah, I was saying we get a better deal paying a similar fee but with free games, whereas XBox owners pay the same (or more) just to play online!! ;)

        True, but I like to own some games and it doesn’t hurt giving a little extra cash to some of the smaller developers.

        Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:02.
      • Taylor Made
        Member
        Since: Oct 2011

        Yeh I agree, games like limbo, shank, trine & velocity I would have never looked their way if it wasn’t for plus no matter how good of a review they got but having played them thanks to plus, I would shell out money for them

        Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:12.
  3. Taylor Made
    Member
    Since: Oct 2011

    I agree plus is the best thing out of this gen and a good way to promote digital downloads. I remember the first time I got plus at the time I thought nothing much of it, I got it for one game then 2 years later I’m impressed.

    I enjoy that random playstation turn on when you sleeping & all of a sudden the playstation turns on to update & switches off not good after you watch a horror film

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 09:55.
  4. kjkg
    Member
    Since: Apr 2010

    Had it from the first day it rolled out and had no regrets. It’s a fantastic service. I’ve also noticed a shift in how many people comment on the plus updates, going from a fair few negative, to mostly positive.

    And yes, it is annoying that a game comes out free on Plus that you may have bought a few weeks prior, but lets be honest, that doesn’t happen every time. So taking into account the amount of titles you are bound to get, the initial outlay of money means you really haven’t lost out, just haven’t gained as much.

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 09:58.
  5. Temascos
    Member
    Since: Jan 2013

    Plus is increasingly looking like a good service to use, I was skeptical when it was first announced but they seem to have pulled the right strings for this one and helps to compete strongly in online distribution. One thing I always found puzzling was were any of the companies involved (Including Sony) getting back money from such a service? Its great for customers but it seems overly generous.

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:03.
    • Alex C
      One for all.
      Since: Forever

      I think Sony are looking at Plus long term, and hopefully next gen they’ll start to reap some rewards if it’s marketed properly.

      Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:05.
      • cam the man
        Member
        Since: May 2009

        I hope they’re keeping Plus for next gen as, after all the offers lately, my subscription runs to December 2014.

        Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 13:52.
    • Tuffcub
      On the naughty step.
      Since: Dec 2008

      I expect Sleeping Dogs cost Sony something, Quantum Theory they probably got for a bag of chips and quick shufty behind the bike sheds, it didn’t sell well.

      A lot of the time they use Plus to shift DLC, an old game won’t sell at retail but by giving it away free and the publisher can rake in some extra cash from DLC purchases that are promoted with the game.

      Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:06.
      • kjkg
        Member
        Since: Apr 2010

        Yip that’s exactly what they do. I’ve noticed a load of the games they give have DLC. Quite a good business model though. Give a game for free they will make minimal on anyway, then hope that ~10% buy DLC. Winner.

        Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:18.
      • DirtyHabit
        Member
        Since: Forever

        Which is why I was surprised when Ridge Racer wasn’t and still hasn’t been on Plus for Vita. Its only a £15 game, yet theres a shed load of DLC available..?

        Personally whenever I download a plus game I always check out the DLC, Might as well, the way I see it, its still cheap as chips and the dev gets the support.

        Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 15:34.
  6. Tuffcub
    On the naughty step.
    Since: Dec 2008

    In a bought of Insomnia it occured to me that the Resistance franchise and Heavy Rain have never been on plus

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:03.
    • Youles
      Member
      Since: Feb 2011

      That guy is probably still angry at people borrowing their friends’ copies of Heavy Rain and the £millions he lost….doubt he’ll let people have it for free, or sell it to Sony for cheap! ;)

      Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:17.
      • Bodachi
        Member
        Since: Jan 2010

        I think it will happen perhaps when Beyond: Two Souls release date is confirmed, so they can start ramping up the hype for it.

        Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:33.
      • Youles
        Member
        Since: Feb 2011

        True…although since the mechanics are the same (I assume) but it isn’t a sequel, it could mean people won’t want to play such a similar game so soon after. Guess that could work the other way and people will want more of the same.

        Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:50.
    • avengerrr
      Member
      Since: Oct 2012

      We may see resistance burning skies soon on Vita plus, ha another 3 gigs – ridiculous. I don’t see why resistances can’t be on ps3 plus. Funnily enough amongst my strange dreaming of being in the 1950s cinema goers, (part of Uni), I dreamt that TSA made an article saying that ‘Killzone: Mercanaries blows Resistance out of the water’.

      Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 11:17.
    • jimmy-google
      Member
      Since: Feb 2009

      Surely Heavy Rain would be perfect to add to plus the month Beyond is released.

      Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 11:44.
  7. XisTG
    Member
    Since: May 2010

    This is a smart investment, I always advocate in favour of this to my friends.
    As my free time to play gets shorter, so does my will to splurge 40€ at once on many games. I still buy those that I really want, usually pre-order them even, but that’s it.
    With the PS+, not only do I get to play games I wouldn’t have otherwise (Sleeping Dogs being one of them), I actually find myself buying many of the discounted games for PS+ for the great deal they represent. I actually spend more because of this than I would if this service did not exist.
    Renovated until mid 2014 :) PS4 or not, I’ve got so many games left to play that I’m sure it will be worth it ;)

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:06.
  8. freezebug2
    Member
    Since: Dec 2008

    Subscribed from day one when the doors opened, stuck with plus through thick and thin no regrets, with ample reward thanks!

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:21.
  9. hazelam
    Member
    Since: Feb 2009

    looking at it one way, it is quite insidious, the longer you subscribe the greater the value of the content you’ll lose if you do stop.
    it’s almost like a drug, once they’ve got you, they make it hard for you to stop.

    but another way of looking at it is, that there’s an ever increasing amount of content that you have access to the longer you subscribe.

    for once, i’m taking the positive view.

    i started my sub before the instant game collection thing was started, and i thought it was good value then.
    but since that started and they’ve been offering previously full price retail titles, the value of the service has just skyrocketed.
    games like Just Cause 2, Red Dead Redemption, Bioshock 2, Arkham Ciy, and next week Sleeping Dogs, can’t wait to play that one.

    for the price of one game a year, slightly more if you pay quarterly, but even then it’s just 12 quid every three months.

    i just the other day renewed my sub, so they’ve definitely got their hooks in me.
    and when it comes to plus, i’m just fine with that.

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:23.
  10. Blastiel
    Member
    Since: Nov 2011

    As a launch owner and what I consider to be a core gamer I preferred the service before the instant game collection / vita content was added causing the previous PS2, PS1, Mini, DLC, PSN game content to get removed.

    It’s great that Sony managed to find a way to get a £40 subscription out of people but I personally don’t think its a smart business move to reduce your product to a console purchase and a £40 a year sub removing all the incentive to actually purchase other content or retail games.

    Comment posted on 30/01/2013 at 10:27.

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