At the moment, on PlayStation 3 and PS Vita, online multiplayer is free – that is, you don’t need to pay an additional monthly subscription to get online and battle your mates. But in 2010 Sony introduced PlayStation Plus, and although it’s still free to play online, the service has become more and more encapsulating over the years.
Rumours abound (from various levels of reliability, of course) that there could be multiple tiers of Plus next generation. Sony themselves have been sending out questionnaires to that effect, you’ll remember, and Plus is absolutely crucial to the company going forward.
“We’re not yet in a position to disclose our plans for the future of PlayStation Plus,” said Jim Ryan recently, “but there will definitely be a prominent role to play for it in the PlayStation 4 landscape.”
And although Microsoft are likely to continue to charge for various services as part of their Xbox Live subscriptions, it would be folly to think that Sony would stick to their guns for when the PS4 rolls around. Take up of Xbox Live is solid and always has been, but then it’s generally considered to be a more ‘complete’ service, all in.
If Sony bundle online play with the current PlayStation Plus subscription it’s hard to imagine too many core gamers being that put out – Plus represents great value and provides loads of games over a twelve month period. But if (theoretically) Sony push Plus to two or even more tiers, and online play requires another fiver a month, how would you feel?
It’s unlikely they’ll do this, of course, at least the multiple tiers bit, but the idea does appear to have been bandied around the Sony offices at at least one point in time, and has never been fully explained away to our knowledge…