How Sony’s New PSN Pricing Hints At A Next Generation Model

We're splitting up.

Setting aside Sony’s hugely generous donation of the majority of Starhawk’s DLC to PlayStation Plus subscribers recently, the recent case of the publisher breaking the game into two chunks and selling them separately (or, indeed, together) hints at a pricing and content model that could point the way to what the platform holders are planning for next generation.

Games are becoming expensive – very much so – with the advent of online passes, day one DLC and, the latest, season passes. The latter I have a particular problem with, but it seems like that’s the way things are going – something I’ve mentioned at least once before – and if we wish to continue with this hobby, that’s just something we’ll have to either accept or forcefully avoid.

[drop2]But Sony did something this week that I actually quite like: they offered Starhawk’s single player and multiplayer portions individually for download. Yes, you can still buy the complete game (for £30) but you can also grab just the multiplayer, for example, for a pound over half that price, and never have to worry about playing offline if you don’t plan to. Starhawk’s possibly not the best example because despite a bolstered single player, it’s still not really an offline game – once you’re done with the campaign the rest of your time will be purely online, the solo mode little more than an extended tutorial.

This isn’t the first time this has happened either – and you have to remember that this wasn’t available at launch – it’s taken Sony a good few months to offer this alternative model, presumably in an attempt to boost sales and get people playing. But it’s an important decision, not least because it splits the cost by 50%, but also because it points to a future where games are much more component-based and modular.

As free-to-play becomes more prevalent, and the notion of DLC becomes (if it’s not already) a given, gamers will start to pay less for their game and start to bolt-on what they need and want down the line. A few publishers have tried this before (one notable quad-bike racing game being a timely but perhaps misjudged example) but it’ll only take the likes of Sony, EA or Activision to pull this off once and everyone will copy, as they always do.

[boxout]In spite of my disgust at the way certain publishers seem happy to flog us content that should be on the disk and make us think that paying up front for things we might not need or want is a good thing, I’m all for this breaking up of content.

I don’t want the multiplayer portion of Call of Duty – I’ve zero interest in being shouted at by kids with nothing better to do all day – so if I can buy just the single player, beat it and forget about it for a year until the next game rolls around and I can do the same all over again, I’ll be happy.

I truly think this will happen more this generation, and then become the norm for the PS4 and beyond. It’s relatively small risk for the publisher if communicated properly (and much easier to do online than via the retail shelves where people still expect the full game, as silly as that notion sounds now) and assuming it’s then easy to ‘upgrade’ or migrate to other areas of the game in the future, surely it’s a win-win for everyone?

It reminds me of shareware, in a sense: play the first episode of Doom, then if you like it and want to play more, just pay. Splash out £15 on Starhawk’s single player and if you like the concept and fancy jumping online, get spending. It could be hugely effective, especially if the player could be offered a taster of the other half of the game in there too – say an hour’s multiplayer play with the single player, or the first level of single player bundled with the online.

If this is next gen, I’m in.

32 Comments

  1. Yeh I agree with this good read! I love what they did with starhawk & split it in two. Even the trophies are split I think, the best thing ever you no longer forced to play online to earn the trophies. I’m not big on online play but separating online & SP is a good idea & won’t feel forced

    • Trophies are split? Yeah, that’s very cool.

    • The trophies for solo also include trophies for MP, so they’re not split :(

      • Are you sure? I briefly looked at my trophies there was no MP trophies, I will double check after work

    • Same here, fella. I’ve been banging on about splitting off the multiplayer component for ages (both on TSA and in general chit-chat with friends). I want to enjoy the single player part of a good handful of games and the developers lose out as I simply don’t buy them at their extortionate price.

  2. Following from your last point, one of the best things EA does ( though now MUCH more hidden away) is offer a 48hr online trial pass. It gives you two days with, say, NfS Hot Pursuit or BF3 to see what it’s like and if you’ll want more.
    Not only is this friendlier to pre-owned market than a solid pay wall, but also ties in with rental copies too.

    Overall I’d be happy to see modular games sold digitally. I think that’s a great move with the right pricing.

    • thats a good idea, well done EA for a change. I’d be happy to trial more games.

    • That is a good idea which I have seen before with a couple of games, but as you say it must be very well hidden away if it is still happening (search on the store maybe ?)
      Overall though the idea of splitting a game into single and multiplayer versions would be a great strategy that would suit me perfectly for games like COD (single player campaign only)

  3. It’s kind of what I’d hoped with happen with online passes; take $10 off the price of the packaged game so that if only single player is wanted you’re not paying so much for the multiplayer. Of course that’s not how it worked out.

    Quite like the idea of more component-ized games.

  4. It doesn’t seem half bad, but I can’t help but miss the previous generations, or look at the Wii, where you just bought the full game and that’s it. Gaming has become so complicated.

    • I agree – I prefer to have an entire game at the point of purchase. However I didn’t use to mind the odd bit of DLC for 1 extra level, or a few skins but this whole “season” of DLC that is up to 40-50% more of the game is just not for me.

    • To add, this scheme seems good though, since my son is getting older I don’t have much time (or patience) for multiplayer games so I could just by the SP section. A minor thing but if they kept the MP and SP trophies separate, this would also satisfy my OCD for getting 100%, without needing to get MP trophies….although they are more likely to split the platinum required trophies across both parts, so you buy both sections!

      Mind you, I really don’t like digital so I’m not too fussed by this and would probably still rather pay £40 for a game, even if I didn’t play the MP or SP portion.

  5. Microsoft have been doing this for years, buy a full priced game and if you like the single player splash out an additional £40 for multiplayer.

    • Ouch. ;)

    • I lol’ed.

      • In all seriousness, it does irk me when I like the look of a new xbox game but then have to add on an extra £26 plus to renew my expired Gold account. I’d rather Microsoft was doing some kind of single player / multiplayer split and maybe give a month’s free gold out with new games.

  6. I really can’t see Activision doing this for COD. The vast majority of people buying it want the multiplayer and only play the single player as an after thought. Think of all the profit Activision would miss out on if they offered for around £20.

    Other than Publisher selfishness I think it would be a fantastic thing to be implemented as long as the pricing is realistic

  7. It is indeed a good idea, remembering though that killzone 3’s multiplayer component was released separately on psn a few months back. I’m kinda the opposite of you though, I’m not really interested in the CoD single player, so I’d probably buy the multiplayer only part if it went for, say £30.

    • This would also force Activision to include multiplayer trophies, something I’ve been wanting for years. Quite why the CoD trophy list is single player only, when about 99.9% of players buy it for multiplayer is quite beyond me.

      • Not necessarily as they have been getting huge sales and profits from a primarily multiplayer game without the need for online trophies.

  8. This I think is also a good idea. I’d be much willing to pay for just MP parts of games for less, it would make me buy more DLC too. So its a win win for the publishers, and for Sony.

    What I don’t like still, is P+ members getting a better deal on things, like they have with Starhawk, when I pay the full price in the shop? Either bring the split on release or don’t bother, because it will start to annoy people and they wont buy games on release.

  9. I really like the idea. There are a lot of games I’d only buy the singleplayer component of if it was available separately for less than the full price since I rarely play the multiplayer mode.

  10. Yup, great model!

    There are plenty of games I don’t get into the multiplayer on. Uncharted, GTA, Sleeping Dogs… hmm seems 3rd person might be a pattern here.

    The best thing about this article? It alerted me to the free StarHawk DLC and single player campaign!! I had completely missed that little chestnut, thanks Alex!

    • Sleeping dogs doesn’t have proper multiplayer…

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