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

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. As i rarely play online i would like to see more of this. Uncharted would be a perfect example of where i would be happy just to buy the sp game.
    What i don’t particularly want to see more of is sp campaigns like StarHawk. I played a few chapters of it – it’s not bad but it does feel like a tutorial, also i felt disconnected from whatever story is being told in the comic-style cut scenes.
    If they get the balance right, ie proper sp game with engaging storyline, rather than a bolted on tutorial just to prepare you for the online, then i’m all for it. The only thing worse than the recent prevalence of bolted-on mp modes, for me, would be a shift to bolted-on sp modes.

    • Yes but you have to remember that StarHawk is a sequel to the multiplayer ONLY WarHawk. It’s surprising it had a single player at all.

      Having said that, and considering you’re right about it being a bolted on tutorial, it’s a bit rich to be charging $30 for it. Thankfully it’s free with Plus :)

      • I will say that StarHawks sp is still heaps better than the tutorial in WarHawk – that just made me cry :)

  2. I wasn’t interested in Starhawk as it’s not a genre that I’m any good at and I always seem to get picked on in online play as I’m probably the easiest target, so the multi-player part of the game would be a waste of money for me. I would have spent £15 on the SP part if it wasn’t free for Plus’ers.

  3. I must say I like where this is going. A more modular approach to game pricing could be the spark that gets digital sales on consoles as serious as they are on PC with steam et al.

    And as soon as we can get away from games like SSX being £57.99 on digital download the better.
    I hope the large publishing houses and other platform holders run with this idea. It’s impact on the next gen could be what we really need. Sensible digital distribution.

    Bravo.

  4. OK. New to this but what happens with the ppl who dont have a way of digital downloads? How would it work for them?

  5. Wish they’d done this with Bad Company 2… just forget the single player campaign..

    • Now i enjoyed the single player on Bad Company 2

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