PlayStation Plus or Minus
Commentary. Posted 27 June 10. Written by Marcus.
When the revamped PlayStation Network [PSN] was first announced, gaming journalists and stock holders alike were all giddy about the fact that Sony was offering their online service free of charge. If there was any way to trump Microsoft's Xbox Live success while increasing the PS3's overall sales volume, it was by offering the same service for nothing. The free online was sure to make up for the $200 premium one initially had to pay for some of that PS3 goodness (the $499 package was shit). Now fast-track nearly 4 years to E3 2010 and see what Sony has to show for hundreds of millions in lost revenue... not much unfortunately. In what appears to me to be an attempt to start plugging the well spewing oil cash, Sony will begin offering a premium online service titled “Playstation Plus" [PS+] alongside their free PSN subscription. Here I’d like to make a few broad generalizations as to the value, and lack thereof, this service will actually provide.
Here are the goods Sony promises their totally special PS+ subscribers:
- PS Store Discounts
- Free Games
- Early beta access
- Early demo access
- Full game trials [try for a limited time before you buy]
- Automation of game patching and media downloads
PS Store Discounts
I’m not into paying for unnamed coupons, so I’ll scratch that now.
"As a subscriber, you can expect to get your hands on free monthly PSN games, minis and PS One Classics from the PSN Store. You will be able to download these games during the month they are available until the new selection replaces them.
Once downloaded, the games are yours to keep and play as long as you are a member of PlayStation Plus. If your subscription lapses and then you re-subscribe, the games you have already downloaded will reactivate, so you still have access to them. Additionally, if you delete one of the titles from your PS3, but decide you want to get it back, then you can re-download from the PlayStation Plus section of the PSN Store if the game is still there, or, if the game has expired from the PlayStation Plus section of the PSN Store, you can simply search for it on PS Store and download it again at no extra cost." - PlayStation Blog
That's almost awesome.
Why has Sony decided to arbitrarily limit and replace what games are freely available? The fact that you can mistakenly overlook one of the titles which would only be available that month seems a bit disingenuous, as if they’d be perfectly okay with their subscribers missing out. What I’d like to see is an ever-expanding library of PS1/2 titles that I can choose to play for free at any time a la Gametap. Since I’d lose access to the games upon unsubscribing anyway, there’s no real point in creating an idiotic 30 day long “download window”. Beyond that, there is certainly some potential here; let’s see what Sony does.
Early Beta Access
For the purpose of bringing light to the point I'm about to make, let’s just assume that this whole premium service thing takes off and Sony easily converts 10% of their 35 million users into paying subscribers. Is Sony then going to give beta access to 3.5 million people, no strings attached? I won’t have to pre-order a demo to beta test the next Killzone, Metal Gear, Tekken, or any of their other exclusive top teir franchises?
I highly doubt that.
If the beta access truly is no-strings-attached, what we’ll likely see are betas for games no one wants to play, or even care about. Usually betas are limited due to their nature of just being beta. The graphics might suck; whole gameplay elements might be broken or completely unimplemented; the multiplayer aspects might be poorly balanced, etc. A bad or even underwhelming beta could translate into poorer sales for a title thought remarkable before. To combat this, developers find ways to limit beta access to only the crowd which wouldn’t care about the broken’ness of it all - such as to people who already own a game in the series [Starcraft 2 and Halo Reach].
To put it simply, I don’t see this whole early beta access thing being as awesome as Sony would like me to believe.
Early Demo Access
Isn’t demo access always early? As long as I can try the game before it’s actually released, who cares when I got to play it. How is this even a bullet point for the PS+ service?
Early Discounted Pricing
As a proud Steam user, I’m surprised this isn’t already commonplace in Sony’s online market. If I preorder a game via Steam, I'm oftentimes rewarded with a 10% discount. This isn’t featured on all games, but it’s common enough for me to expect a discount on games from big name publishers. Discounted preordering is something that SHOULD be there already.
Full Game Trials
I can understand why this isn't a feature of the free PSN subscription. The cost of doling out gigs of Bluray content to 20+ million people is likely tremendous. This is absolutely a wonderful value proposition for the PS+ service.
"Subscribers will be able to set their PS3 to wake up from standby at any time of the day or night, download and install any game updates for the games you have been playing so you don’t have to think about it. Also, select demos and videos will be pushed to your PS3 ready to go. System software updates will also download automatically (manual install still required) and then the PS3 will turn itself off again."
It's kind of bullshit that Sony doesn't offer this by default to everyone. While certainly being a good thing for PS+ subscribers, I don't think I need to go into why this is bad news for everyone else. Sony has in essence announced that free PSN subscribers will NEVER get automation or some kind of scheduling featureset, at least as long as this is touted as a feature of PS+.
Whether or not this service is actually a value of any sort remains to be seen. Sony is promising a whole lot but also asking for a whole lot in return. I don't understand why this costs more than an Xbox Live Gold subscription with a smaller featureset. Sony calls it an "evolving service". Let's hope they can actually follow through with their tons-of-cool-free-stuff promise and doesn't pull a Vista Ultimate Extra's on us.