June 15, 2010

The Brave New World of PlayStation Plus

Filed under: Editorial Rants — Tags: , , , , , — Brad Johnson @ 7:07 pm

Announced during Sony’s presentation at E3 today was the incoming Playstation Plus subscription service. With the continued success of Xbox Live, plans from Activision to implement a subscription model within the Call of Duty franchise, and this latest announcement from Sony, the subscription model is quickly becoming ubiquitous within the game industry. Sony’s announcement was no surprise, having been the stuff of rumour for months, and a total inevitability, considering certain realities. If you imagine a great, serpentine creature twisting, wringing it’s hands and salivating uncontrollably, you probably have a fair understanding of how Sony has observed Microsoft’s Xbox Live Gold service for the past several years, and know that this day always existed somewhere in the imminent future.

The beast, though, is quick to assert that it will never charge you for existing PSN features; you will never have to pay to play. Still, one wonders if this is not merely because they are already in hot water for abolishing features that motivated many to purchase their product in the first place. One should also be forgiven for wondering if perhaps the console does not command the armies of adherents and addicts that make such gouging viable. Regardless of their motives, though, they should be commended for keeping their online play free of charge in the face of Microsoft’s unstoppable behemoth, paving ever onward. The ability to play the product you’ve purchased is not a trivial matter, and for that, Sony should be recognized.

Still, as with the Xbox Live model, this is clearly a “feature” specifically calibrated to gouge you. Any benefit on the part of the paying customer seemed largely an afterthought during the presentation. Presently, these benefits exist in an imperceptible phantom state, residing somewhere on the periphery of the announcement that you will be offered exciting new ways to dispense your coins. Early access to demos and betas, PS One and Playstation Network titles, and DLC in some vague capacity are the key items.

If, during the announcement, you began to perceive ominous clouds on the horizon, allow me to explain: it is because Sony has uttered “ownership” and “duration of subscription” in their dark incantation. During the live conference it was noted that subscribers will own content offered by Playstation Plus for so long as they remain subscribed (though as of this writing, no clarification of this has appeared in print). As the age of digital delivery has arrived, the concept of ownership being a strictly temporary matter has come to represent the primordial fear of our culture. Whether it be your music library or your XBLA games, you probably sense the impending day where your purchases will no longer be your purchases. The license—that mystic immaterial scroll or artifact, product of dark magicks and the maddest sciences—will vanish, having consumed your earnings and fulfilled its purpose.

With that concern whispering in your ear each time you cash in for the latest map pack, surely the worst approach would be for a company to take hold of your fears and give them sharp, physical dimension. With the knowledge that the ownership of content obtained through Playstation Plus will evaporate the day the subscription ends, this fear is becoming a reality. As the nature of the service becomes clearer, this concern may recede into the background; certainly, it’s apparent that at least some of this content can be purchased without a subscription for a more permanent ownership solution. The approach, though, only underlines what is quickly becoming the industry imperative: to monetize every element that surrounds your gaming experience, and the transform your game from an ownable product to a subscribed service, controlling when you play and when you pay.


  1. That is the very reason I have never had any interest in playing a MMORPG, I have no intent on having to continually shell out money to play a game that I supposedly “purchased”. I can’t even get on PSN- let alone be willing to pay for PSN+ for a rental service.

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — June 16, 2010 @ 11:57 am

  2. Ok, let’s look at the announcement:

    – $50 a year is a better value than $18 each 3 months.

    – Subscribe for a year and get 3 months extra for free (at least that’s how I understood it. Could be 3 free months for everyone to try the service).

    – “Free” PSN, minis, DLC and PSX games you get for included on your subscription are only playable while you remain subscribed. One can basically finish the PSN, minis and PSX free games before the year is expired and you don’t usually go back to play them so soon. Could end up screwing us in the last month of subscription while being on a mad dash to finish the games from month 12 but we’ll see if Sony changes their tune.

    – Qore is rolled into the PS+ service. A year of Qore is usually $24.99 which means the other perks of the service actually cost you $25.01… if you already wanted a subscription to Qore.

    Still waiting on a proper press release closer to launching the service (which would have to be in a week or two since they said “before the end of month” but didn’t say what month.

    So far I WOULD pay the year of subscription but let’s wait and see if they change my mind or add more value. If the PSN, PSX and minis games are the cheaper, not selling much type and they don’t sprinkle in a great game every now and then they could have a problem brewing.

    Comment by EdEN — June 16, 2010 @ 2:01 pm

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