A Perspective on PlayStation Plus

April 10, 2013

Although I try to keep a positive, open perspective towards the ins-and-outs of this joyous medium we call gaming, I won’t deny that years of experience have developed stubborn precedents. Try as I might to shake them, they have a tendency to rear their ugly heads when I’m confronted with gaming idiosyncrasies I don’t agree with.

And one of those is online subscription fees.

Maybe I’m being stubborn. But this stubbornness had stopped me putting down cash for any contract period gaming service, across all platforms. I do not play any pay-to-play MMOs. My name is not down for any network subscription. I’ve been able to freely play online with friends and strangers, access demos, trailers, and other content, without dropping an extra cent down on my platforms of choice, and I’ve been doing this for about two decades. Why would I change now?

Let that introduction set the stage for my last month with PlayStation Plus. Admittedly, I didn’t really know much about what PS+ provided, despite having owned a PlayStation 3 for two years, and picking up a PlayStation Vita that same week. I knew it offered cloud file game storage, and occasional discounts, but that’s about it. Something about bonus software? I don’t know. I would have known more if I’d taken the time to research it, but again with the stubbornness.

So my first experience with PlayStation Plus was really just learning what it provided. And much to my surprise, it appeared to offer… quite a lot. Yes, there’s cloud storage services, allowing you to store saved content on Sony’s servers. However, what immediately grabbed my attention was the free software.

Note that I had just purchased a Vita. And, in a moment of lapsed judgement, no software with said Vita. I had a new portable with nothing to play. Low and behold, PS+ provided me with three “free” software downloads right off the bat. Two of those games, Uncharted: Golden Abyss and Gravity Rush were coincidentally two of the games high up my list that I intended to purchase the next time I was in town. But thanks to PS+ there was no need. In addition to this, Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection was that month’s selected free game, for both PlayStation 3 and Vita. I already owned a disk copy of the PS3 version, but now I could grab the Vita version and indulge in Metal Gear in public. Again, all for free.

Consider the value in this. I had just put down money for a new piece of hardware, which is always an investment. And those kinds of investments are made greater by the software followup. No point owning a new system with no games to play. Taking a quick gander at the average retail price for all three of those games, and adding them up, PS+ was able to provide my Vita with ~AU$169 worth of software. And that’s just in the first month.

What of my PlayStation 3? At the moment, the following games are downloadable on PS+:  Okami HDMotorstorm: Apocalypse, Dead or Alive 5, Lord of the Rings: War of the North, inFamous 2, Little Big Planet 2, and more. Again, doing a quick sum of value, there’s more than ~AU$173 worth of PlayStation 3 software downloadable as part of your subscription.

Sony call it their “Instant Game Collection”, and though I was floored at the value on offer, I was a bit confused as to how it all worked. Titles like Gravity Rush and Motorstorm: Apocalypse seemed to be perpetually available, while games like Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection and Okami HD were attached to monthly timers. Did this mean I had a month to play them? Nope. Once software is “activated” to your PlayStation Network account, it can be played and downloaded whenever you like, as long as you’re a registered PlayStation Plus member. So, hypothetically, I could tie Okami HD to my account tomorrow, but refrain from downloading and playing it until six months down the track.

The timer is more of a window of opportunity. If you don’t “buy” the content in that period (even though, again, it’s “free”), you’ll miss out on being able to download it later once it’s taken from the service. But that’s okay, because adding it to your purchase list is easy. The reason it will disappear from the service is that every month PlayStation Plus refreshes their PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita “Game of the Month”. Metal Gear Solid: HD Collection has about a day and a half left on the timer. Once it’s finished, an entirely new game will pop up for download.

To the benefit of customers, this actually shapes the value of PlayStation Plus to greater heights the longer you’re with the service. ~AU$169 worth of Vita software now will increase once that timer goes down, as the new game, whatever it is, will be added to my existing collection. If it’s a typical retail game worth, say, ~AU$49, then the total value increases to ~AU$218. And it will increase again the month after, and again, and so on, for as long as the service is active.

The catch is that all of these titles disappear once you’ve pulled the plug on PlayStation Plus. If your let the contract lapse you won’t have access to all those PS+ games registered to your PSN profile. However, if you pick up the contract again later down the track, your original PS+ library will return. Whatever software you tie to PS+ stays forever tied to PS+, and as long as you have access to the service you can play it.

So, let’s put all this into perspective based on the price of PlayStation Plus. Subscription runs in two flavours:

  • 90 Days: AU$19.95
  • 12 Months: AU$69.95

Let’s assume you pay for the twelve month subscription. Now, the software value across PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita, as of this day:

  • PlayStation 3: ~AU$173+
  • PlayStation Vita: ~AU$169+

Over AU$342 worth of software across two platforms. And I say over because I haven’t factored in free indy downloads like The Cave, Quantum Conundrum, Joe Danger, F1 Race Stars, and more. Subtract the cost of a twelve month subscription, and you’re sitting on a bonus of ~AU$272 worth of software. And remember, that’s a value that will grow every month as new “Game of the Month” software is added to the service.

I haven’t touched on the other bonuses too. Like discounted software, early access to betas, the aforementioned cloud storage for saves, and so on. And I think that word, “bonus”, is largely why I’m so pleased with PlayStation Plus. Sony already provides the basic necessities for every gaming system for free. You can play online, download demos and trials, send messages to friends, and purchase digital content, all off the back of the PlayStation store regardless of any subscription or service. PlayStation Plus is truly more like a bonus. It’s more on top of the basic content, and focused on value and rewards for long term subscription.

And I think there’s a really simple way of looking at the value. A twelve month subscription is AU$69.95. That’s about the average price for a new release game, a cost most of us have already paid multiple times this year already. Therefore, all PS+ really has to do is provide you with one release over a whole twelve months to make the investment worthwhile. And let’s be honest, the odds of PS+ putting up more than one new game you want to play over the year is pretty bloody high. A mere two games and you’ve earned more than what you paid for. Anything on top is a bonus, and a big one. Because that’s exactly what PlayStation Plus seems to be.

I guess you can now call me a believer.

This article is based on a 12-month PlayStation Plus subscription provided by PlayStation Australia.