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After Sony’s E3 press conference, PlayStation fans have only one thing to complain about: Multiplayer gaming will no longer be free on PlayStation 4. By the end of this article, anyone who felt hard done by upon hearing the announcement should feel appeased. Hear this…
Until now, there’s been a certain sense of invincibility that came with online gaming on PlayStation. Microsoft always charged for Xbox Live Gold subscriptions and that meant online gaming (which for many *is* gaming) was a whole new game’s RRP cheaper each year on PS3.
Certainly there were several years when Xbox Live was seen as the superior service, thanks to its cross-game chat and solid infrastructure, but looking at the two services now, there’s virtual parity between the paid-for XBL Gold Membership and a free PSN account on PS3. Which is where PS Plus comes in.
Until now, PS Plus been an optional service. Optional, but immensely valuable once you realise what you’re getting. Just to recap in case you’re not aware, on PS3 and Vita, PS Plus gives you an ‘instant game collection’, which grows over time, offering you full games (good ones, too) for no extra cost as long as you keep your subscription active.
PS Plus also gives you discounts on full games, DLC and extra bits like dashboard themes, not to mention significant cloud storage for game saves. Being a member means you can expect a better deal on everything. And not just on one console, as one membership covers not just PS3 and Vita, but now Sony has added PS4 to that list. That means a PS Plus subscription is invaluable for PlayStation fans.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘But still, I wasn’t paying for multiplayer before, but I will be now, and that sucks’. Look at it this way: By giving Sony $50/£40 a year, you are not only activating a load of free content and further discounts: You are pledging continued financial support to Sony. And that is of vital importance to them and you.
Why do you think Sony is able to take that hit on allowing used games trading to continue? Sony knows online gaming is a vital part of modern gaming life. It’s charging no more than Microsoft is, but will now be accumulating cash where it wasn’t before. Cash that will offset any revenue lost from its bold (brilliant) open policy on used games. Cash that even pirates will need to pay to get online.
It’s not quite ‘free money’ for the Sony coffers, but in terms of significant revenue in exchange for digital services which, bandwidth and promotion aside, essentially equate to redeem codes for goods which have no physical presence. The costs are comparatively tiny, meaning a large percentage of the income will be liquid cash.
So making online multiplayer another perk of PS Plus is the perfect marriage of give and take. You’ll give Sony your loyalty because lapsing your subscription will lose you all your free content (which is why it’s so hard to leave Apple for Android once you’ve bought loads of apps).
But in return, you’ll take home a wonderful, all-encompassing discount system for your Sony machines as well as a strong online infrastructure. You’ll get free games. And at some point, Gaikai will kick in with its PS3 streaming. While we’re not certain yet exactly how you’ll be charged for playing PS3 games, PS Plus will almost certainly discount it massively, if not make it free. That’s what we've come to expect from the service. It’s an elite club, but one everyone should join, if you’ll pardon the contradiction.
PS Plus is the very heart of a beautifully mutually beneficial relationship between Sony and gamers. The multiplayer caveat will only make more people join it, which is a very good thing, for all parties. Which, unless I am much mistaken, leaves the number of ‘bad’ points in the Sony conference at a very impressive ‘zero’. Fancy that.
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