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PS4 effectively forces you to get PS Plus... but that's a good thing

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.

You know that kid at parties who talks too much? Drink in hand, way too enthusiastic, ponderously well-educated in topics no one in their right mind should know about? Loud? Well, that kid’s occasionally us. GR Editorials is a semi-regular feature where we share our informed insights on the news at hand. Sharp, funny, and finger-on-the-pulse, it’s the information you need to know even when you don’t know you need it.

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66 comments

  • ryan-burnett - July 14, 2014 9:09 p.m.

    also the "FREE" game each month is only active as long as your subscription so you are not getting anything for free, and its not costing them money for you to play online
  • ryan-burnett - July 14, 2014 9:01 p.m.

    at the end of the day i paid for the console the game and i pay for the internet, i should be able to access all game features at no extra cost it would be like web sites charging to view content, plus sony is a MULTI BILLION dollar corporation they are strait up ripping people off forcing you to commit to them financially, also because most people realize PlayStation plus is a complete waste of time so this is how they make it worth while forcing you into a commitment by making it the only option for playing YOUR game in multi player
  • Holias101 - September 28, 2013 10:09 a.m.

    That's a fine argument in favor of $50 well spent. Except in my case, I have a 50 gb download cap. per month. This means, that with just a couple of modern PS4 games, my cap is toast. The reason is that Sony needs to work on their compression package. In fact, they don't compress at all. You play while you download {*** if you also have a healthy download speed***}. They could take a lesson from Steam on PC. Steam sells games that are considerably compressed. While you download a compressed game, it will be uncompressing while being installed on your hard drive. Yes, you have to wait for the download to complete but you're being more forgiving on your download cap. In Canada, we don't have ready access to reasonably priced unlimited internet plans, therefore I must be reasonably careful with multimedia downloads. Looking forward to PS4 as I'm more than likely getting one. If I have to stick with store bought new / used games then fine. I just hope that Sony will start working harder on their file compression methods so I can actually take advantage of the service I'm paying for.
  • Jet - June 13, 2013 2:35 a.m.

    I disagree. I understand Sony wanting to make money, I've constantly criticized Sony's online system being dead compared to xbl. However I am not in love with plus as a service. I know the argument that it saves you money in the long run. But that argument is predicated on you not owning the games being given free, and on liking the ones you don't own. I like to own my games, and I dislike having games I already own being given free on a consistent basis. In a way I'm rushed to clear my backlog for fear of feeling like I'm getting only part of a service. I myself have proposed a compromise. Sell an alternative to plus, access to multiplayer and the respective social features for no more than 10 dollars a year. And have the paying costumer see what they are paying for, online servers that are reliable, stable and filled with players. I think that's decent on both ends. Sony gets a share of the profit, and gamers don't have a service they dont want forced on them, and for a much cheaper price. Both sides also lose- Sony doesn't get as much out of the latter option(though most would choose plus, as stated by the success of plus) and consumers don't get free online the standard of other systems, including the Pc. There's a benefit of me not being too loyal to any one corporation I suppose haha
  • BaraChat - June 12, 2013 8:11 p.m.

    I'm a big PS+ fan and a subscriber for two years. I personally think PS+ is a bargain even at 50 or 60$ per year, since I love to try many different games and the Instant Game Collection thing is great for a man like me. So for me this won't change a single thing. However, it's easy to see why some people would get (mildly) angry at this. A lot of people won't care about the free games, discounts or cloud saves because the games won't interest them and they wouldn't use the cloud service. The analogy I came up with is this : let's say you really love eating a Big Mac combo for 7$ for lunch. You're perfectly happy with it, you wouldn't eat anything else for lunch. It fills you, you're happy, everything is going well. Then a colleague offers you to go to a buffet for lunch with him (he goes there all the time) where you can eat all you want, but it costs 18$. Your colleague is pumped : "Hey I can get ANYTHING for that price? It's more expensive, but I get WAAY more, whoooo!!" and you would be saying "Well why should I pay an extra 10$ for all that extra food when I can be easily satisfied and happy with a 7$ meal?" There's no wrong answer, it all depends on what satisfies you.
  • ainokea - August 7, 2013 10:02 a.m.

    Except at the moment I'm not paying seven dollars to enjoy anything. I'm paying nothing, I most certainly would rather pay nothing and get multiplayer than to pay anything and get extra.
  • Uncompetative - June 12, 2013 6:53 p.m.

    The PS4 must be being sold at a loss. Probably more so since they upped the RAM. I don't mind paying them for multiplayer one bit. I own a 360 and am an Xbox LIVE Gold Subscriber. However, the $50 per annum they get for PS+ will largely go to Gaikai, so don't expect any price drops. Sony need the cost of the components in the PS4 to drop, for its popularity to fund economies of scale, which they won't be able to afford to pass on to latecomers as that is their profit margin - apart from what they impose on the game sales themselves... which can't be much as these next-generation AAA titles are priced at a surprisingly low $60 on Amazon.
  • pokepark7 - June 12, 2013 6:32 p.m.

    seriously?
  • axelgarcia1 - June 12, 2013 8:32 a.m.

    although i think its annoying, i think its a respectable decision
  • Balaska - June 12, 2013 12:51 a.m.

    Servers cost money. Lots and lots of money. You want to access those servers? Expect to pay. Neither MS or Sony are money grabbing in this respect. Go check out the cost of a Teamspeak server per month and bear in mind that's just VOIP. Gamers are the most entitled group of people, why do we expect everything for free?
  • winner2 - June 12, 2013 7:02 p.m.

    ^Allllllllll dis, particularly the last sentence.
  • Tjwoods18 - June 11, 2013 8:24 p.m.

    I still disagree though, it is not a good thing. The one aspect that set Sony apart was their committment to bringing (free) online multiplayer experiences, and without that they are no different than Microsoft.
  • MrPkhead - June 11, 2013 4:39 p.m.

    Have been thinking about getting PS+ for ages now. After the immensity of last night's E3 conference, I thought now was as good a time as any. I've already started eyeballing games I'll be downloading at no extra cost. I wonder how many new subscriptions PS+ got today?
  • Sovtek - June 11, 2013 4:21 p.m.

    Ok, I get it, joke is on me, this is a satire piece! "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." You almost had me taking you serious there for a minute!
  • Sovtek - June 11, 2013 4:17 p.m.

    Microsoft does something good for gamers, like having an extensive, reliable, constantly upgraded online service: Fuck you MS, how dare you charge us for this? Sony decides to charge people, just like Microsoft: Oh MAI GAWD, Sony is our savior for providing an extensive, reliable, constantly upgraded online service!
  • ObliqueZombie - June 11, 2013 3:39 p.m.

    Will it have parties, finally? I DO plan on getting a PS4 at some point, as do some of my friends, but Xbox really nailed the streamlined (and let's be honest: good) social interactions. It won't exactly dictate whether I buy a PS4, but it would sure help the speed in which I do so.
  • DigitalSensation - June 11, 2013 2:44 p.m.

    I'm a PS+ member and I love it. There's usually a couple of offers in a year so you can get a year subscription for £30 which I don't think is too bad. My question however is now we will be essentially paying to play online, does that mean an end to all these online pass things you have to buy if you buy a used game (which are usually about £8 here in the UK). I understand EA for example have stopped this now, but if this is true I think paying for PS+ and being able to play any game online new or used is a pretty good deal The only thing I'm a bit concerned about is the risk they might start to water down the free content if almost everyone becomes a PS+ member
  • death4us - June 11, 2013 2:43 p.m.

    So getting charged is a good thing? I buy the console and the games but now I have to pay to play online when I can play for free on a PC. We are being nickled and dimed to death now days. PlayStation just lost its edge on multiplaying to the Xbox now. So for me I will stick to online play with my PC and stick to offline games on the consoles if I bother to buy these underpowered overpriced wannabe PCs.
  • Raiden145 - June 11, 2013 3:31 p.m.

    FREE? when did the pc do that? ever heard of microtransaction bitch? every god damn game on pc has one nowadays ..unless you're the 90% population of the unforunates who just DOWNLOAD torrent stuff poor you asshole

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