Ok, everyone. Gather 'round. It's time for some Real Talk™.
Knack is a bad video game. It is the very definition of a two-and-a-half-star game. Like its protagonist, Knack has no heart and it falls apart completely under any kind of close scrutiny. It's difficult, but in the "I hate this game and want it to die" kind of way, not in the fun, Dark Souls-y, "Challenge is its own reward" kind of way. And the one thing that could have saved it - the game-changing items you earn by finding secret collectibles - are doled out randomly and take forever to unlock.
There are few redeeming qualities about Knack, even by console launch game standards. So, I have to ask: why the hell are so many people obsessed with it coming to PlayStation Plus?
I don't want to beat up on ol' Knack too badly (its own existence does a fine enough job of that), but this is a refrain I see every month around the time Sony announces the next slate of free games made available to Plus subscribers. Poke around the PlayStation blog long enough, and you start to see a pattern. Comments asking "Where's Knack?" People complaining that they didn't spend $400 to play games they could play on their phones. "Too many indies, not enough AAA." And so on.
I'm not saying certain complaints or requests aren't legitimate. If there's a game you want to show up on PlayStation Plus, by all means, voice your opinion in a civil manner, even if the game you want is (sigh) Knack. But I think seeing the subscription service as a way to get free, big-budget games every single month is going to be a constant recipe for disappointment. Instead, you should start to think about it as a service designed to get you to discover brand new games - games you otherwise would never have heard of or sought out.
The reality of large-scale development means that the money Sony would have to pay to provide free copies of big blockbuster games to subscribers only becomes realistic the further you get from a game's initial release. Publishers don't want to leave any money on the table, and a free copy still needs to be paid for. That trade-off is only made viable after the long tail profits (i.e., money made after the initial surge of sales and popularity wanes) dip below a certain threshold, or the publisher is able to recoup costs elsewhere (like with selling additional content, or getting potential new customers interested in a sequel). It's why games like MGS5: Ground Zeroes end up on PlayStation Plus when they do: Konami likely realized that the money they'd get from the deal Sony offers, in addition to the potential conversion of customers onto MGS5: The Phantom Pain, was worth more than just selling it normally (or even at a discounted price), but it took over a year after release for Ground Zeroes to reach that point.
But those are the large publishers, with huge development teams and massive overhead to consider. Indie developers are usually made up of a handful of people. Many of them work out of their homes. They're usually more concerned with keeping the lights running long enough to continue working on passion projects, and the amount of money Sony would have to pay to entice them to make their games available for free on Plus is far less for Sony, but still substantial for the independent studio. It's why you've seen lots of indies debuting their games on Plus at launch - it's a huge boon for a game like Rocket League, which now has a sudden influx of day one users that they otherwise wouldn't have if they'd charged for the game normally.
I'm using Rocket League as an example here because it seems to be the best case for why PlayStation Plus works as a discovery platform. That game has enthralled millions of players, both on PS4 and PC, and a large portion of its success was due to its inclusion in the PlayStation Plus line-up. I know I was hesitant about it at first - it didn't matter how good it was, "car soccer" was two words that made no sense in my brain. But the moment I picked it up from PlayStation Plus, I was hooked. I never would have made that leap if it wasn't included with my subscription that month, and because of that, it was my brand new obsession. I know I'm not alone.
No, not every game is going to be the next Rocket League for everyone, but every game could be the next Rocket League for someone. Thanks to PlayStation Plus, gamers have access to the hilarious multiplayer action game Broforce, the ingenious puzzle/metroidvania platformer Teslagrad, and the timeless adventure classic Grim Fandango, and that's just in the last few months on PS4. Throw in PS3 and Vita games, along with Cross-Buy functionality, and that number suddenly gets a lot bigger. They're all not going to be gems, no, and there's a chance you might own one of them already by the time it hits Plus, but if you approach these games with an open mind, you'll usually find at least one game each month that you'll enjoy. And I'm not going to lie, it's always a nice bonus when a game I was already intending to purchase launches for free on Plus.
Which brings me back to Knack - which, remember, is a bad game - and why it's a terrible choice to include on PlayStation Plus (for reasons other than its inherent badness). It's a Sony-developed title, and as such, Sony's in no rush to give it away for free. Infamous First Light made sense to give away, because it's a way to entice players to pick up Second Son. Sony gave away a substantial trial version of Driveclub as a way to get people interested in the full retail release (well, when the game wasn't broken, anyway). Gravity Rush on the Vita made sense because the Vita needs all the help it can get. Where's the discovery inherent in giving Knack away, other than allowing you to discover newer shades of seething rage and self-loathing? Ultimately, Knack doesn't deserve to be on PlayStation Plus because it's a known quantity, and it's just not fun.
What happens, then, if you do get Knack on PlayStation Plus? You gawk at its Dreamworks reject graphics, spend 15 minutes running through some tepid, last-gen combat encounters, then delete it just as quickly? Just because it looks "next-gen" doesn't make it any more worth playing that the countless other smaller, less graphically-intensive games with more heart and soul in them than a dozen Knacks. And even if you haven't had a chance to play Knack, I assure you, it's as bad as everyone says, and you'd have way more fun with 95% of Plus' free game library if you gave it a proper chance.
So no, you may not have spent $400 on a PlayStation 4 to play games that you can play on your phone, but you certainly didn't spend that money to play crappy games, either. Knack is a bad video game, so please, stop asking for it like its inclusion would suddenly make PlayStation Plus a better service. Remember, indie doesn't always mean bad, or cheap, or low-quality, and AAA doesn't always mean good, either. Good games are good games, and those are the ones you should want to see on PlayStation Plus - not fucking Knack.