Sony’s decision to force you to pay for PS+ to play online with PS4 has split the PlayStation community – with many either already subscribing, or accepting that the PSN needs money, and others steadfastly refusing to pay for a previously free feature (that will remain free on PC).
But no matter where you stand on the matter, it’s undeniable that PlayStation Plus will be a considerable tool in driving people to pick up the PS4 as soon as their wallets will allow.
At the moment, PS+ is fantastic and most people love it, but detractors of the service repeatedly point out that many of the games are old, and that they already own them. That won’t happen with the PS4 – it’s a clean slate. As the console doesn’t support backwards compatibility (at least not until 2014 through cloud), Sony won’t be able to fill PS+ with old PS3 games, like the Vita PS+ is filled with old PSP games. Instead, Sony is forced to give you new content.
First off is DriveClub PS+ Edition – yes, it’s stripped down, but it’s still a major game that is one of the PS4’s crucial AAA line-up exclusives, and it’s coming to PS+ subscribers for free. Then, after that, there will be new games every month for ‘free’. That means that the sooner you buy a PlayStation 4, the more free content you get – PS+ rarely revisits old free games, so if you miss the month, you miss it. In the time you might wait for a $50 price cut, you could lose out on hundreds of dollars of content over Plus. If Sony can effectively communicate this message to consumers, it would certainly entice them to take the plunge early and not miss out on all the great deals. Existing subscribers should be able add the games to their download list with PC, but the process isn’t known to most, and will simply create a giant list of games they’ll want to play. It’s also not known if Sony will definitely allow you to add the games to your download list without first connecting a PS4, as the PS4 aims to be far more integrated with PC and mobile than the PS3.
Not only that, but Sony tying PS+ to online will mean that there will be millions upon millions of subscribers all downloading those games every month. And, considering how many games Sony released on Plus last year, that’s a lot of games being added to people’s libraries – games that will be lost if people stop subscribing (you can stop and resubscribe later, but when you’re not paying you have no access). In the future, the majority of PS4 owners are likely to have a library of games that is mostly locked into PS+, meaning that if they leave the PS+ ecosystem they won’t be able to play those games. Equally, multiplatform owners who can’t afford to pay two subscriptions will be more inclined to pay the one that keeps all of their games working, and gives them new ones.
PlayStation Plus is the PS4’s most important, and most controversial feature, and how Sony handles it could dramatically impact the next generation.