Last week, when the new PlayStation Plus free titles for July 2019 were announced, there was a huge uproar from subscribers. It was widely considered to be one of the worst months in recent memory, if not ever, for the PS Plus free games, which usually are divisive at most. There have been some less-than-stellar months, but nothing that’s received the pretty wide disdain that this month’s announcements saw.
Now, I’ve been one to frequently defend the PlayStation Plus service. It’s an incredible value that is realistically set up just to pay for online, with the rest of the discounts and the 24 free games per year simply being a bonus for the $60 a year that most people spent. If you don’t want to do the quick math, that boils down to $5 per month, and just $2.50 per free game (yes, I know it’s an oxymoron to value the games and then call them free). I’ve spent far more on far worse, so on those “off” months where things aren’t as good as I maybe would have liked, I don’t really let it bother me all that much.
That said, July’s announcement really did seem bad, even to me. PES 2019 is last year’s PES soccer game. Sports titles, while extremely popular, also fall into a niche. Most people who were interested in this game probably bought it already, and anyone not interested in sports titles basically just lost out on a game for the month. The other game announced was Horizon Chase Turbo, a throwback arcadey racer. Once again, it’s a genre that typically falls to a niche subset of players that specifically like that type of game. While Horizon Chase Turbo isn’t a terrible game on its own, when paired with PES, a “sports and racing” month was a huge turnoff for people that didn’t like sports or racing games. Count me among those.
Still, “it’s five bucks,” I thought. I got over it, considering I rarely even download or play the PS Plus games on months I actually am interested in, and went about my week. Then we got to Tuesday.
The PES Detroit Switcharoo
When the PlayStation Store updated and the PS Plus games went live, PES was nowhere to be found, suddenly replaced by Detroit: Become Human (which is the edition of the game that comes with the PS4 version of Heavy Rain). In just a week, Sony had decided to switch out your previously scheduled programming and fill its shoes with two massive Quantic Dream games. The fan outcry, it seems, had worked.
Or had it?
Unfortunately, the perception of this event will always be that “gamers won,” or some general entitlement garbage where subscribers rose up and apparently voiced their disdain for the games and got it swapped out for something else. But it may be a whole lot more complicated than that.
Just one day after the PS Plus games switch was announced, it was revealed that Konami ended a PES deal with Liverpool and began a new one with Manchester United. It struck a few people as awfully suspect that PES would factor so heavily into the news just a day after being pulled as a PS Plus free game. Did this deal have something to do with its removal from Plus? Or did the angry players succeed?
The fact is that these PS Plus deals aren’t just fluid and easy to do. Sony can’t just pull a game out of a hat and pick whatever title they want to be on the system. (My condolences to those of you who keep demanding AAA titles every single month, though hey, it worked out for you this time.) The deals require contracts and payments and have to be worked out months and months in advance. There are a lot of things to consider before a developer will agree to a Plus deal. How are current sales? Projected sales? Is there a sequel coming up that this might be considered advertising for? Another game from the studio? How do all of those numbers balance against what Sony is going to be paying them (because yes, Sony does pay the developers for their titles to be a part of Plus)?
Once those deals are in place, those contracts are signed, and especially after they’ve been announced, it’s not so easy for Sony to just pull the plug and say “nah, nevermind.” There are two parties involved. If the switch from PES to Detroit really was because of fan outcry, then what of Konami? Where do they factor into the decision to pull their game? What about Quantic Dream? I doubt Sony just rang up David Cage and said “Yo, we’ve got a bunch of pissed of gamers who hate soccer. Want to be a hero?”
My money is on something about the PES deal falling through for reasons outside of negative feedback to its inclusion. I’m guessing that it was actually more on the Konami side than on Sony’s and the decided to (or had to) pull it at the last minute. Detroit was probably already under contract to be offered in a future month, possibly August, and Sony just asked Quantic Dream about bumping it up a month to fill that PES slot. Remember that Sony is planning these months in advance, and there are probably no less than a dozen contracts up in the air right now for the rest of the year’s PS Plus titles.
Why This is an Overall Negative
Well, no matter how it happened, we won right? We got a better game instead of some sports game that none of us wanted, so what’s the big deal? The big deal is that very attitude of feeling like we “won.” It creates an entitled attitude among people who left “feedback,” thinking that whinging about not liking something gives them some kind of power over it.
They now feel empowered in that entitlement, thinking that they have a right to “better” games, or at least not the games that they don’t want on the service. Next time a bad month comes around, some kind of action on the part of Sony is going to be expected to be the bare minimum, even if the action this month didn’t actually have anything to do with their criticisms.
Can I just remind you again that the price per game is $2.50, and that’s if you don’t factor in paying for online or the PS Plus discounts and other freebies that PS Plus members get throughout the year. That’s strictly price to Instant Games Collection ratio. We’ve all spent far more on way worse. PS Plus should be looked at as a cumulative year, not a game by game or month by month assessment of the service.
This isn’t the first time this has happened in games (looking at you Mass Effect 3 ending), and it certainly won’t be the last. And to be entirely clear, I’m not saying don’t offer criticism and feedback. I definitely voiced my general disagreement with the “sports and racing” theme that July was set to have, but I also left it at that. I understand that not all 24 games are going to be for me throughout the year. I understand that free games aren’t really what I’m paying for (how else am I supposed to play my Destiny 2 online, eh?). Criticism and feedback is important to future evolution and growth, but it there’s a right and a wrong way to go about it.
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