We’re hitting the point where streaming services have been around long enough that they’re almost old enough to vote, and with that comes a time of reflection. This is especially true with the anniversary this week of PlayStation Plus, the much maligned yet oft praised subscription service Sony began offering a decade ago. While the debate over whether charging a fee simply for access to online features continues on even to this day, Sony always attempted to make PS Plus something that appeared worth the price of entry in the form of discounts, “free” games, and more. [Editor’s Note: In fact, Sony started up Plus as a way to offer discounts and “free” games nearly four years before it was required for PS4 online play.] So as we hit a full decade of PS Plus, the question must be asked if the service has truly been worth the price of admission. Personally, the question is moot because there was never really a choice, was there?
The launch of PS Plus was a rocky one, with it coming shortly before a major network outage of PSN that was so bad that it led to a class-action suit, a United States House subcommittee investigation, and an inevitable payout to users in the form of some old games that everyone and their mother already owned. And I gotta tell you, it did not inspire confidence in a service that would eventually be required for online play. I still remember buying Mortal Kombat 9 on the day of launch and not being able to take it online for weeks after (due to the PSN Outage), finding myself wondering if giving Sony even more money to bolster its shoddy online service was the wisest of ideas.
But things turned around. For those of us that have been PS Plus subscribers since the beginning, it’s hard to deny the value in regards to game library additions. Honestly, I find myself sometimes scrolling through the PS Plus catalog on my account, and being surprised to see that many games I thought I bought outright were actually PS Plus additions. More to the point, the features offered by being a subscriber were some serious quality of life options that made having an older PS3 easier, as the cloud storage option literally saved my hard drive from itself.
Of course, the nature of PS Plus and its relationship to consumers changed once it was a required service for online play in the PlayStation 4 era. Before this point, the service was an optional opt-in that just seemed to be a fun thing to get some free new games every once in a while. A not-small amount of fans were immediately angered with the idea that they had to pay yet another fee in order to take their games online, despite Microsoft already doing it with Xbox Live. After all, we’re already paying for internet access, why do we need to pay the toll fee for yet another digital bridge?
This is an argument still being fought to this day, but it’s one that I’ve just accepted as the cost of playing the game, so to speak. In a world where game prices have stagnated while the industry is costing more money than ever to create an actual product, I’ve just accepted that said money must be made up in other ways. But there’s also a duality to the subscription service that continues to make it all okay, and that’s the game offerings. Folks can complain about the fare offered as the free monthly games all they want, but fact remains that Sony is still placing a lot more value into a required service than the likes of, oh, let’s say Nintendo. Sure, Nintendo Online may only be ten dollars for a year, but the exchange is that I’m given some kind of hack job access to some NES and SNES games that I’m sure I have ROMs of somewhere on a portable hard drive. And let’s not forget access to Nintendo’s stellar online services: You know, a thing that works so well that Super Smash Bros. players have literally started their own online service because Nintendo can’t be bothered to make game lag a focus of its mass resources.
And let’s not forget that Nintendo’s solution to voice chat was to make its users download a phone app and hook up a wild web of cords. I’m just saying: If you think Sony is somehow slighting you by charging five bucks a month for access and giving you some free games and exclusive discounts, then just think about the other services. We also just live in a world of subscription services now, and I don’t have any qualms about giving Sony money annually for something I don’t always use. I mean, I’ve been a Disney Plus subscriber since launch and besides watching half of The Mandalorian and getting bored I don’t think I’ve even pulled up the app. We just live in a world where we start paying for services and then forget all about them.
It’s the business. It’s expected. And for all we can hold against Sony–and they do deserve it at times–I can’t fault them for following industry trends while also still trying to give its fans back something, even if it’s in the form of a game like Farming Simulator that I simply do not care about. But you know what? Someone out there cares about Farming Simulator and was probably psyched to get that game for free. And that’s kind of the point of PS Plus: An exposure to new content we might not otherwise ever check out. That’s a pretty rad feature of a service that could be incredibly soulless. More than a few times I’ve given a PS Plus game a try, not knowing what to expect, and have come out pleasantly surprised.
And in terms of shear value? Looking at the free games alone, if you’ve been subbed since the beginning, you’ve spent less than $600 for more than 1000 games over the course of those ten years. Now add in the Plus discounts on other games and access to PS4’s online? You’re getting a lot for what you pay for.
So on this 10th anniversary of PS Plus try and think about the good times and how crazy it is that, in a world of services and offerings that seem to disappear overnight that PS Plus is now a grade-schooler. I asked at the start of this is PS Plus has been worth the price of admission and I’m willing to say emphatically that, yes, it certainly is worth ten years of service. After all, it’s not like we had any other choice.