PlayStation Plus: Or how I stopped worrying and learnt to love the download.

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First things first, this isn’t a piece about “how awesome PlayStation Plus is”, that’s already a given.
PS+ was started in late June back in 2010. The subscription-based service offered PS3 and PSP gamers access to a selection of “free” games and content each month for a fee based on how long you wish to subscribe for, being it 90 days or a whole year. Later Sony added the PSVita to the service and the upcoming PS4 will require it for online multiplayer. Now I use quotations on free because obviously you need to pay up front but after you download and play a big title that’s worth “£40” in a brick and mortar store, all games after that could be considered free.

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ps1Now a lot of people argue that it is far superior to what Sony’s rivals offer from their online services and they’re right in most cases. For the price you pay and the content you receive you’d be silly to pass up such a great service if you’re a “hardcore” gamer like me.
Anyway, that’s not what this is about, this article is about how a service like PS+ has changed me as a gamer, change my habits and my perception of games in general.
We’ve already established and talked about in several of our podcasts how digital downloads have revolutionised the gaming industry. That’s a fact. We no longer need to even go out and buy our games in physical form, we can buy and download the latest titles from our living rooms from the moment they launch. It’s a more convenient, albeit a pricier way to game in some cases, Steam being an exception to this.
Taking this “delivery” system into account, PS+ has revolutionised the revolution.
Before June 29th 2010 I was a different gamer to who I am today. My gaming habits would involve buying games on launch day and picking up the occasional pre-owned disc from my local games store. Now lets focus on the pre-owned part here because this is where the biggest change took place. When it came to the big titles, the Metal Gear Solids, the Bioshocks, Dead Space, Uncharted, etc I’d be there day-1 buying them but when I wanted to try out a game I wasn’t sure about or was maybe a little obscure I’d head to the pre-owned section or seek it out online. I’d only try something different if it was cheap and in the pre-owned section, I wouldn’t step out of my gaming comfort zone and take a punt on an IP that was alien to me at £40, because who knew, it may have been awful and I’d get under half back in trade-in value. For example, it’s how I got into the first Modern Warfare game; a friend recommended it but I wasn’t willing to buy it new as it was unknown territory to me, so I got it pre-owned and the rest is awesome gaming history but my point here is that I tried a game I wasn’t sure about at a fraction of its RRP.
Playstation Plus

What has this history lesson got to do with PS+? Well allow me to elaborate.
PS+ offers a whole range of games each month that it drops new content into our PSN store. Be it racing, first-person shooters, third-person shooters, real-time strategy, puzzlers, action/adventure, open-world sandbox or survival horror, it’s a broad range of genres. In Sony’s efforts to cater to everyone they’ve also expanded my gaming tastes and most likely a lot of other gamer’s in the process. Recently to writing this piece I had been playing Saint’s Row The Third, the open-world action-adventure game from Volition. This game was part of the EU PS+ Instant Game Collection starting in July 2013. Now prior to playing this I hadn’t played any and had no experience with the Saints Row games but I thought like I had thought many times in the past two years – “hey it’s free, lets give it a go”. Saying I enjoyed it is an understatement. I had a lot of fun playing Saints Row The Third. If it wasn’t for PS+ I would never have bought it in the shops or from PSN as it just didn’t interest me, wasn’t on my “radar”, so to speak. I gave it a chance and it paid off.
This is the beauty of a service like PS+. It offers me games I would never think of buying, gives me a chance to play them and allows me to expand my tastes. Before playing this game I had no thoughts about buying Saints Row 4 but now I’m strongly considering it. It’s a very clever method to sell games, if you ask me. Is it a coincidence that PS+ offered Battlefield 3 when Battlefield 4 is on the horizon? Coincidence that Dead Space 2 was on PS+ when Dead Space 3 was doing the rounds at games conventions? Give the people a taste of the IP and who knows, you may hook them for future sequels? I’d also like to note that PS+ doesn’t give away DLC with the games but offers it along-side the game. For example, Borderlands, was offered through PS+ but it’s DLC was still priced, now I thoroughly enjoyed Borderlands and when I finished the story I wanted more, so I went ahead and bought all the DLC for it. Pretty clever for a business point of view, don’t you think?

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Business aspect aside, the bottom line is that PS+ broadened my tastes in games, I can’t count how many games I’ve claimed from the serviced that I wouldn’t have even bothered looking at on a shelf in a shop, enjoyed and went on to Platinum. I think it’s a great service based upon the success of digital downloading. I haven’t bought a pre-owned game in probably over a year, come to think of it I haven’t actually bought a game from a shop in quite a few months now.

GaikaiI think PS+ is the future, I don’t literally mean Sony’s service but the way we “subscribe” to games. We now live in an age where content is no longer “owned” but rather just consumed. Look at Netflix for example, you don’t own any of the movies you watch, you pay to have access to the library and that’s where we’re heading with games. The PS4 has it’s upcoming Gaikai streaming service, which for all intents and purposes is the Netflix of gaming but for now we’ll have to make do with “archaic” downloading to our hard drives but I digress.
My closing comments is as follows – I fully endorse PlayStation Plus and what it offers but not because it offers “tons of free stuff” but because I find it a great way of trying out games I never even considered playing. More publishers need to get behind Sony and their service because this is the way to sell your IPs. Give a gamer a good game for free and they’ll more than likely line up for its sequel.

Darren McCarthy

(Dazeel)

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