PlayStation Plus: The Steam of Consoles?

For the longest time, I’ve never given PlayStation Plus much thought.  Sure, they advertised free games for the service, but after giving up on the Xbox, paid online services seemed abhorrent.  At one time or another, I thought that the ability to play console games online was a premium service that was well worth the cost.  Later on I realized I can get almost the same experience on just about every other gaming device, but for free.  Subscription fees just for the ability to play games online seemed rather silly.  As you can imagine, I remained determined not to spend a dime on any sort of subscription service.

However, while watching the E3 2012 Sony conference, I realized there may be some pretty good incentives to try out PS Plus.  With titles like Infamous 2, Just Cause 2, and LittleBigPlanet 2 offered for free, I decided to try the service.  While I probably would’ve bought Infamous 2 if it never went up for free, I never would’ve bothered giving Just Cause 2 or LittleBigPlanet 2 a chance.  And that would’ve been a damned shame, as I’m finding Just Cause 2 to be insanely fun.  I can do crazy shit like attach a car to a helicopter, fly high up, swing it around, and fling it.  And to think, were it not for PS Plus, I would’ve missed out on this title.

In a way, this sort of discovery experience is just like what many Steam users go through.  Whenever a big Steam sale rolls along, many gamers find themselves buying very cheap games on impulse.  Games that people never would’ve tried otherwise.  Hell, even I can attest to doing this.  PS Plus has the potential for similar experiences.  The only difference here is that Steam is free, while PS Plus costs money.  Specifically, it costs about the same as Xbox Live Gold.  This could be a major problem for some.

There’s also another major problem with these free PS Plus games.  Any game content you get for free (which also includes certain DLC) can’t be accessed once your PS Plus subscription ends.  And that’s really annoying.  It’s kind of like DRM, in some regards, but losing access to your games in this case is guaranteed, unless you renew your subscription.  This supports the idea that these free games are more there to try than to keep, as keeping them will cost a lot of money, in the long run.  I’m positive most games can be beaten in at least three months, so beating these free games isn’t too much of an issue.  But you can’t keep these games.

Now this is starting to sound like a rental service.  With PS Plus, you get access to around ten games or so per month, and you can download pretty much all of them, if you want.  With a normal rental service, though you have access to a much larger variety of games, you can only take out one or two of them at a time.  Not only that, but PS Plus also happens to be much cheaper than these services.  For $50 a year, or $18 for three months, you’re essentially paying close to $5 a month.

That’s not all though.  With PS Plus, you also get some immense discounts on games and DLC.  That’s pretty significant, since Steam is the only place I can think of that gives discounts on DLC.  At normal prices, you may wind up paying more money for DLC than for the game itself.  Fortunately for everyone, you get to keep anything you buy discounted forever.  Add to that cloud saving and automatic updates, and you’ve got a service that has much of what makes Steam so great.

Now, I’ve seen some people complain about the service.  Sure, you get free games, but they disappear once your subscription ends.  Isn’t that pointless in the long run, some may ask.  Ignoring rentals, cloud saving, and automatic updates for now, you’re paying for a service to be able to get discounts.  Essentially, you’re paying money to save money.  Kind of redundant, but even if the service is boiled down to this basic representation, you can still get your money’s worth out of this service.  If you save enough money from the discounted games you buy, you can recuperate the subscription fee.  Taking everything together, PS Plus seems to be worth it.

Is PS Plus practically a necessity for the online gamer, as Xbox Live Gold is?  No, it’s not.  It enhances your basic PSN through discounts, automatic updating, cloud saving, and conditionally free games.  However, Plus is in no way essential.  Plus, however, provides some key features that Steam has been trumpeting for the longest time.  And while Plus’ one unique feature, the free games, are only temporary, this feature works extremely well as a rental service.

Essentially, PS Plus is pretty much the PS3’s digital distribution system, though with a subscription fee and a free game feature that’s somewhat conditional.  Sure, the premium aspect may not be very popular, but it’s clear that PS Plus is worth the subscription, and shows us what digital distribution may look like on consoles in the future.  In fact, if Sony handles it properly, PS Plus could very well become the Steam of consoles.

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A mad scientist who's so cool!


A mad scientist who's so cool!

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