Rewind the clock 8 years, to the beginning of the 7th Gen. Microsoft was ruling the console online market with Xbox Live™ and leaving Sony playing catch up on so many levels. The infrastructure of Live was incredible, it was secure and it was reliable. Xbox Live™ was so good; it was so good that it became the defacto ‘this will win any console war argument’ for Xbox players.
On the other hand Sony’s PSN on the hand was only a fledgling service that couldn’t hope to compete. It lacked several features that Xbox gamers took for granted (party chat etc). To give credit to Sony, they changed that in 2010 with the announcement of a premium add-on to PSN; PS Plus. This allowed Playstation gamers access to selected free games in return for a loyalty (you have to remain a subscriber) and a small fee – the game changer arrived.
It wasn’t always smooth sailing for PS Plus; what with the infamous ‘anonymous’ hack of 2011 but PS Plus swung the balance of online power from Microsoft to Sony, and boy did they run with it. PS Plus went from strength to strength. All of sudden it was the Playstation gamers that were lording online features over their Xbox enemy, and they were jealous. PS Plus was a system seller and it ensured that the PS3 would make up a staggering amount of numbers in the last few years of the seventh generation.
However; is PS Plus a wholly good thing?
I’m not speaking about gamers – i’m a subscriber and as i own all the Sony consoles i get access to 6 (generally speaking) good games each and every month for free! This is an incredible deal for the consumer…i’m asking the question from the publisher’s/developer’s perspective.
Could PS Plus prove to be a barrier to them in the future? I’m starting to think that it very well could be. Over the past few months i’ve saw great indie game, after great indie game enter the PS Store, and found myself uttering the same sentence on repeat:
“that’ll be a PS Plus game in a few months. I’ll wait for it”
And i am not alone in this, all over the internet there are gamers like myself, who are choosing to wait for a game on PS Plus rather than drop the cash on day one. If 25% of gamers do this surely this will hit the publishers and developers right in the pocket, and as it is the indie titles that are new on PS Plus, it is the developers that need our support that will feel the impact of this. I would hate to see talented indie developers hit the skids because people (me included) don’t buy their titles in the hope they get made free at some stage. This is a real false economy for the developer and could be the difference between a success and a failure.
PS Plus could also affect the sales of games that are not in the program, open your PSN Store what is the first thing you see? A splash ad for this month’s PSN Offerings, now look to the left what do you see? A menu bar, look at closely, ‘price drops’, ‘offers’ & ‘IGC’. Fair play to Sony. On one hand this is Sony pandering to gamers shrewd nature, following the steam (and Wall*Mart) philosophy of stack them high, sell them low. On the other hand however you don’t see the new indie titles given prominence, hundreds of titles that are lost to the ever growing sea of titles that are released each and every week. The cynic in me says this is because they cannot afford to pay Sony for the advertising space. The even bigger cynic in me says this is a fabulous rouse to get indie developers to be more open to allowing their title to be in the program (much like Microsoft did with the sublime ‘Summer of Arcade’ promotions).
My question is, if the developer is not approached by Sony, will their title sell? Will it become lost, destined to become an oddity I will put into a list in 10 years time?
I’m not entirely sure how PS Plus works; i’m assuming it works by estimating uptake on titles and royalties being paid on that number, so the developers will get money for allowing their title to be made free. They are also ‘guaranteeing’ themselves valuable exposure and customers (that will hopefully like what they have played and become supportive fans in the future) in a market that is quickly becoming saturated with 2D, Pixel-art rogue-likes. On this level it works, it is also a great way in getting people to try experimental titles, or titles they would not normally drop their money on.
For bigger developers and publishers it allows older titles, that may have gotten lost the Christmas rush to gain some relevance (this month i downloaded Crysis 3, merely because it was free – i would never have spent money on this title) and importantly players.
I can’t see any downside for the larger developers in regards to PS Plus. And that’s the biggest issue. Why do the little fish have to drown to allow the bigger fish to flourish, this is an issue in all avenues of the arts, its run by big companies but kept afloat by small, intimate projects.
So is PS Plus all good?
Can you see any problems with a program like PS Plus?
If so leave a comment.
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