Sony recently announced that certain platform games would be removed from the PlayStation Plus line-up, but with nothing taking their place, the community seems to be getting screwed.
The announcement of March’s list of free PlayStation Plus games perked up many ears, but the excitement surrounding the quality line-up was squandered somewhat by an adjacent announcement. According to Sony, PlayStation Plus will no longer give out free PS3 or PS Vita games as part of its Instant Game Collection program, starting March 8th of next year.
This change left many wondering how the service would be adjusted to make up for the four missing games, but in a statement to Polygon, a Sony rep revealed that nothing would be taking their place. That means, for the exact same subscription price they’re paying now, PS Plus members will only have two free PS4 games to look forward to each month. It’s a raw deal, and one Sony should seriously reconsider.
The rise and fall of PS Plus
PlayStation Plus launched for the PS3 in the summer of 2010. Considering that platform’s online multiplayer was still free, the primary reason to subscribe was the stellar selection of free games, discounts, and other bonuses the service offered. Unlike an Xbox Live Gold membership, which seemed all but mandatory, PS Plus felt like a real bonus—something you could spend money on in exchange for clear rewards. In fact, the Instant Game Collection was such a smart idea that Microsoft was eventually forced to introduce its own version of the idea, Games with Gold.
With the launch of PlayStation 4, Plus became mandatory for playing most multiplayer games online, a notable shift from the prior generation. Still, with the free games still on offer, it was a decent value. This was especially true for gamers deeply invested in the PlayStation ecosystem, since the constant drip of free games for PlayStation 3 and Vita were a reason to dust off those older systems and check out any titles you might have missed out on.
Now, with the latest announcement, things look more grim than ever before. While it’s understandable Sony would eventually phase out older games, given that fewer and fewer gamers are probably pulling out those systems, it’s disheartening to hear the number of free PlayStation 4 games will stay the same. There hasn’t been any word of a reduction in the price of the service, either, and it seems unlikely Sony would stay silent it if it were planning one. Starting in March 2019, PlayStation will apparently be charging the same price for quantifiably less content.
Slipping behind the competition
The fact is, while Xbox may have copied the idea for Games with Gold from Sony, its version of the concept will soon be superior in nearly every way. There’s one big reason for this: backward compatibility. Currently, Microsoft offers two free Xbox One games each month, along with two Xbox 360 games. The big difference, however, is that the 360 titles are guaranteed to be playable on Xbox One through backward compatibility. That means each month brings four total games you play on your current-gen system. Given that the closest thing Sony has to backward compatibility is its PlayStation Now service, which requires a separate subscription fee and is completely divorced from PS Plus and any last-gen games you may already own, it’s already significant difference in terms of convenience and accessibility.
For gamers who own both consoles, PlayStation Plus will probably start to seem like an even worse value for another important reason, too. Sony’s lineup of exclusives is known for a commitment on deep single-player experiences, especially when compared to Xbox. This year’s God of War, Detroit: Become Human, Days Gone and Spider-Man are all single-player only games. We don’t yet know whether The Last of Us Part II will bring back its predecessor’s multiplayer, but either way it’s clear the story is the primary focus.
This is a great thing for gaming, of course. Single-player games offer the sort of deep, narrative-driven experiences you just can’t get from multiplayer, and its heartening to see Sony stay committed to the form. But it also makes a PS Plus subscription seem like an even worse value, since there are so few multiplayer experiences exclusive to PS4 that warrant paying for PS Plus on the basis of online play alone.
As Sony strips out more value from the service, it would be perfectly reasonable for a gamer to drop a PS Plus subscription altogether and starting buying multiplatform multiplayer games on Xbox One. After all, they wouldn’t be missing out on the biggest PS4 exclusives by not paying for online. By contrast, Xbox Live Gold is practically a requirement for anyone who owns that system, given the online focus of Xbox One exclusives like State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, and the inevitable next Halo and Gears of War games. There’s a clear difference in the value proposition of each service, and one that’s only going to grow if Sony decides to follow through on its current plans.
A reason to hope
Needless to say, pulling older games from the PS Plus Instant Game Collection is definitely one of Sony’s less player-friendly decisions. It reeks of the sort of arrogance that comes from being in first place. We’ve seen this sort of behavior from the company before, too. The PlayStation 3 launch was such an unmitigated disaster, with its high price point and iffy launch lineup, precisely because Sony’s lead during the PS2 era seemed impossible to lose. Given the advantage PS4 has over Xbox One, Sony probably assumes it doesn’t need to convince anyone to subscribe to PlayStation Plus. More gamers are already on the system. If they’re locked in, they’re probably already committed to paying up, no matter how much worse a deal the service becomes.
Fortunately, a year is a long time for Sony to reconsider. It could announce of a price reduction for PlayStation Plus down the line, or reconsider its decision to pull other platforms from the Instant Game Collection lineups. If the pressure is great enough, it may even consider a more radical change, like making PS3 games you already own digitally free to play through PlayStation Now. If we’ve learned anything in the six months, it’s that companies cannot take their fans for granted, and that a loud enough uproar from the community is an effective way to effect change.
In other words, if PlayStation gamers don’t want to end up paying the same for less, they should make their voices heard—early and often.