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E3 2013 | Sony Online Entertainment Bringing Free-to-Play to PS4

Posted on June 26, 2013 AT 01:41pm

One of the biggest new things to come out of gaming on smartphones is the concept of free-to-play games. Like any new concept that hits it big, the market has been saturated with these titles and some shady business practices have already emerged. True enough, in this model of game development, the money has to come from somewhere, but finding a way to do that and still make a quality game is not something we’re seeing a lot of out of that market. Sony Online Entertainment, with the release of the PS4, is looking to change that by offering up some titles that take advantage of the free-to-play model while still maintaining a high level of quality in their games.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m always very skeptical when a game employs the free-to-play model. Too often, you find yourself behind some kind of paywall that locks amazing content behind it or even prevents you from playing the game. After having a chance to chat with the folks at the Sony Online Entertainment booth at E3 this year, I’m feeling more confident that there a few companies out there still dedicated to listening to their customers and bringing free-to-play to its full potential during the next generation.

Sony Online Entertainment had two PS4 games to show at E3 this year. The crazy thing is that both of them are currently available on other platforms. Both Planetside 2 and DC Universe Online were playable on the show floor and will be available later this year for the PlayStation 4 and will be free to download and play on the next-gen console.

Currently available on the PS3, DC Universe Online lets you create your own superhero and take them into the action of the DC Comics world. It also happens to be free to play on the system. No fee to download or continue to play, you can enjoy the game as much as you want without spending a cent. The part where they earn a bit of their money comes in the form of some of the special DLC missions in the game that feature various familiar characters in the DC Universe. This leaves it open to the player, being able to experience all the content the game has to offer in the main world, but giving them the option, if they enjoy what the game offers, to get some additional playtime with the game. What’s great about this is that it incentivizes SOE to provide a good enough experience that they players will want to experience that additional content which is, in my humble opinion, a really great way to handle that model. The PS4 version of this game will bring with it enhanced visuals and an improved frame rate of 60fps which can only be possible on the PS4.

Available right now on the PC, Planetside 2 is an online first-person shooter on a massive scale. With one massive map, the game literally has thousands of players at any given time and puts you in a giant ongoing battle for domination. The world is persistent, so when you leave and come back, you could be walking into a very different situation from the last time you were there. Those familiar Warhawk for the PS3 might have an idea of how the game plays. You can boost around the world as a member of a squad and fight people on foot or jump into a vehicle and take people down with powerful weapons. Like DC Universe Online, this game is headed for a PS4 launch and will be free-to-play on that system. The extra content that’ll be available for an extra fee is mostly convenience or cosmetic-based and the guns that can be payed for can also be earned in the game without paying. This gives the patient player a rich and rewarding experience earning all that stuff and for the player that wants to jump in locked and loaded they have the option to pay.

With each of these games coming to the PS4 as close to launch as they can manage, one question looms over our heads. During the PS4 press event during E3, Sony briefly mentioned that PlayStation Plus would be a requirement for online multiplayer in games. While you should really have PlayStation Plus anyways, for the awesome free games, this begs the question of whether these games are actually free if you need that service to play them. Fear not, for Sony Online Entertainment has assured me that while these games are in fact online multiplayer games, you will not need a PlayStation Plus membership to play them.

If more companies can take from what SOE is doing with their lineup of PS4 games, then I’m confident we can one day rest a little easier when we see that a game is free-to-play. We’re not yet there, but this is certainly a good start.

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