What is it?
Since it's launch in November 2006 the Playstation 3 has had a free online network (entitled PSN) on which Playstation owners could speak to or message each other, play games with friends, browse the web and purchase content in the online store. Everyone with an internet connection could use it free of charge - just as well, because the service could be pretty glitchy in the early days. Microsoft have a similar service for their Xbox 360 called Live, except theirs came in two tiers: a Silver (free) and a Gold variety (annual charge of £39.99). The basic package allowed for some communication between members and the purchasing of downloadable content. If you wanted extra features such as playing online games you had to pay the annual fee. This had some advantages - namely Microsoft could invest that subscription fee into paying for servers to host content - something Sony struggled with at first.
Last week Sony announced Playstation Plus: their fee-based subscription service for the PS3 which retails at £39.99. Unlike Microsoft, they still provide all of the online services that the PSN launched with. Sony see Playstation Plus as a service that adds extra value to gamers by virtue of offering the following:
- Discount on games and/or downloadable content
- 4 free Playstation games per month (this includes old Playstation 1, Minis, and standard PSN titles)
- Premium avatars and themes
- Full game trials (a try-and-buy scheme using a full game rather than a limited demo)
- Early access to demos and beta versions of games
- Automatic content downloads and updates
In total Sony claim that Playstation Plus will offer subscribers content to the value of at least £200 per year. There is a drawback though fail to renew your subscription and you lose all the 'free' gaming content you downloaded. However, in order to offset that setback subscribers were given the excellent LittleBigPlanet game to keep even if they don't renew their subscription. I already owned this game so it saves me nothing but some gamers may not have it. You get to keep the avatars and themes but these are small value items. So, the question remains, is £39.99 a good deal given that most Playstation gamers got by just fine on the PSN without spending a penny? In order to work out if this is good value for money I'm going to join the staff at IGN in monitoring my use of the service.
Another tracking project...
In case you didn't guess, I subscribed to the service on launch day (June 29th) in order to see what the fuss was all about. This give me the perfect excuse to emabark on another year long tracking project so it alongside my musical expenditure project. I'm going to follow the strict rules set out by IGN:
For the next year, IGN PlayStation Executive Editor Greg Miller and IGN Guides Guru Colin Moriarty will track their PlayStation Plus PlayStation Network purchases every Wednesday. If they buy a full price game, it won't be logged here. On the chalkboards below, we'll track what the "free" content would have cost them as well as the discounts they're receiving. Now, these figures will only include new stuff that the boys have downloaded. If they already own a piece of content, it won't be included just because it has been discounted or marked as free. This is strictly what they've downloaded under the PlayStation Plus umbrella to date.The IGN staff are only counting the cash saved via the discount scheme, but I will add an extra field to include the value of the digital items that are kept after the subscription lapses (ie the avatars and themes). Also, one of the PSN games that is 'free' this month is Wipeout HD - a game I already own so there is no real benefit to me this month.
If you want to see how much 'value' the Playstation Plus service is to a regular gamer check back here in a few weeks.