Thursday, 5 August 2010

Tracking Playstation Plus: July

A new month means a review of the past month's PlayStation Plus purchases as outlined in this post, and a speculative glance to the coming months.  In case you aren't aware of what this series of posts is inspired by then I shall endeavour to summarise... IGN asked the question "Is Playstation Plus a good deal?" and asked for PlayStation users to join in, hence these posts.  So, do subscribers to the £39.99/$49.99/€49.99 service get good value for money?

Well, that's a trick question to answer, especially given that US subscribers get more content per month than European subscribers - clearly visible in the IGN charts in which the editors list games and DLC that are not available to Europeans.  It would seem that the US 'Plus' store was updated each week or two.    Nevertheless, I shall offer a personalised account of my 'Plus' experience and attempt to offer some objective analysis of the value of the service.  Firstly, let's review the first month:

Month 1 (June 2010)

I've already covered what the service entails in the first post but I thought it worthwhile to list all the options that were available to UK subscribers in the first month (as long as I can recall them!)
  • Intro offer: LittleBigPlanet (standard edition)
  • PSN PS3: Wipeout HD
  • minis: Field Runners, Age of Zombies
  • PSone: Destruction Derby
  • Full Game Trial: Shatter, Savage Moon
  • Discounts: LBP God of War Pack – 50%, LBP: LocoRoco costume pack – 50%, Gravity Crash – 20%, Fat Princess DLC – 20%
  • Premium Game Element: KillZone 2:  Steel & Titanium DLC
  • Push demo: ModNation Racers, Heavy Rain
  • Themes: LBP Theme, SCEE produced: PlayStation “Game Is Just The Start” Dynamic Theme
  • Premium Avatars: 2 x Fat Princess
  • 24 hour early preview: Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days

It's worth noting that LittleBigPlanet was only available to the annual subscribers and not the 3 months package subscribers.  It's also the only game content that can be kept by people if they let their subscription lapse (excluding themes and avatars).  After the break you'll find a table of material I downloaded and purchased by means of the 'Plus' service.

In the launch material Sony made much of the claim that over £200 worth of content would be given away throughout the year.  Looking at the content I consumed, that claim looks like it will hold true.  I downloaded content to the value of £36.73 in the first month alone and that figure excludes LittleBigPlanet which is now listed in the PlayStation Store as £16.99 (despite it being a bit cheaper in its physical format from stores like Shopto or Play - surely digital content should be cheaper?).  A true total figure would come in at £53.72 if we include that content.

However, there are a few caveats I need to point out.  I already owned both LittleBigPlanet and Wipeout HD, as well as the 'premium' DLC for Killzone 2.  Frankly, I'd imagine many PS3 owners will already have these games given their critical acclaim and decent sales figures since they were launched (in fact I gave away my physical version of LittleBigPlanet to a pal).  Therefore I've added an extra field to the table called 'Saving' which shows how much the downloads would have cost had I purchased them in the traditional way.  This figure is more modest at £14.77.

There's another issue here too.  Of the content that I did download, I can safely say that it was unlikely that I would have ever purchased it had it not been included in the subscription package.  I had no interest in the Minis titles or the PSOne Classic game.  That's £11.97 worth of content that would never have been paid for.  I might have purchased the theme or the avatar so the true value for money on offer looks a little dubious.  I would have taken advantage of the Wipeout HD offer had I not already purchased it so that balances out.  A more sceptical take on the value of the content I may have paid for comes to £2.90

One negative consequence of the new service is that subscribers might be a little less eager to buy PSN games, preferring to wait and see what the Plus package will offer - a point made on the official Sony blog by user GothPunk.  I have certainly held back from buying games since the inception of Plus for this reason.  I'm also a sucker for discount/sale offers, as outlined (.pdf) by the behavioural economist Dan Ariely, and like to feel like I've got a bargain.  Consumer behaviour can be difficult to predict but there are tried and tested means for incentivising customers to purchase.  I fell for the discounted DLC offer on Fat Princess - a game I haven't played for about a year - but I'm no longer willing to buy full games, just in case they appear as part of the 'Plus' package.

Looking forwards

Yesterday Sony announced what content will make up the next two months of Playstation Plus

  • PSN: Zen Pinball
  • minis: Blast-Off, Alien Zombie Death
  • PSOne Classic: Medievil
  • Full Game Trial: Infamous, Mushroom Wars
  • Exclusive Discounts: Zen Pinball Earth Defense Table – 20%, Warhawk Triple Combo Pack – 50%, GT Club PS3/PSN – 50%, WipeOut HD Fury – 20%
  • DLC: MotorStorm Pacific Rift: Adrenaline Pack
  • Automatic download demo: Pixel Junk Shooter, Mafia 2
  • Dynamic themes: Exclusive PlayStation Plus Theme, Exclusive ‘Clock’ Theme
  • Premium avatars: Heavy Rain characters x 2
  • PSN: Sam and Max: Devil’s Playground (entire season)
  • minis: Vector Tower Defense, Echoes
  • PSOne Classic: Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
  • Full Game Trial: Warhawk (with exclusive 50% discount for Plus members on purchase), Inferno Pool
  • Exclusive Discounts: LBP: Ico and Shadow of Colossus costume pack – 50%
  • Metal Gear Solid (PSOne) – 50%, Warhawk – 20%,  Pixel Junk Shooter – 20%, 
  • DLC: Exclusive UFC Undisputed 2010 DLC
  • Dynamic themes: Exclusive PlayStation Move theme, Exclusive ‘Fish Tank’ theme
  • Premium avatars: Eye Pet Blue Goalie Avatar, Eye Pet DJ Avatar

This could be a shrewd move by Sony - by announcing what games/DLC are comng soon subscribers can decide whether or not to purchase the relavant titles.  For instance, will people hunt out cheap retail versions of MotorStorm Pacific Rift and UFC Undisputed 2010 knowing that they will be able to score on the free DLC?

Sony have also promised extra exclusive content will appear throughout the months. As for whether or not the announcements will act in Sony's favour or against them remains to be seen.  I'll report on August's value for money in the first week of September.


Shaun said...

I too bought the 12 month Playstation Plus subscription on day of release.

Looking at the first months exclusives, I personally didn't think they were that bad. LBP I'd actually bought twice and traded it in each time for different reasons. It wasn't that I didnt like it (coz I do), I just tended to trade it in for new games. I was actually considering getting it again when I found out I could get a digital copy for free through Playstation Plus; money saved I reckon. Wipeout was a game I had never owned after its original release due to not having the console to play it and to be fair, it wasn't a game I probably would of bought despite it's original hype. Over time, my taste in games has changed and when the demo was made available on PSN, I downloaded that and quite enjoyed it. Would I have paid for the full game? Quite possible.

I did download the dynamic themes but probably wouldn't of paid for them and as for the 'Fat Princess' avatars and the PSX games, I gave them a miss even though they were free.

I Probably saved some money (ignoring the fact I had to buy a replacement console in the mean time) and over a year, I believe Sony's statement of £200 worth of content will probably be correct.

Rob said...

Hi Shaun, thanks for posting.

I think that over the next 10 months subscribers will, on the whole, get value for money out of the service. After all, when compared to Xbox Live, there are all the benefits of the free games each month. And £39.99 is the price of a retail game per year...

The early adopters like yourself are the ones who stand to gain the best value out of the service, especially with LIttleBigPlanet thrown in.

I am still a little dubious about how the service might impact on future PSN retail figures. I'm awaiting on a Sony press release discussing these and the volume of subscribers. There's only 3 others subscribers on my friends list (which includes Neil Perryman: tachyontv). Out of interest, how many people do you know who have paid up for it?

Stephen said...

It's a great deal if you want to experiment but I only download my favorates of the the ps1 classic range and don't like being told what to buy.. I'm dissapointed at how north America has double the amount of classics we do, it seems reasonless. The arguement is the price of a month is the price of a ps1 classic so in theory it's all profit, the main aspect that's put me off is you lose the content if you unsubscribe meaning it's a fee for life. I can imagine if you have a network of friends it's great for the other aspects of playstation plus but that value is worthless if you use the ps3 as a secondary console, only to play games you can't play on the xbox. The real question is how it compares as a subscription service to xboxlive.

Rob said...

Hi Stephen, thanks for the contribution - some interesting points. I was never that big a PS1 gamer so I don't have the attachment others might have with regards to the Classics, but I agree with your point.

I don't have Xbox Live so I'm really looking forward to hearing from people over the next 10 months who have both services. I'd really like to see how they compare.

There's been quite a surge in the last 12 months of people purchasing the PS3. I'm not sure how many of them use it as the primary or secondary machine but the gap between the Xbox and the PS3 is down to about 2.4 million units now (source). There may be some newcomers to the HD consoles in that bunch, as they upgrade from the Wii. I don't really have a fully formed point here! I guess, 12-18 months ago, if you owned a 360 there was no real need to own a PS3 as well but prices have come down and there should be more people out there who can offer comparisons of the respective services.

Shaun said...

So far, your the only person on my friends list who has purchased PS+, Rob. The majority of my friends are more than happy with the current free gaming service that the PSN provides and the only time they really buy any content is when the latest map packs become available. I do know at least 3 people who own both the 360 and the PS3 and who have bought the same DLC for each console and persumably, bought the games again as well.

Like XBOX LIVE, i do think that the PSN could do with more content but i also understand that this is mainly down to territories. Whilst the US can be counted as 1 territory, the EU territory is made up of all its memeber states, so due to licenses and certifications, not all content can be made available here.

Like Stephen said, it is good that you can experiment and try things for free that you wouldn't otherwise consider but until more people invest in PS+, I can't really see it harming games sales.

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