Sony's PlayStation Network: Food for Thought
This is no complaint, rather, food for thought.
It's rather interesting that at one point, Sony and PlayStation gamers alike prided themselves in the free online gaming provided with the launch of the PS3. The earlier half of the departing generation was a time when fans of the console would point out the benefits of their console by stating that the online component was free, and how the competition was either greedy or simply not providing the service that behooved gamers the most. Many argued, "Why should I have to pay extra just to access the other half of the game I already paid for?"
Some years later, rumors of a subscription-based service began making rounds, and some fears cropped up. What was once a free service might not be any longer. Of course, some critics might have been quick to point out that if PlayStation gamers had to pay to play online, the main draw to the Sony platform was gone and made it an automatically inferior service. Obviously we know this wasn't true. Undoubtedly many gamers found comfort in the fact that the new PlayStation Plus service was not mandatory and that it really was a great deal for anyone who wished to pay for the functionality. We were not made to pay for it, and we could still play online without extra charge, so surely there was no issue.
Again, some years later, the PS4 is announced and the plans for the online service became public. Anyone wishing to play online the games they buy would have to pay for the service. The once entirely optional PlayStation Plus will now be a little more mandatory. That's not to say that you'll have to pay for PlayStation Plus to enjoy your shiny new PS4. Indeed, you never have to touch the service if you truly don't want to. Of course, this also means you won't have access to that "second half" of your game and you'll have to miss out. A feature that certainly factored into the purchase of many a gamer for the last console is gone.
It's important to remember that PlayStation Plus isn't a bad thing to exist. You'll find many gamers that positively attest to their experience with it, and will even say that the price of admission was one of the best choices they ever made. But it was a choice.
It's interesting to wonder if this was Sony's plan all along. If, all the way back when PlayStation Plus was first announced, and when we comfortably said to one another, "It's not mandatory so it can only be a good thing," Sony had all along made the rather clever business decision to slowly introduce what would soon be a service that one would have to pay for in order to enjoy the online.
It seems to have worked. It's very obvious that if Sony had made PlayStation Plus mandatory to play online before in the middle of the console cycle when they introduced the service, they would have received backlash. More than any company would be comfortable with. Maybe they knew they couldn't do that. Maybe they knew they wanted gamers to pay for online in the following generation to turn a profit in their almost-certainly-in-developmen t-PS4. Well, the best way to do that would be to ease the gamers into a "totally optional version now," build hype for a powerful new console, and then more easily justify a paywall.
Many don't have a problem with this at all, and are more than ready to snag their new console and service and games and what-have-you in the following month. Still, I hope no one forgets that having a choice was never a bad thing.