By now, we all know the story. The Playstation 4 set for release this holiday season requires a Playstation+ subscription for access to general online play. What I am currently looking at are the implications of the PS+ program on the gaming community, developers, and the games themselves.
Please Note: I would like to state that since Microsoft has laid claim to a descriptively similar plan with the inclusion of “Games with Gold” as a part of Xbox LIVE Gold that many of these arguments can be similarly addressed for MS and the Xbox One console.
First off, I would like to address the fact that PS+ has indeed become a pay wall. Not just any pay wall, but a pay wall for generally the second, and from many individuals the most sought after feature of the console: Online Multiplayer. This is similar to the XLG pay wall that has been in place for online multiplayer on all Microsoft consoles since day one. That value that XLG may or may not have provided shall be left to your individual opinions in this discussion.
Nonetheless, since its inception, PS+ has served to be a source of revenue while providing amazing value to its subscribers. Never was this more evident than with the inclusion of the Instant Game Collection, which in the last year has provided access to a wide variety of 64 digital games for owners of the Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita for a measly $50.
Yet, with as much value as provided through the program, it produced nowhere near the revenue that the XLG pay wall brought in with an estimated 40-50 million subscribers paying $60 retail on a yearly basis for access to the online features of the Xbox platform. This pay wall became a necessity from a competitive standpoint.
Impact 1: The Gamer.
With the relative success of the XLG pay wall, and the value provided from PS+. I am completely certain this will be a financially successful endeavor for Sony’s Playstation brand, meaning… a majority of gamers will pay this fee and get its services in return. So, after 2 years of subscription to this service the average gamer will have access to an estimated 120 games. Far more than the average gamer can handle. It essentially becomes possible to pick up a console and never even have to think of the games store ever again all the while having a huge majority of the console’s repertoire at their digital fingertips. This leads to some of the “issues” that many PS+ subscribers see today, but being experienced on a scale of the majority. Issues including HDD space, time, and [most importantly to a later point] a fear of purchasing something that will be accessible to PS+ members in only a few days/weeks/months.
Now, more than ever, gaming will make the transition to digital. Right under our noses, going hand in hand with a subscription of all things and furthermore proving that gamers work better with a carrot than a stick we will slowly be accepting the very thing we have been so defiantly fighting against.
Impact 2: The Developer.
As a trend I noticed; from cases like Square-Enix allowing Dues Ex: Human Revolution after reporting falling earnings, numerous games from THQ around the time of its dissolution, and during the first truly noticeable year of falling sales of FROM SOFTWARE’s Demon’s Souls after the release of its spiritual successor, along with numerous other cases such as a soon to be released sequel; for several companies placing their games on PS+ has been a shot in the arm when weak and weary sales begin to slump or simply when cash is needed.
I believe that with the combination of subscribers’ fears as mentioned earlier, and developers becoming dependent many companies will find their revenue spiking more so than ever on “day 1” and “PS +uesday” and practically dropping off the face of the earth otherwise.
Impact 3: The Games.
“Free taste test, pshh, how ‘bout a free scoop*” …*all additional scoops and toppings will come at a cost.
More than enough to get you hooked, then: YANK! More DLC, cut out content, season passes, and micro-transactions. Yes, I said it. With a network that is more social than ever, and massive potential revenue from games a majority will get access to at a “set” price to the developer with the subscription plan anyway, it is practically undeniable. I don’t want it to be, but it will be the most successful business model for future games entering the IGC and “money makes the world go around”.
Final Words: It’s Not All Bad.
We can see that. It’s our money and we see value, so we spend accordingly. It won’t be exactly like I said, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but I do expect a noticeable impact on the way the gaming industry works.