Dissecting PlayStation Plus And Its Long-Term Viability
This past week got quite chaotic when we talked about Games with Gold and how Xbox were beginning to embarrass themselves with the so-called ‘rewards program’ especially compared to Sony’s infinitely superior PlayStation Plus offering. Now I am as much a fan of equal exposure as I am of personifying corporate identities with words such as “themselves”, so I figured it was time we addressed any concerns regarding the PS Plus offering. Specifically over the long term; is it a viable subscription model or will it end up doing more harm than good?
I cannot presume to know all the answers right now — although I can at least be better than Michael Pachter and admit that I am making mere educated guesses based on evidence and experience, rather than wildly random guesswork — but I can at least try to look at where we’ve been in order to try to predict where we’re going. I also want to make a quick disclaimer, as I did in that Xbox article, that I am seriously looking forward to getting an Xbox One when it releases here in South Africa, and I don’t want a PlayStation 4 first… maybe later, when there are better games out for it.
- You’ll Be Able To Play (Expensive) PS2 Games On Your PS4 Now | 2 months ago
- Jessica Jones Disempowers Its Male Characters And The Effect Is Refreshing | 2 months ago
- Hell Is 30 000 Deathclaws Tearing Through Boston And It’s Glorious | 2 months ago
- Sony Santa Monica Is Teasing Something Truly Strange | 2 months ago
On the side of the gamers. (Or: The consumers)
As the consumer in a market, you are the lifeblood of business. Without you there are no sales and without sales there are no profits and so you see, a consumer is vital. A happy consumer, then, is someone who is going to improve business tenfold. A happy consumer will not hesitate to spend money. And money spent is profit made. Sony seems to understand this recently and whether or not they are really in it for themselves and the profits incurred, you have to grant that they are making consumers (gamers) feel as if they come first.
Sure PlayStation Plus has some stuff that you’ll find in the equivalent Xbox LIVE Gold subscription, for slightly less. You get the cloud saving, you get the access to specials and sale prices, you get the online multiplayer on PlayStation 4 together with enhanced chat capabilities. But what you also get besides the ability to automatically download updates and demos, is the ability to freely download and play a selection of games, some of which are under a year old, and then keep them for as long as you’re willing to pay for the subscription.
Have a look at the header image above. I’ve made it click-able if you need to zoom in on it. Have a look at that collection of games. All of that is what you could have right now in your Instant Games Collection, assuming your PS3 has a large enough hard drive for it and you renewed that subscription when it expired. Enough said?
On the side of the developers. (Or: The producers)
As the producer in a market, it is your job to provide a good or service in order for consumers to pay money for it. Your primary goal is obviously to make a profit but depending on how you go about that you could actually yield significant initial losses in order to gain even more profit later; often known as investments.
In that respect, to some developers having their games on the Instant Games Collection on PlayStation Plus is actually a means of investment. I’ve read a few articles online that dealt with this but two are of particular note. The first was a straight up confirmation that Sony does in fact pay developers to include their games in the Instant Games Collection. So that answered the admittedly troubling question of, ‘just what do developers get out of this if gamers are just going to get their games for free now?’ Well if you were worried about the Outlast developers spending all that budget on development over all those years and then releasing the game for free on PlayStation Plus, you need not worry as much; they were compensated for it.
The second piece was a Gamasutra article which attempted to answer exactly what question of whether PlayStation Plus is good for developers, and in it they quizzed a few developers who explained that there was a ‘nice boost’ received from having their games in the Instant Games Collection. In essence they are compensated by Sony in some way and they have the opportunity to increase their fanbase, which is invaluable for business.
As the Hotline Miami developer explains in that article, the idea is to put out just one title from a particular developer on PlayStation Plus, and then some interest in that developer’s games will gather and for future titles they’ve got an established fanbase to sell to, hopefully. So in essence it offers for developers a sort of extended demo, only Sony is making it worth their collective whiles to do so. Win win.
On the side of Sony. (Or: The market providers)
One key element of business in recent years is that of a market provider. In the case of Sony we have gamers and developers, both looking to get something out of the gaming industry, but they need a market for this. In comes Microsoft with Xbox LIVE; in comes Valve with Steam; in comes Sony with PlayStation Network. The idea with a market provider is to create a suitable and viable market for everyone to transact, while making a profit off those transactions. The market provider is in that way, a higher level of business.
This is where the question of long term viability comes in. Sony is currently winning a lot of favour with gamers for giving them games for ‘almost-free’ that are recent and, let’s say, desirable. In the meantime they are compensating developers in a manner that keeps them happy while also giving them some assurance of future business. In all it looks like a great deal. But what happens if the desirable games well dries up, or if developers start to demand more? Then what will Sony do?
Of course, these are all hypothetical questions and we could go on for days with them. So let’s rather ask the better question, the one that is on everyone’s mind right about now. I hope. What happens if gamers stop paying for games and instead just wait for it to come out on the Instant Games Collection?
The immediate first response is that they’re still paying for the subscription so in that way it becomes like Netflix, a sort of ‘on demand’ for games. Or, Games on Demand, lol Microsoft. So this means that there is revenue going into the subscription service, which can then be shared between Sony and their various partners. Further, the games releasing on the Instant Games Collection — with just a few notable exceptions such as Outlast — are at least a year old, which means that if you really want to play something then you can go out and buy it and play it in the time that it will take to get onto the Instant Games Collection; even then you don’t even know if Sony will actually manage to get it on there. So there’s no guarantee that it will play out that way.
Far more alarming for me, however, is the entitlement attitude of gamers, and people in general. If you do something nice for someone as a favour then they begin to expect it. Likewise, if you do something nice for gamers then they begin to expect it, if not expect more from you. There will come a month when Sony can’t secure something big and is forced to put out, let’s say, less desirable games. And maybe the reception is merely lukewarm but you can expect more than a few self-entitled tantrums about it.
As much as this is a potential issue for the future, if Sony can manage gamer expectations well and keep making it seem as if it’s entirely about them (Carnegie would be proud) then it seems like a win-win situation for everyone. Developers get a cut. Sony gets support. Gamers get games.
Are you paying attention, Microsoft?