Oct 22, 2013
With the release of next-gen consoles, it seems that paying an online subscription will become necessary for online play.
Right now it seems, that gamers are getting a relatively good deal with their subscription services. The appeal of the PlayStation network is the fact it’s free. For the lifespan of the PS3, gamers have been able to log online with any game they choose, for nothing. This was an attempt to combat the previously established Xbox Live, which is still going strong.
Sony introduced PlayStation Plus a while back now, which gave subscribers notable benefits, such as storing save files in the cloud. But the one thing that caught on were their free games, which were free to play for as long as you were subscribed to the service. Microsoft recently introduced a similar service, called Games with Gold. It was said to run until 2013, but has proved such a success it has been extended indefinitely.
So what are the benefits of joining such a system? Well, Microsoft offered Halo 3, which has revitalised the online community. Fans who previously got bored of the series can return to find thousands of players, and it also introduces newly found fans to the series. Microsoft are offering DLC for free, or for a discount, effectively gaining even more money from a game which was otherwise obsolete. Otherwise, they have offered Assassin’s Creed II, and Dead Rising 2. This can also encourage new players to purchase other titles in the franchise, such as newer releases.
It is also a good move for Microsoft, who are infamous for bad customer service. And when Sony offer a ton of benefits, aside from their free online-play, Games with Gold looks like a good bet to dispel any rumours of bad service. After all, giving gamers free games has to be the best way to win them over, right?
So how will this transition over into the next-generation of consoles? Will people feel cheated by a lack of free titles? At the moment PlayStation Plus offers AAA titles, yet when the next-gen comes along and the service presumably continues, there won’t be a back catalogue of games to choose from, and they can hardly offer titles that have been out for a mere few days. Games with Gold does not look set to make it’s way onto the Xbox One, and so is a good ploy to keep players on their 360’s for the foreseeable future, with the promise of free titles.
Despite this, the free-to-play model looks set to make a splash on next-gen. Warframe and Planetside 2 have already established themselves on the PC, and they look likely to become very popular on console. How the future of these titles goes is questionable. There is a chance it could be bringing down how much gamers will consider spending on a game, and may even convince them to wait for it to be released for free (as I’ve seen many fans are for PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale on PS Plus).
The games they release are usually on the older side, which an avid gamer would have already played. This will only really convince the more casual player, who is probably less likely to subscribe to a paying service, yet could be a tempting offer if taken onto next-gen. If they were to offer less stale games, then they could be onto a winner.
PS Plus offers newer games than Games with Gold so far, such as Mafia II, Far Cry 3, and Metal Gear Solid Rising. There is no denying that these are top quality titles, that aren’t even remotely old, so Microsoft could have a fight on it’s hand, as the popularity that Sony has met means it will likely continue onto the PS4. Driveclub is offered as free initially, and could convince many to side with the PS4, despite delays.
With Sony having learnt many lessons from PSN on PS3, perhaps fans will not be as reluctant to spend money on subscribing to their online service. Microsoft will have to step up it’s game in order to match Sony’s offering, but whether free games is enough incentive for fans to pick one console over another is a different matter entirely.