"There's A Ton Of Value In The Network"
The decision to charge for online PS4 multiplayer as part of a PlayStation Plus subscription caused a bit of a stir back in the summer, but apparently it was simply too "hard" for Sony to continue offering the PSN as a free service as it expanded over the years. They're convinced that the added benefits of a subscription far outweigh the cost, though.
We're inclined to agree.
Sony Network Entertainment VP Eric Lempel told Gamesindustry.biz that their constant investment in the service made it increasingly difficult for them to offer PSN as a free service to all subscribers. "There's a ton of value in the network," he said. "We've built up the network over the years and made a significant investment... and it's quite honestly hard to keep everything [free],"
However, he was also quick to remind us that a PlayStation Plus subscription isn't just a pay wall, rather it also allows customers to download free games for the duration of their subscription on PS3, PS4 and Vita, along with a raft of discounts and extra services. This, he says, makes shelling out the extra cash a bit of a no-brainer.
"The investment in Plus gives the user a ton of value, so putting multiplayer in there will continue to help us build the network up for our users," he said. Lempel was also quick to point out that while the PS4's online multiplayer will be tied to PlayStation Plus, the console's third party apps won't be similarly restricted to subscribers. "We kept everything else free to the user. So for example, we've got 11 partner apps right off the bat," he continued. "This is something [Microsoft] isn't doing."
He's not wrong, actually. Consider this: an Xbox Live Gold subscription unlocks online multiplayer, apps that are free on other platforms such as Skype, and a free game download every now and again. PlayStation Plus, meanwhile, does the same thing - only granting access to a much wider array of games (on PS3, PS4 and Vita), alongside those nifty discounts.
This argument plays out every time we post about a new 'games with gold' update - but while Microsoft's approach is absolutely fine if not rather generous when comparing the PS3 and Xbox 360, they'll need to significantly up their game when it comes to the next generation. Both consoles require you to pay for multiplayer - so it's all about the extras.
Whether PS Plus will retain its quality perks, especially once the PS4 hits its stride, is anybody's guess. It's currently a premium optional service that needs to tempt consumers into spending extra cash with the Instant Game Collection and other incentives. As a mandatory part of the PS4's ecosystem, though, the drive to deliver might well wane as the months go by.
But we'll still get plenty of free stuff out of it before then, even as a worst case scenario. Anyway, that's enough out of me - are you happy to pay for online multiplayer on PS4?
Just in case you didn't know, the PS4 releases Stateside this Friday, and finally arrives in this green and pleasant land on November 29th. If you're wondering, that's why there are so many Sony-related stories today. It's kind of a big deal.