"I had Xbox LIVE for 10 years and didn't have as many outages as I have in my first year of PSN. It's crap."
I want to thank russ3333 for that comment there, left in the wake of the announcement that Sony would be performing maintenance on the PSN service the night before Far Cry 4 and the new-gen version of GTA V are due to be released. Sony even added in a disclaimer, warning that although the PSN was slated to come back online at midnight (at which point both games launch) the maintenance work could overrun. Given the long history of PSN downtime, you'd probably get competitive odds on the PSN still being offline by the time you got back from the midnight launch.
While writing this article, Sony announced that they were moving the scheduled maintenance forwards by an hour.
I had both an Xbox 360 and a PS3 for the majority of the previous console generation, and I did most of my multiplayer gaming on Xbox LIVE. It seemed ridiculous, sure -- you could play for free on PS3, after all -- but, as we've mentioned several times here onsite, Xbox LIVE proved to be far more stable and reliable and worthwhile in that regard. Sure, I was paying a £30 (under when there was a good deal, and there was always a good deal) premium per year, but that really wasn't much in the grand scheme of things.
PlayStation Plus changed all of that, of course. Here was a subscription service that delivered an outstanding smorgasbord of free games and excellent discounts, and it kept getting better and better. Suddenly, you didn't really need to buy games any more for your PS3.
Of course, standing at the end of 2014, the subscription services on Xbox One and PS4 are broadly similar. You need subscriptions to play online across both platforms now, and Microsoft introduced Games With Gold to try and rival PlayStation Plus. The two subscriptions cost about the same, but although there are broad similarities and parallels, it's clear that each side's original strengths still remain their biggest selling points.
Games With Gold has been a bit of a farce, let's be honest, whereas PlayStation Plus has leapt from strength to strength. Microsoft are doing a better job these days of delivering deals and discounts to loyal subscribers, but Sony lock it down every fortnight with reams and reams of digital price slashing, and they tend to shout a bit louder about it as well. The PS Blog is region-specific and, by nature of being a blog, feels more like an easy-going digital exchange between company and consumer. Microsoft, on the other hand, have the press release factory at Xbox Wire, and an inconsistent, creepy uncle in Major Nelson.
Turn that around in terms of delivering a reliable, stable online service, and I think Xbox LIVE still comes out ahead for the neutral, in spite of its recent blip. That's the thing, though, when LIVE is down, it's a blip. When the PSN goes down, it's frequently part of disruptive scheduled maintenance. None come more disruptive than on the evening ahead of release for two of the major launches of the year, and even though Sony have moved the window forwards, it's a still cutting things a little fine.
But this hasn't really made much of a difference. As someone who games first and foremost on PS4, and considering the amount I use the thing, I'm actually happy to say that I've not felt too inconvenienced by the performance of the PSN. It's not quite as robust as Microsoft's service, that much is evident, but in my opinion, the perks of PS Plus, the Instant Game Collection's healthy dose of weird and wonderful titles on PS4 (it could be better, and Sony really need some first-party support soon), and the frequently excellent digital discounts do actually serve to counterbalance that.
Sales would suggest that I'm clearly not alone in this.
But I want to put the question to you dear readers. What do you make of the services across PS4 and Xbox One? Do you think Microsoft has it made when it comes to online stability? How much does the Instant Game Collection factor into your thinking? Were you to buy a console simply based on XBL vs the PSN, which way would you go?