One of the perks of being a Playstation fan is having the option of Playstation Plus (PS Plus). A service that allows you to play Playstation 4 games online as well as offering monthly collections of free games to download and play… as long as you are actively subscribed. I have played a great many games that I would not have if not for PS Plus. However, I find myself less interested in the free games with every passing month. For a gamer who’s PS Plus subscription is active to 2017, one might say that this is concerning. In this light, I thought I would write about my feelings of the recent PS Plus IGC’s and why they seem to be lacking some luster for me, and possibly others. This might turn into a regular column for me so I am giving it a title, PS Plus Me.
A spot of back-story
The monthly instant game collection (IGC) started off very modestly with games such as Wipeout and Cuboid but improved toward the end of the Playstation 3’s life cycle. Also, the IGC started of with different titles for certain regions but has since unified, which just makes much more sense. I joined PS Plus in 2012 and started off with Machinarium and Limbo. After the PS4 was released, it seemed that Sony was put in an awkward place with the IGC. The PS4 does not yet have a vast back library of titles like the PS3, so IGC game choices reverted to smaller indie titles. This is understandable because no one in their right mind would hand out new big-budget AAA titles for free. Recently we were given the option to vote on September’s IGC games but this options seems to have been abandoned. Honestly, I did not feel as though I had many options in this case anyway.
It seems to me that the IGC now takes the following format: PS3 IGC games are big AAA classics or HD remakes along with smaller cross-buy games. PS Vita games are smaller or indie games that are sometimes new but almost always cross-buy. PS4 IGC games are indie (sometimes new), mid-tier or HD-remakes along with the occasional expansion. While taking a step back, this model is quite interesting so lets have a look at the individual platforms…
PS3’s PS Plus IGC
It’s clear to me that PS Plus favours new PS3 owners the most. The IGC list for PS3 is filled with big titles such as Mass Effect 2 and 3, God of War games, BioShock Infinite, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Assassin’s Creed III, Far Cry 3, Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception, Hitman: Absolution, Borderlands 1 and 2 amongst many many others. I would venture to say that if you bought a PS3 running PS Plus since June 2012 you probably would have never had to buy a game if you did not care about buying and playing new releases.
On the other hand if you are a gamer who has owned a PS3 for a long time and does buy games, the monthly IGC becomes more of a lottery where you hope you get a classic that you don’t already own or have not played before. However, PS3 IGC’s may also contain cross-buy indie games which might bring something new to your library. Owning a PS4 makes it worse for PS3 owners because PS4 games seem to take over ones life, leaving less time for going back to a smaller indie game or older HD collection on the PS3. Despite having access to a PS3, the release of games like the Witcher III: Wild Hunt and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain just gives you less reasons to go back.
PS Vita’s PS Plus IGC
I should probably start off by saying that the PS Vita is a major mess up for Sony. The messaging for what this platform was supposed to be and what it is now is so disjunct that I don’t even know what the Vita’s existence is for and how to describe it. We were promised mobile AAA titles but we received mobile indie titles. Not to say that indie is bad, but the messaging was wrong and now the Vita is in Limbo. Limbo, that’s also how you would describe the IGC for PS Vita. The majority of PS Vita IGC titles are cross-buy games. Meaning you can play them on one or both of the other platforms. Which begs the question: are we actually getting a PS Vita IGC in the first place? The short answer… No. You are getting an instant game collection for PS3 and PS4 that you can also happen to play on the PS Vita as well.
As of January 2015 I can only identify perhaps 5 IGC games that are exclusively on PS Vita. I feel like this is a major cop-out for Sony. But this also might be a symptom of a bigger problem: the Vita is just not getting support for exclusives. Probably because the install base is so low. As it stands, it seems that the PS Vita has just become a platform for cross-buys, cross-plays and remote-plays. Which is sad, but probably a topic for another day.
PS4’s PS Plus IGC
In my honest opinion PS Plus does not offer much value to PS4 owners. The console is still young and the game library is still small. As such, PS4 IGC games consist mainly of smaller indie titles. The three titles that come close to being AAA experiences are Infamous: First Light which is an expansion to Infamous: Second Son, Metal Gear Ground Zeros which is basically just a prologue to Phantom Pain and then there’s Injustice: God’s Among Us which is a last-gen port. However, some of the smaller games that did debut on PS Plus IGC were big hits. Most notably, Resogun and Rocket League, the latter being quite a success. Without seeing the numbers, it’s difficult to say whether releasing your game on PS Plus benefits your gaming studio over independent release. But in an age of financial uncertainty, I don’t see why more studios wouldn’t try releasing some games on PS Plus for a guaranteed sum of money over uncertainty in demand.
If you aren’t too impressed by the games, the cost of PS Plus also doubles as a subscription service for playing PS4 games online. The Xbox community has had this model for a while and it was smart of Playstation to include this in their PS Plus service in lieu of a separate one. However, the Xbox players get what they pay for with a stable network and we just have to wait and see whether the PSN can one day achieve the same reputability as Xbox Live, but for now it doesn’t. Now the story get’s a bit dicey if you don’t play games online. To me having a PS Plus subscription for just a PS4 that you don’t play online with is not the best financial decision.
Consistency: October’s IGC vs. November’s IGC
October’s Instant Game Collection was as follows:
PS4: Super Meat Boy, Broken Age, Unmechanical: Extended
PS3: Unmechanical: Extended, Chariot, KickBeat, Kung Fu Rabbit
PS Vita: Super Meat Boy, Broken Age, KickBeat, Kung Fu Rabbit
November’s Instant Game Collection is as follows:
PS4: Walking dead S2, Magicka 2, Dragon Fin Soup
PS3: Beyond Good and Evil HD, Mass Effect 2, Dragon Fin Soup
PS Vita: Invizimals, Dragon Fin Soup
The difference between October’s IGC and November’s IGC line-up is representative of a lack of consistency between months. For me, October represents a poorly planned IGC with mostly cross-buy titles and no “classic” games. What I suppose it had going for it was some mind-share with Super Meat Boy and Broken Age. November on the other hand represents a much better line-up for both Sony and the player. Being Halloween and with Walking Dead returning to TV recently, having Walking Dead Season 2 is a no-brainer. For one, it meets a theme that most people are following and secondly it’s the second in the series which would prompt the player to buy the first season, thereby increasing sales. PS3 and PS Vita owners get exclusive games that they might not have played. Lastly, there is a new release in Dragon Fin Soup which gives everyone something new to play. November is a well thought out and balanced line-up for the IGC and I hope Sony continues this form.
What should be in December’s IGC
I don’t usually attempt to guess what will be in the following months IGC but I suppose there is some fun in doing so, so here goes. We know that Sony’s first party line-up is quite dry for the festive season. The only real stand out for Sony is the Nathan Drake Collection. As such, it would seem fitting if there was other Naughty Dog content present in the IGC, perhaps The Last of Us content on PS3, or PS4 if they are feeling generous. Or even the return of the Jak and Daxter Trilogy for those who did not pick that up the first time it came around. With Fallout coming soon, it might be pertinent to have Fallout 3 and New Vegas available for people to catch up. Similarly, with Star War’s Battlefront on the horizon, the Force Unleashed Games might be pertinent. Also, those who are keen for Street Fighter V might appreciate wetting their appetite with Street Fighter IV.
How to make it better
I alluded to earlier that the IGC could use better consistency and planning across platforms. There is still one major problem now that this service has been running for so long i.e. the increasing chance that users already have the game. To combat this I would implement some choices as to what games a subscriber would recieve. Now Sony tried this for September’s IGC, but quite frankly, that was the wrong way to do it. Voting works well for democracy (or at least it’s supposed to) but not so well for entertainment, we should have had the option to choose for ourselves, not for the entire user base.
It’s time to bring AAA PS4 games into the mix. I don’t understand how games like Knack are not already on the IGC. With Sony’s first party line-up this December, adding some AAA games to the IGC might just prevent users from swaying to the competition’s stronger line-up.
Also, bring PS1 and PSP classics into the mix. We cannot play PS1 or PSP classics on PS4, only on PS3 (PS1) and PS Vita. What most people might not know is that the PS Vita was built to emulate PS1 games in a much superior way than the PS3. Having a consistent roll-out of games like Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy VI or Chrono Trigger on IGC might just spark some life back into the Vita.
The Bottom Line
Playstation Plus is a great service for Sony fans but it favor’s some fans over others. PS3 owners relatively new to the game benefit much better than PS4 and PS Vita owners. The instant game collection has very little consistency between months which only adds to the inequality in quality between platforms. If you just have a PS Vita, PS Plus is probably not for you. Online PS4 players probably don’t care about the IGC to begin with but players who don’t care about online will probably not benefit much from PS Plus.
As it stands, I am probably not getting much bang for my buck at the moment, but it’s not too bad. Depending on what kind of gamer you are the other features of PS Plus might be more important to you. For me, cloud saving and PS Plus discounts adds to the great value of the service. In any case, I am still hording up quite a sum of games that might come in handy on a rainy day (perhaps even literally) so it’s not all bad, it’s just not all good either.
Image credits: Sony Playstation, Naughty Dog