Sony Interactive Entertainment have been encouraging owners of PlayStation systems to become subscribers of their PlayStation Plus service since it launched back in 2010. Over the years, it has evolved from a service providing a low-cost games subscription service to what it has become today offering a range of services across all of Sony’s current platforms but is it really of any use for the modern PS Vita owner?
I’ve been a PlayStation Plus subscriber for as long as I can remember. Looking at my download list I can see hundreds of games I’ve received through the service that I have downloaded onto my PS3, PS Vita and PSP and – when I eventually purchase one – the PS4 as well. I certainly can’t deny that it’s left me wanting when it comes to building up an impressive software collection, but looking at what PlayStation Plus charges and what I am actually getting for my money now, as a PS Vita owner is it really something that is worth the asking price?
Stripping PlayStation Plus down to its component parts, it’s clear from the offset that the service is now clearly aimed at PlayStation 4 owners rather than any of the other Sony platforms. Whether it’s the Official Blog, the PS+ website, or emails from Sony themselves, the emphasis is always on what PlayStation Plus offers for PS4 owners, what features it has and what the benefits are with little or no mention for the PS3 or PS Vita. So what are we actually getting for our money?
- Cloud Storage – online storage for save game data across all three PlayStation platforms
- Discounts – regular discounts on selected titles from the PlayStation Store, including many day one releases
- Online Multiplayer Gaming – PlayStation Plus is required to be able to use the PS4 for online gaming (currently free for PS3 and PS Vita owners)
- Share Play – PS4 owners can allow other gamers to share gaming sessions without the need to own the same game
- Beta Early Access – some PS3 and PS4 titles (mainly the latter) are available early for PS+ members
- Instant Games Collection – 2 games available “free” to members per month per platform
Looking at the list, it’s easy to see why PS Vita owners are becoming disillusioned with PlayStation Plus. The price of the service has increased for those who take out the quarterly subscription option, yet most of the features are focused on a single PlayStation platform. Analysing them in turn, from a Vita owner’s perspective, unless you own a PS4 as well as a Vita most features are going to be irrelevant to you.
Cloud Storage does have its uses, but predominantly this is more as a safety net incase game data becomes corrupted or you find yourself needing to delete content from memory cards and just want to back up data. It’s really of greater value to PS3 and PS4 owners wanting to back up save games to protect their save data in the event of a hardware failure. Discounts, on the other hand, can result in great savings with some averaging at around 20% off normal PSN Store prices, but to save the cost of your PS+ membership you would need to spend over £200 a year on discounted digital games alone.
Disregarding the three non-Vita elements for now, that just leaves the Instant Games Collection. Contrary to the impression that some people have, the IGC isn’t a collection of “free” games every month but rather games that are included as part of the PlayStation Plus subscription package. As soon as your subscription ends, so does your access to these games so essentially it’s a games rental service, the only difference being that you a) can’t choose the games you rent and b) you get to rent the games indefinitely but just keep adding more to your rental “pile”. This is a very important thing to understand in terms of how the service works because this will affect its relevance to many gamers.
For those who own multiple Sony systems (and actively use them), it’s quite easy to justify taking out a PlayStation Plus subscription as you will end up adding six games a month to your library that you are likely to play (or potentially play). It’s when you take one or more consoles out of the picture that it becomes a tougher decision to stick with the service. In the early days of PlayStation Plus it was a no-brainer… AAA titles were included alongside smaller games, PSOne Classics and Minis allowing you to have a pretty diverse collection of games. Now, PS3 owners are being offered occasional AAA titles and other games that are the better part of a decade old.
The PS Vita doesn’t seem to be faring much better. In recent months, we have been provided with a large number of PSP titles and while many of these have been great games, this is not what many people signed up for. We were promised two VITA games a month and instead we are now getting a PSP title and in some months the second Vita title ends up being a Cross Buy game, shared with the PS3 and PS4 providing the other two formats with an extra game each.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love games from indie developers, even more so that support the Cross Buy initiative, but it does feel as if it is cheapening PlayStation Plus for Vita owners. The August 2016 lineup for the PS Vita, for example, has a Cross Buy title and a five year old PSP game. Is that really offering good value for money? The question you have to ask as a gamer is how you actually play the games you receive from PlayStation Plus (or games on your Vita generally). Are you the sort of gamer who buys a game and then plays it through from start to finish until completion and then is quite happy to delete it, never to load it again? Or are you a serious collector, either buying original cartridges or looking to build up a large games collection through purchases or PlayStation Plus? Are you the type of gamer who takes their time and savours the gaming experience and could spend weeks or months playing the same game?
Personally my Vita collection doesn’t afford me the luxury of being able to play every game from start to finish as soon as I get them. With over 1,000 games (native Vita, PSP, PSOne, Minis and PlayStation Mobile) both digitally and as physical cartridges with all the digital games permanently downloaded spread across nine memory cards, having that sort of games library on hand means I can dip in and out of games as and when I like. Growing up in the 80s with low cost games has helped me take that more relaxed attitude towards gaming and I do feel I get more from my Vita that way, but if I still want to play any of those early games I downloaded from PS+ a couple of years ago, my only choice is to keep my subscription live regardless of the quality of service Sony are currently giving to us.
Maybe its time Sony Interactive Entertainment reevaluated the service once more and looked at just how people are using it. It’s not as if there are a shortage of games available across all formats that could be offered but why not offer either tiered membership so Vita owners can opt out of the PS3 / PS4 content so the service better meets our needs, or why not look at offering something a little different… a return to giving away PSOne Classics or Minis as bonus content for PS Vita and PS3 owners, one unique game per format and then two Cross Buy titles, DLC for popular games (it wouldn’t be the first time and who wouldn’t love to see new tables for games like The Pinball Arcade or Zen Pinball 2 release first through PlayStation Plus?). The potential is limitless, as long as Sony Interactive can just do one simple thing… stop thinking that the world revolves around the PS4 and PlayStation VR.
Until that happens it might be time to start planning to buy all your favourite PS+ games now before Sony drops support for the PS3 and PS Vita from the service altogether.