Sunday, February 24, 2013

One PS4 Worry

Let's face a few facts here.  If there's absolutely -anything- that the Playstation brand has definitively got going on these days, it's absolutely Playstation Plus.  It's undeniable at this point - for $50 a year, you get access to a constantly expanding library of games for both the PS3 and the Vita, Cloud Saves for both devices and a suite of other niceties.  Almost instantly after you subscribe, the inherent value to the service is made apparent and even if you don't take full advantage of -everything- it has to offer, you're still getting a great deal.  In short, it's a hell of a bargain.  Almost too much of a bargain, though, which is where the issue settles in.

Playstation Plus is built around two basic principles at the moment:  Cross-Support on both PS3 and Vita and catering to the inherent free nature of a Playstation Network account.  You don't have to pay to play online, you don't have to pay to get access to demos earlier (besides Plus-exclusive demos/betas which happen once in a blue moon) and you don't have to pay to get a 'full' experience.  It's -built- on the base experience that the PS3 provided, but the landscape is changing at the end of this year when the PS4 will join the PS3 and the Vita as supported platforms.  With what we've seen so far of the PS4's updated online interactivity, it's going to change drastically.

That drastic change doesn't come cheap, and with the go-to pay service -being- Playstation Plus, it's safe to say they'd want to use that as a way to recoup some costs and keep folks around.  What's worrisome is just what extent they're going to do so and how much of what Plus already is that they're going to have to take away to make that.  There's even a chance that the service could start to cost more once it's pulled over the PS4 as well, a really big chance, even.  Maybe even the dreaded one-two punch of announcing a price increase as well as pulling off features to make way for what has been presented in the basic PS4 service - the sharing, streaming and such.  It's a scary proposition after what has been an absolutely rock-solid program.

The best possible scenario, I'd say, would be that there's a minimal increase to match what XBox currently charges for Gold while adding features to the PS4 and keeping Plus the blanket service that it is.  Definitely not an Instant Game Collection for PS4 at the start, especially since the library will be a bit thin, but an 'introduction', so to speak, to some of the more advanced features, or at least better usage of said features.  I'm not encouraging arbitrary content locks that end up against a paywall, but it's a lot better than firmly inserting features -behind- the paywall entirely.  This is certainly not what I'm expecting, but it would be the move everyone would appreciate the most.  Everyone's happy, Sony locks in people almost from the get-go, since this helps folks not only picking up a PS4, but may also have a PS3 already, or look to get/have a Vita because of the ways the handheld will interact with the console.

Worst case?  Well, there's....quite a lot of ways that can happen.  Any combination of a higher price raise than a modest one, taking away features from the PS3/Vita's existing Plus (Let's face it - Instant Game Collection is the first thing on the chopping block) and locking down a lot of what they've shown on the PS4, or even online multiplayer, behind a paywall will certainly present a bleak outlook.  Imagine a scenario where that shiny Share button on your DualShock 4 serves absolutely no purpose because you're not paying Sony $50+ a year.  A scenario where you don't have Instant Game Collection anymore, you can't play those PS3 games in your library on the PS4 and are only able to play Killzone:  Shadow Fall with your friends because you're paying $50+ to Sony per year.  These are all possible, unfortunately, and grimly so.

Perhaps I just need to have a little more faith in people seeing a good thing going.  Yet, we've all seen good things come and go in dramatic and off-putting ways, so it's only natural to assume as much will continue happening.  The scariest proposition of all is that Playstation Plus will become something that you're not even using because the usefulness for you has gone, yet you have to keep it going for vital things like access to the games on your PS3 and Vita that you have, or one of the mentioned things for a PS4 that you might not even have.  Because they can't offer a service for the PS4 only - such a thing would prove exorbitant, especially if it's leveraged right next to Plus as a companion program.  But they can't also release the PS4 and just -not- bring Plus (or a rebranding of it) onto the system, either.  I can't help but wonder just how it's going to turn out, and clearly, I'm not expecting good things unfortunately.

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