As someone who loves the downloadable games space, I’m slowly coming to love just what Sony are doing with the Playstation Network. Slowly but surely, it’s attracting more of my money, more of my attention and, quite frankly, more of my interest than Xbox Live Arcade.
Most of has to do with the recent changes made to the Playstation Plus service. For a while, it was something you kinda had to find a truly good reason to justify — mostly since quite a bunch of the games you’d get for free weren’t too spectacular, and neither were the discounts or beta invites or free themes/avatars. Granted, cloud storage and automated updates are quite useful, but they’re not things you should be paying for.
And then E3 2012 happened.
It was at their press event where Sony announced the “Instant Game Library” initiative, wherein every few weeks, they’d rotate the roster of free downloadable games. The initial wave, with games like LittleBigPlanet 2, inFamous 2, Darksiders and Red Dead Redemption, were all worth checking out. Almost within the first month of signing up to Plus, I’d felt I already got my money’s worth, checking out quite a bunch of games that I hadn’t really checked out prior; Motorstorm Apocalypse, for instance, is pretty good!
Not to mention I quite love the idea that Sony have going here. It feels something like Netflix, where there’s a constantly rotating library of movies for subscribers to check out, and creating this weird subscription service that’s unlike anything out there on the market. That, and they’re releasing titles onto the service at great times. Just prior to the release of Borderlands 2, the original game was put up as a free download. Smart marketing decision.
Where PSN is also getting it right is it’s pre-ordering system. Initially, it kicked off with the not so exciting Move title Sorcery, but recently it’s moved on to titles such as LittleBigPlanet Karting and Borderlands 2. Where it becomes really awesome is twofold. They’re offering some of the physical retailer pre-order bonuses with these games; by pre-ordering Borderlands 2, you’d get access to the Premier Club. Not to mention they also offer the same pre-loading option that Steam offers for some games (downloading the full game, unlocking when the release hits), which isn’t all too bad.
Not that all of this is without its issues. While there are still problems in terms of download speed and some usability issues with the store: Australians (and to a lesser extent Europeans) getting shafted on plenty of releases, such as the marvellous Dyad, and insane pricing still hurts — seeing $100 AUD for a full price game when you know you can get it cheaper on a disc is always a painful sight.
Despite these, looking at PSN today is enough to make you realize just how slowly archaic the Xbox Live Arcade system is becoming. There’s the secret unadvertised launches of other games, the continual lack of ads for new release games, the dilution of the Winter of Arcade, plus the general lack of quality of quite a bunch of releases. There’s also the issue of Microsoft’s insane policies, such as charging $40,000 to patch a game, even to games Microsoft themselves are publishing!
Don’t get me wrong, there’s certainly been some excellent games released exclusively on XBLA this year — Fez and Dust: An Elysian Tail immediately spring to mind — but in terms of a service that’s becoming more progressive and becoming more interesting to look at, the Playstation Network has exactly what more people should be focusing on.
Come back Thursdays for more thoughts and opinions from the New Game Plus cast and crew.