Yesterday, Sony announced the launch of the new, slim-model Vita in Europe. But as part of the presentation, some other interesting news cropped up: the fact that PlayStation Plus subscriptions have seen a sharp increase over the last three months.
Specifically, they're tripled in the last three months. And what happened in that period? The launch of the PlayStation 4.
PlayStation Plus is a pretty good deal anyway thanks to its regular discounts on PlayStation Store digitally content and Instant Game Collection titles that are offered to subscribers for "free" -- so long as they keep paying -- but the PlayStation 4 brought a new variable into the mix: the fact that, unlike the PlayStation 3, the Vita and the PSP, the new console required a PlayStation Plus membership in order to play games online.
Given that a number of the most high-profile retail titles at PlayStation 4's launch were online-centric -- think Call of Duty: Ghosts, Battlefield 4, Killzone and FIFA -- the hefty growth in PlayStation Plus is perhaps to be expected as new console owners are keen to throw down against the rest of the world. And yet in something of a contrast to the attitude towards Xbox Live Gold -- Microsoft's subscription service that seems to be grudgingly accepted rather than embraced by a lot of gamers -- there has been little in the way of widespread complaint about the PlayStation Plus requirement for PS4 online play.
At least part of this is down to the question of value. Whereas Xbox Live Gold gates off a significant amount of content -- including many apps that were positioned as key features of the Xbox One experience -- PlayStation Plus is more of a value-added scenario with only one major thing gated off: online play. In other words, while those on a non-Gold Xbox Live account can enjoy gimped functionality as well as the inability to play online, those with a non-Plus PSN account can make use of all of the console's core features without restrictions.
The perceived value of that Instant Game Collection shouldn't be underestimated, either. While Microsoft's "Games with Gold" deal may actually be somewhat better for consumers in the sense that subscribers get to keep the free games even after their subscription lapses, PlayStation Plus, which effectively offers long-term "rentals" of games, has continually outstripped Games with Gold in terms of quality month after month. While Games with Gold provides free copies of games that are, in most cases, either several years old or which were already quite cheap in the first place, PlayStation Plus' Instant Game Collection regularly rotates in a variety of recent titles that are still relevant.
Whatever the reasons, it seems that PlayStation Plus is here to stay for the immediate future at least, since both gamers and Sony appear to be very happy with what it offers. Are you a fan? Or would you prefer to just be able to play online without any of these subscription-based shenanigans?