Grumpy Gurevitz: PS Plus has stopped me buying games

At E3 this year, Sony rejigged their PS Plus offering. Until E3, their £40 a year package had offered a range of free games every month. It generally included a PSN title, some minis, and a PSOne title, with a different mix served up each month. In addition PS Plus users get discounts on other content from time to time. I had hoped that Sony would take this opportunity to make PS Plus all encompassing with different tiers. The top tier for example might offer games, videos from their store and access to their Music Unlimited service. This though was not to be, perhaps with it being held back for the launch of the PS4 – potentially linked to the hardware in a way which is similar to a phone contract.

What Sony did, though, was to raise the game on the quality of content which was being offered through the PS Plus scheme. We still get our discounts, but instead of having Minis and other titles, Sony is offering ten PSN and full-blown BluRay titles to download at any one time. This list of games is updated with two swapped in and out every month. This list includes quality product which, whilst perhaps a year old, would be trading in secondhand bins or as discounted newly boxed titles from between £8-£19 each. Titles such as Motorstorm Apocalypse, or LittleBigPlanet 2, Saints Row 2 and Dead Space 2.

When PS Plus was a year old, the team at Sony baked this cake for all of us. How they got it to go round is still a mystery – we have enough problems cutting one 24 ways at our daughter’s birthday party.

This is an unbelievable level of content and choice, and from the perspective of the consumer is a win, win. Some might question how Sony can offer this for only £40 a year. However, the principles are simple – many of these titles’ sales have fallen to a trickle, and for the publishers involved in the scheme it offers some cash for a game which stopped contributing to their cash flow some time back.

Motorstorm was an amazing game which, whilst always being nothing more than a 1-2 million unit franchise, had its launch scuppered by events outside of anyone’s control. PS Plus has given it a new lease of life.

In some cases they are games which received critical acclaim but where the sales never matched the media interest. Motorstorm is a good example, in that it was delayed at the last minute due to the tragic events in Japan caused by the tsunami, and hence never recovered its momentum. For Sony, the investment has already been written off, and so this is a good title to utilise to tempt subscribers.

The other benefit to publishers is it’s a way of using titles which are no longer current to reinforce interest in certain franchises. Hence it is no surprise to find Dead Space – a critically acclaimed game where sales have never matched the buzz. It’s the kind of game I’ve previewed, played demos of, but never owned. Now Ill have a go at playing it in some depth prior to Dead Space 3.

The number of PS Plus users at present is not public, but if we assume it’s cautiously between 250,000 to 12 million people (Sony clearly would like it to be 20% of PS3 users or more – which would be around 12 million people) we see that we would have between £10 million-£480 million pounds in the kitty, allowing each publisher to receive anything from £400K – £15 million per title depending on the end deal with Sony (based upon 24 titles a year being offered). One would expect that Sony would have a sliding scale payment system to the publisher based both on number of subscribers and numbers of actual copies of the game downloaded. Similar to how record labels sometimes sign off music to magazines, this is a good cash deal for publishers.

Starhawk is a superb Sony exclusive, and would make a terrific ‘Free to Play’ title. It would make a great PS Plus title with DLC being paid for. Without being part of the PS Plus model it might still do okay, but its sale numbers will be nothing special.

There is a downside, similar to the problem faced with record labels doing deals with magazines/newspapers, which is that it reinforces over time a feeling that games are not really worth £40-£60. The consumer starts to think, and question the value of software, if a year after release they can get a similar calibre game as part of a £40 yearly subscription. The brain will, over time, start to entertain the notion that games are worth only £1-£2 in value. This is something that both Sony and other publishers need to be aware of.

However, it is not a concern if ultimately Sony doesn’t want to maintain the traditional boxed ‘pay as you go’ model and would like everyone on a subscription. Indeed, they – more than Microsoft – can help this to happen. Anyone watching this year’s E3 would have noticed that Sony have many, many first party exclusive games coming out over the next 12-18 months whilst the Xbox has very few. Sony have an opportunity to leverage this content across its userbase and utilise it as a way of enticing people to subscribe. Whilst there might be a few high profile releases which people still buy (Call of Duty for example) all their other games would be part of the subscription service.

On a personal level I’m already experiencing the effects on my buying habits. I’ve stopped looking at secondhand bins, for both Xbox 360 and PS3. Why? Well I’ve now got eleven games sitting on my hard drive, most unplayed, which I need to work through. Whilst I might not have chosen all those titles if I had been given a free choice, they are all good enough that I cannot justify buying another game when I have so many quality titles unplayed. Secondly, I’m unsure what the next two titles being released on PS Plus will be – and hence why buy a game which I might get free in a month or four anyway.

This PS Plus deal has the potential to kill the secondhand market (it won’t though, as it doesn’t have the critical mass of gamers on board yet), but in a way which is fair to both the publisher and consumer (unlike network passes). It potentially allows publishers to continue to invest in high quality games, but which might not sell much more than a million copies – as if they know in advance that it will be part of PS Plus they know that they will get a minimum of ‘X’ amount to justify the investment. Consumers get a never-ending selection of high quality titles, but with the headline price being £40 a year.


All publishers want to charge a subscription for their game. In reality very, very few can support it – as consumers we have too many services to subscribe to. Netflix, Lovefilm, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Google Drive, Music Unlimited etc etc etc. Star Wars’ subscriber numbers are falling off a cliff – hence they are adopting free to play. Free to play is based on the premise of a huge number of players interacting with the game resulting in a modest percentage then subscribing or utilising micro transactions. This model allows for a high level of player turnover. It’s like throwing mud at a wall and hoping some sticks……

It’s clear that apart from perhaps no more than 10-20 titles a year, the industry cannot sustain many titles with the development and marketing budget of a Call of Duty or GTA 5. This is why firms such as THQ are in trouble as it’s becoming increasingly hard to compete. At the top end of the industry games continue to become more expensive to develop and sell, whilst at the lower end we continue apace with free to play, advertisement funded games or cheap apps. Creating yet another app store, emulating iOS, Android and even to an extent Blackerry’s app store is now not enough to differentiate yourself in the market. PS Plus and what it represents seems to be the perfect way of allowing hardcore gamers have a wide selection of quality, AAA content in a way which is sustainable for all concerned. Indeed the games can still include micro-transactions/DLC for extra functionality and income streams after the initial main game is downloaded as part of the subscription, so there is still the ability for a game to do exceptionally well over time.

Over time expect one subscription (eventually with tiers), resulting in exclusive Sony owned (and third party) content accessible across devices. It’s the antidote to the appstore.

For a year or two now, ever since Activision decided to bring the World of Warcraft model to Call of Duty (via Elite) we have heard the mantra that games are becoming a service. With PS Plus, Sony have decided to create a service which provides games.

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Written by Steven G

Steven Gurevitz is the CEO of 2002 Studios Media LTD and a founder of gaming accessory company Asiiya. 2002 Studios started off as a music production company, but produces a range of content from videos to videogames. The company specialises in localizing content for global brands. He also owns the Urban Sound Label, a small niche e-label. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor and co-owner He enjoys FPS, Third person 'free world', narrative driven and portable gaming. He is a freelance music tech writer, having co-written the Music Technology Workbook and is a regular contributor to


  1. DarthDiggler /

    Dylan Jobe already stated that StarHawk would have FREE DLC. He didn’t like the way the audience was splintered in Warhawk.

    Your observations about the “bargain hunter” mentality are a great concern, but I think that is why you see last years titles in the PS+ free game bin. Bargain hunters generally won’t wait over a year if they really want something.

  2. MartinB105 /

    Information in this article is incorrect.

    European PS Plus is confirmed to provide at least 45 games per year, not 24.

    Also, games are swapped twice per month, not once (swaps occur on the first and third week of each month).

    Here is the relevant quote taken directly from the EU PlayStation Blog (June 5th 2012):

    “we are committed to delivering over 45 games to you as part of your subscription before June 2013, and that’s before we factor in any extra minis or PS one titles that might show up. Additionally, any ‘PlayStation®Plus Presents’ games will be extra to the standard game rotation.”

  3. steven g /

    Thanks for the correction martin. I forgot that on top of the offering there would still be some minis and other did bits here or there.

    Either way, general points on the actual effect and model stand. It’s a superb offer which has the potential to change the way we view the relationship between a console and it’s content.

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