While Sony has received a lot of accolades for its handling of the next-gen in terms of online activations (it isn’t doing them), used game sales (it’s not restricting them) and bundled hardware (the Eye camera isn’t mandatory), it did take a bit of flak for its announcement that for the PS4, users will have to pay for online features. To help assuage concern in that regard, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida, explained the reasoning behind it and what Sony would offer in recompense.
Sony impressed gamers with its commitment to free online play and interaction on the PS3, whereas its competitor, the Xbox 360, required a £4 a month Xbox Live gold account to play. With the PS4 though, Sony needed further investment funds, as Yoshida explains:”That’s [was] a big decision,” he said in an interview with CVG, “what we internally discussed and decided is that we will continue the free access to online play on PS3 and Vita, so that’s clear. But because on PS4 the online connectivity features, such as second screen, auto downloads and share features – these are one big pillar of the PS4 experience and we will continue to invest in this area to expand and improve these online features and services.”
The problem, he said, was maintaining the high level of online features and continuing to expand, whilst keeping it free. Ultimately, something had to give.
“If we keep giving away online access for free, the natural pressure is that we have to cut down on the cost to provide this free service. But that’s conflicting with our goal of being able to provide very robust and great online services going forward. So we decided that on PS4, because we want to continue to invest and improve our new services, we’ve asked the most engaged consumers in the online activities to share the burden with us so that we can continue to invest.”
Image Source: Spong
He did however, add the caveat that there would be lots of new additions to thank users for paying the fee. As well as getting all the functionality of a connected PS4 console, those that choose to pay into it (remember, the PS4 will allow indefinite offline play if that’s what you want to do) will receive all the current benefits of PS Plus membership, including free games each month, access to early betas for upcoming games, a free version of Drive Club (though with some restricted features) and an extra free digital game each month – possibly an indie title.
Yoshida also confirmed that PS Plus would not be necessary to make use of third party online applications, like Netflix – something the Xbox One will require an Xbox Live Gold account for.
The PS4 is set to launch at the end of 2013, priced in the uk at £350. This is still nearly £100 more than our US cousins, but it doesn’t seem quite so horrific when compared with the £70 more expensive Xbox One.
KitGuru Says: Another good move by Sony. It seems to have listened to fans when it comes to features and developers when it comes to hardware. Whereas Microsoft chose to align itself with publishers. An interesting comparison.