By Joe Sigadel / January 2nd, 2017
Another month, another disappointing lineup for PlayStation Plus. At least, that seems to be the sentiment following up Sony’s announcement of its free games for January a few days ago.
— PlayStation (@PlayStation) December 28, 2016
Judging by the replies to this tweet, a good amount of people are not enthused with what Sony is offering this time. I’ve noticed a general shift in the kind of free games we’ve been getting each month, since the PlayStation 4 launched a few years ago. There’s an increasing emphasis on indies, and a push away from big AAA games or bestsellers that have been around a while. For the niche crowd, we used to regularly get incredible titles like Demon’s Souls, Muramasa Rebirth, Dragon’s Crown and Puppeteer. Now we consider ourselves lucky if we get a really cool niche title once in a blue moon. However, it should be noted that we did get Yakuza 5 as a free game back in August, and Oreshika: Tainted Bloodlines the month before.
I don’t really think the problem is that the January games are bad, so much as they’re not things you couldn’t have bought on Steam or GOG at fire sale prices, for the most part. I know that not everyone has a gaming PC, but most indies don’t tend to be all that demanding, resource wise. Sony has repeatedly proclaimed itself a good friend and ally of indie studios and touted the PlayStation 4 as the place to be for indies on consoles. That’s why I think that we’re seeing more of those, and less games that honestly don’t need the additional support from PlayStation Plus. There’s also price to consider. Sony recently raised the annual membership fee from $50 to $60 this September, and that may seem like a lot for the privilege of playing online multiplayer. It’s a necessity for fighting game players, who for the most part still game on consoles rather than Steam. But for the rest of us, it makes a good case to ditch the console, avoid paying unnecessary fees, and play on our computers without worrying about yet another membership on our credit card bills.
Many of the games we cover on PlayStation are also coming to PC, which is why I expect there will be an increase in the amount of re-reviews that get posted here over the next year. I personally believe that everyone should invest in a PC capable of playing games, which you could do with a build for as little as $400 for the case and components, the same price as a PS4 Pro. But it’s not like I haven’t gotten good mileage out of the PlayStation 4 and Vita. On the contrary, I think I’ve purchased more games for these systems than I have for any others I’ve owned since I started gaming. I’ve downloaded a few of the free titles from PS+ as well, and enjoyed most of the ones I tried. There’s pros and cons, as there always has been, between console and PC gaming. One of the biggest cons I can see is that PC ports of Japanese titles, while they’ve generally improved, still have some work to do before they get as good as gold. Case in point, God Eater 2 Rage Burst’s online multiplayer still needs to be fixed on Steam. The point I’m making is, I’m noticing this trend of people questioning the value of what they’re getting and weighing other possible options.
Then there’s the PS Vita, the demise of which has been strongly exaggerated. As you’ll see from our upcoming awards, and looking at the past year’s coverage of Vita titles, this has been a very strong year for the handheld. Like the Energizer bunny, it just keeps going and going as a haven for dungeon crawlers, RPGs, strategy games and visual novels, in spite of Sony’s complete lack of marketing support. It too has been a destination for indies on Playstation Plus’s Instant Game Collection over the past 3 years, but if you’re just not into those type of games, you’re not going to find much to like if you sign up for PS+, save for the discounts on niche titles that they have through flash sales, holiday sales and the Golden Week sale.
So is it worth it to subscribe to and keep PlayStation Plus? The short answer is yes, the long one is “Yes, but…”. It’s not as straightforward as you might think, there are many factors to think about when making the decision. Do you play a lot of online? Do you plan to keep buying games for your PS4, PS3, or Vita, or are you more or less done with them? One comparison I’ll make is between PS Plus and Humble Monthly, a similar service geared toward PC gamers. Humble Monthly launched some time ago as a subscription service for indie games on PC, and as they tell it, it’s a pre-packaged bundle of games that you get every month. Only one of them is featured, you won’t know what the rest are until you sign up for it. An annual subscription to Humble Monthly runs about $11 a month, and you get one month free. Doing simple math, this comes out to $121 a year, a bit over twice as much as what PS Plus costs. 5% of that goes to charity, if that’s important to you. You also get a discount of 10% off all purchases on the Humble Store. The games they’ve offered in the past have been pretty darn good, too. However, at $5.42 per month, PlayStation Plus comes out to just over the cost of a brand new AAA game for all the benefits it grants. As you can see, it’s not an easy decision, and not one I can really make for you.
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