First blog post since December, and it was going to be a brief one. Didn’t quite turn out that way, though!
The following are just some thoughts and ideas about the new PlayStation Network Online Storage feature, which arrived with firmware 3.60, and the future of PlayStation Plus.
The new Online Storage feature (OS from here onward) is a great addition, and one which shows that Sony are listening to what their users want. Well, sometimes at least. Okay, it’s not the most requested feature, but it was well up there. Obviously, the most requested is a cross-game chat/party system, like that on the 360. While I personally am not bothered about cross-game chat, a party system would be nice… and it would have been most amusing if Sony had delivered something along those lines in an update numbered 3.60 but, alas, it wasn’t to be.
So, what of the new OS feature for game saves, or ‘cloud backup’ as others call it? Well, since it allows you to make backups of individual copy-protected saves, it’s a good thing. Whereas normal saves can be easily copied to a USB drive, previously the only way to back those up copy-protected saves was to make a full system backup to an external device. Not exactly the most user-friendly method.
Thankfully, many developers who initially made use of protected saves saw fit to patch their software and remove that protection, meaning individual backups could be made. But some didn’t, so the problem didn’t disappear entirely, making the new OS feature is a blessing.
The only problem is that Sony have seen fit to bundle this feature in with the PSN Plus service, which costs £11.99 for 90 days, or £39.99 for a full year. Now don’t get me wrong – I have no problem at all with Sony making this a chargeable feature. Providing 150MB of space for tens of thousands of users isn’t something I’d expect Sony to do for free, especially when they provide us with so much for free already.
My only ‘problem’ is that, while I’d like to use this particular feature, I’m not interested in the rest of the things PSN Plus currently offers, and the subscription fees are too high for me to justify for this service alone. I have a fast internet connection, so automatic updates aren’t necessary. I’m not interested in free PS1 games or minis, and the free PSN game would only be worthwhile if I could choose the game, rather than having it chosen for me. Full game trials and early demo access aren’t of particular interest either, and as for betas… as an SCEE beta tester, I get those before Plus members anyway.
That’s not to say that Plus isn’t a worthwhile service. If you buy lots of stuff from the store, it absolutely is worth every penny as it is likely to save you a fortune. But I’m not one of those people, and for me it would for the most part be like giving money away. As an older gamer, my tastes are fairly set these days, so I’m quite picky about what I play. I don’t want every game that hits the store. I’m also not the kind of person who will happily take something simply because it’s free – it has to actually be of use to me.
So, what I’d like to see is the OS feature made available separately for those that would like to use it, but who don’t want all the other ‘features’ of Plus. I would happily pay a smaller annual fee – let’s say £10 – for access to it.
In fact, if Sony plans to add more features like this in the future, I would like to see Plus broken down into a ‘pick and mix’ service, where you can choose only the features that interest you, and pay an appropriate fee, rather than having a fixed fee and lumbering you with things you’re not interested in. A bit like choosing your Virgin or Sky TV packages. Perhaps they could even throw PSN Movie Store offers into the mix.
Imagine a future PSN Plus made up of ‘packs’. A System Pack, containing online backups, cross-game chat and a party system. A Movie Pack, offering various combinations of rentals and ownership. And a Games Pack, offering a mix of free games and discounts across the entire store content, rather than specific games at specific times. Each pack priced at £20 per year; any two packs for £30 per year; all three packs for £40 per year.
Perhaps they could even give you far more precise control, so that you could cherry-pick exactly the combination you want, rather than forcing you to take less desirable features when you only want one feature from Pack A and one feature from Pack B. For example, if I could choose to have the OS feature and a couple of movie rentals for £5 per month, I’d happily take them up on it. Yes, you’re right – that would total more than the current annual Plus subscription. The difference is that it would be for things I’d actually make use of, so I’d have no problem paying it.
There is tremendous value in the current Plus setup, but only if everything it offers is of real use to you. That’s not the case for me, and I know of several other people who feel the same. But with a little bit of a re-think, and a few alterations, I think Sony could stand to make a lot more money from a more varied and customisable Plus service.