PlayStation Plus is a household name at this point in the PlayStation's legacy, but it wasn't always that way. Having only just emerged during the PS3 era, it is a younger program than it's closest equivalent, Xbox Live, but one could argue that it's a far better value. Clearly, the concept works because Xbox Live adopted a similar approach. Of course we're not here to talk about the past or the present, we're here to talk about the future.
We'll start today's glimpse into the infinite number of possible futures by first examining the evolution of PlayStation Plus, from it's first steps on the PS3, to its current state on the PS4. From there, we'll look to the PS5 and see where this service could be going in the future. With each new feature it seems to gain popularity. With 10.9 million subscribers as of January 2015, it's also not going anywhere anytime soon.
From Awesome, to Even More Awesome: the PS+ Journey Thus Far
At its core, PlayStation Plus (abbreviated as PS+) is a PlayStation Network subscription service that acts like a V.I.P program of sorts, providing users with premium features. This began quite simply, with a pre-chosen free game offered each month on both the home and handheld consoles. In addition, users could take advantage of cloud storage for their save files, up to 3GB of space in total per user. This made transferring or duplicating saved data simple and easy for members.
The service was immediately lauded for offering high-quality titles each month. At only $50 for an entire year, the value was impossible not to see. What's more is that multiplayer was free on PS3, so people weren't forced to buy a subscription if they wanted to play online like another popular console of the time did. The name escapes me, it starts with an "x" and rhymes with Xbox 360. Doesn't matter, the service was off to a great start. Online gaming wasn't quite up to par on the PS3 though, but that would be remedied soon.
Enter the PS4 and with it, some awesome changes to the PS+ formula. For starters, subscribers now enjoy two free games each month on each of the three Sony consoles. That's six games total each month! PS4 does require PS+ to play online, but the entire network is much, much better as a result of the paid funding for maintenance. Meanwhile, Xbox has started offering free games each month for gold subscribers. Can't imagine they were getting any flak for charging people to play online while Sony's dropping the free titles left and right.
Most recently is the addition of yet another feature called Vote to Play. This new program offers players a set of games to choose from each month. Players vote and the winner is one of the free titles on the next month's list. The others still go on sale for a discounted price for PS+ members so it's win-win. So, given this new program, we've reached the present of PlayStation Plus. Where do we go from here, and more importantly, how will this service work on the PS5?
3 Signs That Point to The Future of PlayStation Plus
Here's where I lay down the law and predict how everything will work. I believe that PS5's PlayStation Plus program will revolve around a system where small studios (independent developers) will be able to pitch ideas to Sony for a program similar to what Steam does on the PC called "Greenlight." In this program, the submissions with the highest potential will be featured for PS+ members to vote on..
The title that wins will be fully funded by Sony and released on the PS5. Members will also enjoy the winning game for free at the time of its release and possibly access to alpha and beta tests as they arrive. The other titles will receive the opportunity to move their projects to a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter to try and get their funding that way. This process will start before the release of the PS5, allowing members to choose which indie launch title they want for free at the launch of the PS5.
Of course, Sony will still probably offer free titles that are already out each month, but this program will act as the major catalyst for PS+ to reach 20+ million subscribers. Where did I get this awesome/insane idea? Let's take a look at four pieces of evidence, shall we?
1. Steam's Greenlight System
As I mentioned just a moment ago, the incredibly popular digital-only PC gaming marketplace known as Steam has a feature called Greenlight that functions very similarly to how I described the PS5 program above. In this case, anyone can submit their ideas, but only those who receive enough votes will be released on Steam. Sometimes at a discount, but usually not free. Still, the idea of asking the public "would you buy this game?" to decide if it should be published and sold on a specific platform is something that is already happening right now.
2. Sony Promoted a Crowd-funding Project at E3 2015
Sony has always been really good about seeing the potential in independent developers, and also the potential for unique ideas to take hold. With major publishers trying to play it safe with sequel after sequel, crowdfunding has become the only way to unique ideas and niche projects to get the funding they need, Sony's willingness for creativity aside of course. Enter Shenmue III. This long-awaited sequel isn't as well-known as, say, Call of Duty, but it has a following.
Sony went so far as to promote the game's kickstarter funding campaign at their E3 2015 press conference! What's more, it was later revealed that the Shenmue III kickstarter was meant to see if people would be interested in the sequel. Sony told them that if they hit their goal, they would fork over the extra money to see the game through to completion. How about that?
3. And of Course, Vote to Play
The final piece of the puzzle comes after the shocking stage time that Shenmue III got at E3 2015, and it's a perfect way to close out this prediction. Vote to Play has come at a time where crowdfunding is huge, and the opinion of gamers is being weighed more and more. Now that PS+ members can vote for which games are free each month, we've taken one more, very confident step towards the future I have so awesomely predicted.
4. Fig and the Psychonauts 2 Campaign
Anyone who knows me or has read my work knows that Psychonauts is one of my favorite titles ever made. It came out back on the PS2, but the company that made it, Double Fine, was one of the first big companies to successfully crowdfund a game. Just recently they did it again on a new platform called Fig. Unlike Kickstarter, Fig allows donations and investments alike. Investors can expect to earn back their money if the project sells well.
This approached earned Psychonauts 2's campaign over $3.3 million! That's one of the highest numbers ever achieved by a crowdfunding campaign. It's proof that people are willing to pay for games they want, even if the publishers won't. This success proves that crowdfunding could be the way of the future.
Of course, we're still a ways off from the PS5, but what do you think? Will PS5's PlayStation Plus be the same as it is now, or will things change drastically to increase subscribers? Tell us what you think in the comments below!