Two days ago, the PlayStation Plus lineup for August was revealed: Just Cause 3, standalone DLC Assassin’s Creed: Freedom Cry, and the addictive Downwell were all confirmed to be coming to the PlayStation 4 in what could be one of the best ever Instant Game Collection lineups on the console. With a strong selection of games and some stonking summer sales, it seemed that many players were finally happy with the service that has been ridiculed for years.
Emails sent out to PS Plus subscribers today informed players that in Europe, the UK, and Australia, prices would be rising after 31st August. At the time of writing, a Push Square poll showed that 62 per cent of those who voted believed that the price is too high for what the service offers, and only 15 per cent felt that the price increase is justified.
Arguably, it’s understandable as to why many PS Plus subscribers would be angry. Last August (after a price hike in North America) Sony said that it had no intentions to raise the price in Europe or the UK. Not only that, but when you break things down mathematically, those affected by this year’s increase are paying more than those in North America – though tax confuses this issue a little.
It’s not like PlayStation (or Sony in general) is doing bad financially either. The 2016 fiscal year did see a halved net income year-on-year, but Sony as a whole recorded a $244 million profit from January-March 2017 alone. The PlayStation division did even better, netting a 53 per cent profit increase year-on-year; the net income of January-March 2017 period was four times the profit of the same period last year.
Granted, Sony has to finance the online infrastructure for around 60 million players, but if it’s reporting such big profit increases, then why is there a need for a price hike? Could it – heaven forbid – just be the company being greedy? In a certain mindset, you could see it that way. Seeing as PS Plus is required to play online multiplayer in all games, a lot of people will likely buy it anyway – price hike or not – because they want to play online. This is something that Sony could easily exploit for financial gain.
Indeed, in the aforementioned poll where 62 per cent said that they were unhappy with the price increase, 46 per cent of respondents said that they would still renew their subscriptions, and only 18 per cent said that they definitely wouldn’t subscribe again. When adjusted to remove the 10 per cent of respondents who don’t subscribe to PS Plus anyway, that’s still only 19.8 per cent of Australian, European, and UK subscribers cancelling their memberships – presuming that our poll is representative of the entire subscriber base, which it likely isn’t.
This raises an interesting question then: how do PS4 players determine the value of PS Plus? Those 50 per cent or so subscribers who will renew after the price hike must deem multiplayer and the Instant Game Collection valuable enough to subscribe, no?
So then why are people angry? In a purely mathematical sense, a PS Plus subscription gives you access to multiplayer servers that cost a lot of money to run, as well as cloud storage, extra discounts, and hundreds of pounds worth of games. On paper, that should be an excellent deal, yet a lot of people feel cheated by this price rise. Is Sony in the wrong for trying to raise the price of something that many PS4 players deem essential, or are the players in the wrong for expecting a service that gives a lot of value to never increase in price?
The next few months will be telling. If the Japanese giant can keep big AAA releases like Just Cause 3 and Until Dawn coming in future months, it'll show that it's been listening to its customer base who have been crying out for them since day one. Implementing new features that have been long-awaited by the fanbase – username changing, for example – could also heal the rift between company and customer. If Sony's willing to listen and not just be a distant entity that does what it wants, then it could be beneficial for both sides.
If Sony's to win back the large chunk of players that have been put off by these price increases, then it'll have to put its motto where its mouth is: prove that it's for the players. And if it doesn't, then it'll be down to said players to vote with their wallets, and subsequently stop paying for a service that large swathes of the community apparently don't see enough value in anymore.
What do you make of this PlayStation Plus price hike? Come and tell us in our poll through here, and if you want the full breakdown of how the changes will affect you, check out our rundown through here.