Newest Review: ... button and then finally clicked on the redeem code button where I could enter the 12 digit code I received. --------------------... more
PLUS: adj. positive, additional, extra. Yep. That fits
Member Name: SWSt
Advantages: Full price games available to download for free every month; only £40 a year
Disadvantages: Massive file sizes, games only available for as long as you subscribe
Playstation Plus is a subscription-based service for the PS3 and the Playstation Vita. In return for a payment of around £40 a year (or £12 for a three month subscription), it gives you access to a number of games which you can download for free, as well as a host of other things.
When I first heard about it, I have to confess that I thought it would be a dumping ground for the rubbish stuff that no-one really wants. In fact, that's not the case, and some really top quality titles have been made available to Playstation Plus subscribers.
The number of titles available at any one time varies, but generally speaking there are at least half a dozen games available to download. These are a mix of full priced commercial releases, as well as some titles from the standard PSN download service that would normally incur a cost, but which are free to subscribers.
With this in mind, it doesn't take long before you start to realise what great value for money Playstation Plus is. This month alone, for example, I've downloaded the excellent Limbo, the perfectly reasonable F1 All Stars, Little Big Planet 2 and Square Enix's Sleeping Dog... All for free. Limbo aside (which has only ever been available as a download), all of these are games which have seen commercial releases and in many cases are still retailing at around £20-30 in the shops. Even at a conservative estimate, I've already downloaded around £60 worth of games, so my £40 annual subscription has paid for itself.
Nor is it the case that only a limited number of titles are available. Whilst there might only be around half a dozen titles available at any one time, the list changes regularly, with new titles being added (and existing ones removed) on a monthly basis. It's definitely worth checking back on a regular basis to see what's been added since the last time you visited! It would be nice if there was some way of being alerted automatically when a new selection is added, but it's not too much of a hardship to log into the Playstation Store every so often to check for new content.
Even if there is the odd duffer, you don't mind too much. After all, you've not paid for it; and surely it's better to download a game for free and find you don't like it than to shell out £30 for something you're never going to play.
Membership of Playstation Plus brings other benefits, too. Exclusive demos of games are available as well as a whole host of online badges, icons and avatars that are not available to non-subscribers. You get an allocation of free online storage space for your save game files, too - a real benefit if your PS3 is getting a bit full. And finally, you can enable automatic updates for the PS3 system software so that this is downloaded and installed automatically. Personally, this last bit is not so much of a benefit for me. I don't like things being sneakily installed behind my back, so even though I now have the option to do this, I've got it turned off.
Of course, not everything is a bed of roses, and there are a few things you need to be aware of before you race off to sign up.
Perhaps the biggest consideration is the size of the game files you will need to download. Since they are all full games of the sort that would normally come packed onto a Blu-ray disk, they are massive - 7GB or more of data is not uncommon. This has two potential implications: time and bandwidth. Depending on the speed of your bandwidth, it's not uncommon for a game to take 4+ hours to download and install. Whilst you can download most titles in the background, it's still going to be slowing your overall internet speed down and possibly stopping you from doing other stuff online. To get around this, I tend to set downloads going just before I go to bed and then leave them to download and install overnight.
There's an even more important consideration. Unless you are on a genuinely unlimited broadband package, then you're going to have to watch how much you download or risk extra charges from your ISP. Many of the cheaper broadband packages, for example, limit your monthly download allowance to 1GB and if you go over that, you have to pay extra (or in extreme cases have your internet cut off). Other services claim to be unlimited, but actually restrict you to 100GB of data per month. Even though that's not too bad, if you download 6 games a month at 10GB a time, you've already used over half your allocation before you've even done any of your normal online activities, like watching catch-up TV or looking at hilarious videos of cats wearing clothes on YouTube. If you are on one of these limited packages, Playstation Plus may not be a viable option for you, unless you upgrade your internet.
A further frustration I have found is that if a download is interrupted partway through, it aborts the whole process and you have to start again from scratch (where a PC download generally carries on from the point at it was disrupted.) I found this out to my cost when, three and a half hours into a download, my internet connection dropped for a few minutes and I lost everything I'd done up to that point. Very frustrating; and definitely something to bear in mind if your internet connection can be patchy.
A final thing to be aware of is the fact that you are effectively "renting". You can keep them on your PS3/Vita and play them as much as you like... as long as you are a Playstation Plus subscriber. The minute your subscription lapses, all access to any titles downloaded via the scheme vanishes; it's not quite the same as having the physical product which you can install and uninstall as you wish.
Having finally subscribed, I have to say I feel a bit of a berk for not having investigated Playstation Plus before. It's a fantastic way to build up a collection of decent games without having to shell out loads of cash. Whilst there are still some titles that I would prefer to buy in physical format, there are plenty of games which I'm more than happy to download from Playstation Plus. £40 a year really is an absolute steal, providing your internet can cope with the strain of the big downloads.
(c) Copyright SWSt 2013
Summary: If your broadband can take the strain, this is a really worthwhile investment
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