Locking PS4 online features behind a paywall is a very bad idea

Sections: Consoles, Features, Gaming News, Opinions, PS4

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Now that the supposed PlayStation 4 reveal is less than a day away, more speculation is coming out regarding the features the console will have. We’ve listed a bunch of them in our bingo card for the PlayStation event, and will have it in front of us once it begins. However, there is one bit of speculation that has the video game media buzzing right now. According to a Kotaku source, Sony is planning on charging players to access the majority of the PS4’s online functionality. This service is allegedly called PlayStation World, and it will effectively retire PlayStation Plus. I for one hope this so-called premium service isn’t as far reaching as it sounds. If it’s true, Sony is making one of the dumbest business decisions I’ve ever seen.

The only reason Sony would think to charge to access any essential part of the PlayStation Network is because Microsoft has been doing the same thing for years with Xbox Live Gold. The problem is Microsoft is the only company that can get away with such a thing. Xbox Live was in a league of its own back in the day. No other console had the same online functionality and multiplayer communities as the Xbox 360. Microsoft was only able to get away with charging $50 a year for Xbox Live Gold because it was the only game in town. Either pay up, or don’t play online with your buddies. It was that simple. Microsoft had gamers by the short and curlies and it knew that fact. That’s why it tacked on an additional $10 for a Gold subscription in 2010. In many ways, Xbox Live Gold is a ripoff. People only continue paying for it because they’re used to the status quo. Sony can’t stroll in nearly eight years after Xbox Live’s introduction on the Xbox 360 and expect to replicate its business model. Sony would be moving backwards, guided by the increasingly troublesome practice of making gamers pay more for things they used to enjoy for free.

Sony would also gain the title of hypocrite. It touted the free nature of the PlayStation Network in marketing materials. It became a selling point for the PlayStation brand. Sony cannot go back on this stance just because it can squeeze more dollars out of customers. It’s no less an anti-consumer move than blocking used games.

I hope Sony doesn’t try to emulate Microsoft in this way. But if it does decide to implement some kind of premium service that replaces PlayStation Plus, it has to keep the same standards it has already set forth. First, online multiplayer should remain free. Under no circumstances must this change. The only things Sony can charge for without coming off as evil are non-essential, yet compelling features such as live streaming, access to cloud gaming and the existing benefits PlayStation Plus members already enjoy. In other words, don’t take anything away that’s already free.

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