After months and months of speculation about the future of the PlayStation Network, Sony Executive Jack Tretton revealed a new online subscription service for the PlayStation 3 that will begin later this month. The newly minted "PlayStation Plus" service will offer PS3 owners additional online features, discounts on PSN games, "free downloadable games," and access to exclusive offers such as game betas. A one-year subscription to PlayStation Plus is $50 dollars--the same price as a year of Xbox Live--while three months of the service can be purchased for $17. The key difference between the Xbox Live and PlayStation Plus services is that the latter is not required to play games online.
That's not to say that there aren't free games to play. In fact, Plus subscribers will have access to a number of free PS3, PSN, and PSone games to download and play as much as they want. For instance, Wipeout HD will be a game free to download for Plus subscribers when the service begins this month. There is a caveat, however: the games are only free as long as you are subscribed to the service. If you cancel your subscription to PlayStation Plus, those free games will no longer be accessible, not unlike a Zune music subscription. So, remember: you have to pay money to play the free games.
Plus subscribers also have access to exclusive content, such as special themes and avatar items in home, as well as early access to game betas, demos, and the PlayStation's suite of video magazines. In addition, Plus members will have exclusive discounts on items various items in the PlayStation Store (PS3 and PSP!) that will cycle month to month. Finally, Plus subscribers get some additional features for their console: their system will be able to automatically download updates and patches for games. PlayStation Plus also adds cross-game chat functionality to the PS3, so you can chat with friends in any game they're playing. PlayStation Plus subscribers can even set their PlayStation 3 to "automatically start up at a designated time to download content and will turn off after the download has completed" which is less of an update and more of a terror that my PS3 has become sentient. It can turn itself on and off, and use my bandwidth at will. This is the nightmare connect future we were warned about.
So, those are your PSN features. It's important to mention again that none of the content that has already been available for free will be blocked for non-subscribers, so don't worry that free online play will suddenly become a subscriber-only benefit.
What do you think, guys? Are you interested in paying for Sony's online service when it launches later this month? Are you willing to pay to have access to free games, and continue paying for games to ensure that those games stay free?