If you’ve been paying attention recently, this latest blunder by Sony shouldn’t come as a surprise. Having sold a heap of PlayStation 4 consoles, while handing itself a sizeable lead over its nearest competitors, Sony had this generation all wrapped up. But thanks to a series of ill-advised public comments and bad decisions – the company is increasingly taking the shine off its PlayStation 4 brand. The console manufacturer once lauded for its pro-consumer behaviour seems to have had a change of heart. For the Players? Not on current evidence.
To be clear, consumers have every right to be angry about todays PlayStation Plus price hike. It equates to a 20% price hike for most users – an eye-watering increase in any situation. But Sony’s failure to justify this in any way only underlines the level of contempt the company feels for its customers. There’s no attempt to give users clear reasons why this price increase is occurring – only that they’ll have to stomach it.
No news of new features on PSN to help ease gamers worries. No talk of increasing the quality of monthly games. From the outside, this price increase looks nothing short of a cash grab by a company already rolling in the money they make from a service many gamers already have gripes over. Perhaps the most astonishing thing in all this is that Sony didn’t give any indication this was coming. The first many users heard about this huge rise came in an email that didn’t dive into details – one that gave users a month to sort themselves out. Typically this kind of announcement comes months ahead of time – not so in this case.
That’s the problem with this entire situation – Sony comes off as cold. Instead of making users understand the need for this increase, it comes off as a company looking to maximise profit. The fact that PlayStation Plus is essential to making full use of games on the console is an awkward asterisk that many gamers have come to accept (Even though it wasn’t essential last generation). But by pushing the price of PlayStation Plus so aggressively ahead of the competition – Sony is now marking its service as the THE premium gaming experience. No offence, right now it’s far from that.
It’s not really been a good few months for Sony’s PlayStation Network in general. In the shadow of E3, Sony was left awkwardly out of the cross-platform party – bizarrely citing security issues as its main reason for holding out. With the advent of cross-platform gaming across Nintendo and Microsoft consoles – it makes Sony’s online realm fell all the more limited. While Nintendo and Microsoft gamers can jump into Minecraft (One of the biggest games around) and Rocket League (One of the biggest multiplayer games around), Sony users have been told they don’t want that – they don’t need it.
Likewise, PlayStation users have been told they don’t need backwards compatibility out the box – it’s an additional feature they have to pay for. While Xbox One users can go all the way back to the original Xbox console now thanks to Microsoft’s efforts – needing only old copy’s of the games to get it going – PlayStation users are forced to endure a paywall. Either via HD remasters (Which by themselves aren’t all that bad) or via PlayStation’s hilariously awful PlayStation Now platform – a service that in recent weeks has forced paying customers to sit in a queue to play their games (No seriously, they’re actually doing that).
This fragmentation of services is very anti-consumer and speaks volumes about just how Sony sees its customers. Rather than offering up a solid core of services for free – they want to squeeze as much cash out of consumers as possible. By raising the price of PlayStation Plus – it forces many gamers to agree to whatever Sony demands. There’s no alternative if gamers are so deeply invested in the Sony ecosystem.
It’s this kind of awkwardness that really doesn’t help the case of these price rises. At a time when some are already questioning Sony’s ability to focus (Having launched both a 4K console and a VR headset in the last twelve months), asking those who just want to play games to cough up more feels like a bizarre joke. Sony attracted users under the mantra of “for the gamer” – but increasingly that mantra is being ignored in the pursuit of cash.
Really we shouldn’t be surprised at Sony’s behavior. Increasingly the company is acting against the best interests of itself and against consumers. It’s lack of quality offerings makes PlayStation Plus a less compelling choice for those of us who don’t need it to enjoy our games. But for those who bought into Sony’s PlayStation 4 dream early on, it’s a rude awakening about the state of play. Where complaints and issues are ignored for the longest time, and features are hidden paywalls.
These kind of moves will only serve to put off gamers who aren’t interested in Sony’s expensive offerings. It’s a weirdc position for Sony to be in – as the lines between PC gaming and consoles continues to blur ever more. For all the mistakes Microsoft have made this generation, their willingness to embrace consumer demands is one of their more admirable qualities. Right now, it makes Sony look insanely out of touch.
Today’s price rise serves as a reminder that just because you’re on top in the videogame industry, doesn’t mean you’re immune from bad decisions. As Microsoft showcased last generation – these decisions can carry over. Right now, PlayStation 4 is being harmed by all this negativity. No matter how good the games it offers – it doesn’t cover the fact gamers feel increasingly ripped off.