Sony Interactive Entertainment’s PlayStation console franchise has been at the forefront of console gaming since the release of the PlayStation 1 (PS1) in 1994. Although the PS1 was incredibly popular, it was superseded in sales by the PlayStation 2 (PS2) — which happens to be the best-selling console of all time.
Though limited online experiences could be set up for certain games on the PS2, a dedicated online service for the PlayStation franchise was first introduced late into 2006 on the PlayStation 3 (PS3). This dedicated online service was deemed the “PlayStation Network“. The PlayStation Network, including the PlayStation store, revolutionized gaming by allowing players to connect to each other with ease, buy games online, and access a range of other online features. To date, the PlayStation Network is available on the following PlayStation devices: PS3, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation Vita, and PlayStation 4 (PS4). The PlayStation Network can also be accessed via mobile applications, and of course, via an internet browser.
I believe online gaming services and marketplaces like the PlayStation Store, are something we take for granted. The ability to easily connect with other players — whether it be friends or randoms — is incredible. Online services have propelled us into a new era of gaming, and, most importantly, allowed us to remain social whilst hiding within the confines of our homes. It is particularly significant that online services are nowadays available to console gamers, as they had previously been almost exclusive to the realms of the PC.
Overview Of The PlayStation Network’s Features
So what are the specific benefits of accessing the PlayStation Network?
PlayStation Store, An Online Marketplace For Video Games
A game-changing feature of the PlayStation Network is the PlayStation Store. Through the PSN store, you can purchase digital copies of video games that are available as a hard copy. You can also purchase games that are only available in a digital form. And there is an abundance of these digital games — not all of which are indies, classics, or arcades, but AAA games that are naturally free such as Paragon (Epic Games) and Smite (High-Rez Studios). Obviously such games couldn’t be free if you had to purchase a hard copy…
Although you can purchase some game expansions in the form of a hard copy, most expansions, like “full” games, are also available in digital form. However, downloadable content (DLC) that supports or adds to a video game, but is far less than an expansion, is only available in a digital form (as far as I am aware). The PlayStation Store allows gamers to purchase and download said expansions and DLC, therefore allowing gamers access to new content and experiences (and, of course, pointless cosmetic add-on’s).
Personally, I found PlayStation Store games to be to be expensive in comparison to their hard copy counterparts. This issue, however, can be overcome by employing a certain degree of patience. In other words: wait for the games price tag to drop, or wait for a sale.
PSN Sales And Discounts
Like any good store, the PlayStation Store has a fair share of discount sales. The PlayStation Store is quite affectionate with its discount events too — as in, they are both frequent and significant. For instance, an Easter Sale is featured currently on the store, and it offers, for reasonable prices, many cheap AAA titles such as EA Dice’s Battlefield 1 and Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V. Also, through another recent sale, I picked up Naughty Dog’s The Last Of Us Remastered for under $20! (And for the record, it is a true beauty, well deserving of the praise it has received.)
All of the games on the PlayStation Store, and certain sales are available to everyone that can access the PlayStation Network. But, a with a subscription to PlayStation Plus (PS Plus), your savings will be far more bountiful, and your experiences, far more interactive.
Access To A PlayStation Plus Subscription
Honestly, I cannot see how someone would justify not subscribing to PS Plus! As well as bonus discounts on top of regular PlayStation Network discounts, you have access to a fresh variety of free video games every month! And you need only add them to your library and maintain a PS Plus membership to play them!
Of course, some of the PS Plus monthly games could be classified as “fillers” (e.g. games with low production value, often developed by lesser-known game studios) — and at first, I thought this made the subscription unworthy. But I soon found that I had been narrow-minded, as many non-AAA games, such as indies, classics and arcades, are of exceptionally high quality and enjoyability. Allowing these smaller games a chance broadened my gaming spectrum; and through my subscription PS Plus, I have been introduced to some of my favourite games in existence. (Keep reading to find out what some of these games are!)
Unfortunately, if you forget to add a free monthly game to your library during its featured month, you will have to purchase that game yourself (assuming you want it)… There are ways to combat this, however. Let’s say you are overseas, away from your PlayStation and unable to access PSN Australia. In this circumstance, you can still add games to your library via the PlayStation Network application on your smartphone, and then download and play them when you return. I actually did this whilst exploring Europe for 3 months; it provided me with a sense of satisfaction during that long deprivation from video games…
Extra Benefits of PlayStation Plus
Other benefits of subscribing to PS Plus include the ability to upload 10GB worth of save files to a cloud, the ability to automatically download patches, and ability to access Share Play.
… And there was one other thing? Oh, yes. You cannot play games online without a PS Plus subscription.
Now, this might sound ridiculous, but then you weigh up the aforementioned benefits of PS Plus, you realize that this is a totally justifiable and reasonable move by Sony. It also means that now, because we pay for our online services, a naturally higher quality is to be expected – you don’t expect to have issues with PSN status. Bear in mind that free-to-play titles available through PlayStation Store do not require PS Plus to play online; e.g. Epic Game’s Paragon and High-Rez Studios’ Smite.
When it comes down to it, with the discounts you receive, with the free monthly games, and with its various other benefits — a subscription to PS Plus is totally worth it from a financial point of view. Still need clarification of this? In 2016 PS Plus provided subscribers with $1150 worth of games; you would have paid a minimum of $69.95 (AUD) for that whole year; even if you liked… let’s say… 4 or 5 of those games, it is likely still worth it.
Communication, Friends, Parties and Communities
What is online play without the ability to communicate with other players in your game?
Although, when playing on my PS4, I primarily reserve communication to friends of mine, a lot of games have built-in communication features; for instance, EA DICE’s Battlefield 4 and Blizzard’s Overwatch. This type of communication can be quite handy when you want to communicate with players that aren’t your “friend”. Then, if you wish, you always have the option to add them as a “friend”. You can even create a “party”, in which you can communicate and facilitate online gaming with your PlayStation Network friends. The PlayStation Network also features player “communities”. Communities are essentially constructed groups to which you can invite others for the ease of facilitating communication and online gaming. I remember being a part of an Overwatch community for some time — as in before they kicked me.
Now, this all sounds great, but, I have found the PlayStation Network’s “party” feature to be quite temperamental. Sometimes, I will party with my buddies, only to find that we cannot communicate with each other. (And yes, we have suitable NAT types.) However, this has been an infrequent occurrence, which has not detracted from my communication experience via the PlayStation Network significantly.
First and Third Party Apps and Entertainment Services
Coming standard with access to the PlayStation Network, is the ability to access many first and third party applications. Some first party applications include Live From PlayStation, PlayStation Music, PlayStation Video, and PlayStation Now. And Some third party applications include Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, and Stan. The ability to access these applications makes the PlayStation experience more versatile as a whole. And I believe this is a good thing because consoles have PCs to compete with.
The ability to play music, through Spotify, while I game, is a massive deal to me. I find that music and video games are two peas in a pod. There is nothing like chewing through hordes of enemies with a machine gun, whilst listening to heavy metal. I had been waiting for such a feature since playing on my PS3 back in the day. It definitely beats cramming my iPhone earplugs inside of my gaming headset…
And of course, being able to watch my favourite shows, through Netflix and Stan, is a massive bonus. I now don’t even have to leave my room, which is good, right?
My Favourite PlayStation Plus Monthly Games
There have been a ton of fantastic monthly games released since I first subscribed to PS Plus; in no particular order, here are some of my favourites, each with a brief summation of my experience:
Helldivers (Arrowhead Game Studios) — Best played with friends. Friends you are happy to lose.
Transistor (Supergiant Games) — I have referred to this game in a few of my other articles, and there is a reason why: it is one of the greatest indie games in existence.
Limbo (Playdead) — Grim and dark. Definitely not the children’s game I thought it would be…
Lords of the Fallen (CI Games) — A “Souls-like” game that has an undoubted uniqueness to it.
Apotheon (Alientrap Games) — Completely unique, with such a timeless art style. Little difficult to get the hang of the controls, but well worth the struggle.
Race The Sun (Flippfly) — A time-filler, for all intents and purposes. But it does this well.
Resident Evil (CAPCOM) — Who would have thought such an old game would cause me to scream like a child?
Valiant Hearts (Ubisoft) — Stylized and unique. So much more that a puzzle-solver. The feels, man.
PlayStation Network Hacked!
It was horrible… I had to go outside!
In the month of April, in the year 2011, the PlayStation Network was compromised. 77 million gamers were exposed to the real world for a total of 23 days (or… you know… they gamed on another platform). The attacks, which occurred between the 17th and 19th of April, forced Sony to pull the plug on the PlayStation Network a few days later, on the 20th of April. On the 4th of May, Sony made a public announcement stating that personally identifiable information (i.e. home addresses, email addresses, passwords and credit card data) from those with a PlayStation Network account, had been exposed. It wasn’t until halfway through May of that year, that the service was back online. Although, with the return of this service, the dudes at Sony, being such top blokes, provided players with a bunch of free features and games as a form of compensation for the outage.
This cyber attack resulted in both a loss of over $171 million for Sony, and the upsetting of 77 million console peasants. Damn you, Hackerman.
An Overall Review Of The PlayStation Network And PlayStation Plus
Even when faced with adversity, Sony has always been able to bounce back; I think this resilience is something that deserves a certain degree of respect.
I have spent a whole bunch of my own (and my parents) money on an expensive gaming PC, and still I use my PS4 and keep on top of discounts and the PS Plus monthly freebies. These behaviours are a clear indication of my overall happiness with the console and the PlayStation Network in general.
So, overall, I consider the PlayStation Network to be a user-friendly, versatile online service that provides excellent online gaming services, whilst also catering for a wide variety of other forms of entertainment. I see myself continuing to stick by the PlayStation Network, and the PlayStation console franchise for a while yet.
I hope your PlayStation Network experiences have been at least as pleasing as mine so far!