Yesterday, the PlayStation Blog crew lifted the curtain on the free titles that PlayStation Plus subscribers can enjoy as part of the first PS store update of November. Excellent titles such as Mass Effect 2, Beyond Good & Evil HD and Magicka 2 stand out in the small crowd of games that millions of gamers can soon enjoy as a benefit of subscribing to the service. Or can they? After reading the blog post introducing November’s PlayStation Plus titles, scroll down slightly further into the comments section and you’ll be greeted by hundreds of gamers trashing the selection of games and questioning why they even pay for PS+ anymore. This isn’t a recent trend, sadly, as this happens month in and month out. Outstanding titles such as Fez, Super Meat Boy, Rogue Legacy, Rocket League, Resogun, Broken Age, and even Injustice: Gods Among Us have graced the service at some point in time to the same reception from these so-called gamers. While I understand that these free titles are a big selling point of the service, I’m beginning to get the feeling that it may be time to stop giving these games away.
Now, it’s easy to see my cynical side on the surface here. Clearly, we have tons of self-entitled gamers crying out in anger every month because they feel the games they are being given are garbage. The PS3 received PlayStation Plus several years into the console’s life cycle (editor’s note: PlayStation Plus was first introduced in June of 2010), and as such, there have been tons of AAA titles available through the service including XCOM: Enemy Unknown, BioShock: Infinite, Batman: Arkham City, and Deus Ex: Human Revolution to name a few. It’s not hard to see that, over the years, PS3 gamers have been treated to some upper echelon titles, simply for subscribing to PS+. But, how has this changed expectations for the titles offered on PS4 as a part of PlayStation Plus? Judging by the angry comments these gamers throw out every single month, top-shelf titles (read: retail titles) have become an inherent expectation from last generation. While gamers continue to put AAA titles up on a pedestal, they also continue to look down on titles that pack just as much value and entertainment into their smaller download sizes.
Indie games are a cornerstone of this generation of gaming. We’ve heard from multiple studio executives in the recent past that big AAA gaming experiences will see fewer releases this generation due to the manpower and time required to build these bombastic adventures that gamers crave. In the meantime, smaller teams are bringing us these ridiculously fun titles like Helldivers, Ori and the Blind Forest, Nero, Tiny Brains, and Resogun that, while not loaded with the over-the-top cinematics and depth of a Call of Duty or Halo, still pack as much fun and excitement into their digital file as any game, regardless of budget.
This is where I feel a strange mindset is forming. Because these indie games aren’t Titanfall or inFAMOUS: Second Son caliber titles, they’re looked upon as lesser games. Without even bothering to look up what some of these games are, many angrily take to the comments section of the PlayStation Plus reveal post to voice their displeasure every single month. Seeing full-retail titles offered over the years on the PS3 seems to have created this mentality where any title that’s not a big budget or household name is just not worth the time to download for free. In reality, many of the games being offered through either Games with Gold or the PlayStation Plus’ Instant Game Collection are games that have higher Metacritic scores than many of the AAA titles these rabid gamers would rather be given. In a sense, by giving these games away, they’re essentially (in the minds of these consumers) validating that these games aren’t worth anything.
I know I’m not the only person who sees this every month. It’s become a running joke that no matter which game is included in the PlayStation Plus lineup, it’s never going to be good enough. Maybe it’s time for Sony and Microsoft to simply stop giving games away. Maybe, just maybe, that’ll restore not only a sense of value in these awesome indie titles, but remind gamers that they are not owed a single thing from Xbox or PlayStation. These free titles are simply one benefit amongst several — which also include online play and some pretty nice discounts from time-to-time — to subscribing to the service. Eliminating this feature could weed out those gamers who choose to constantly complain. Ultimately, those who use either Games with Gold or PlayStation Plus for everything else they offer are not likely to be at much of a loss.