The console wars have been going on for as long as gaming has been around. Systems have long inspired a fervent loyalty among players and the wars first sparked in a relatively simpler era, when the conversation focused on which system provided the better games. It’s always been a part of the gaming community, and as the industry has grown and games have gotten more complex, so too has the discussion. These days, the conversation is about more than just the quality of games; it’s become a discussion of technical capabilities, development teams, and even about which system has the better online store and services.
Downloading games is quickly becoming the new standard for content acquisition, with both the current heavyweights, Xbox and PlayStation, letting players purchase new games from the comfort of the couch, as opposed to going to the store and buying them. With online features and options opening up, so too have new fronts in the console wars. Xbox Gold and PlayStation Plus offer users the chance to download select free games every month with a subscription fee service that's also required to play games online. Using user satisfaction as a metric for determining which console is winning the battle on this front, PlayStation, it seems, has a long way to go according to the latest numbers.
A new poll conducted by PlayStation Reddit has found that user satisfaction for PlayStation Plus is now at an all-time low at 23.1%. The fall from grace is huge compared to former years. It represensents a decline of over 70%, down from a 95% satisfaction rate in a similar poll conducted just four years ago.
The results of the poll aren’t terribly surprising for anyone who’s looked around on message boards or PlayStation-related comment sections over the last few months. Many users have decried the unimpressive selection of free games from PlayStation every month, with far fewer major titles being offered by the company in comparison to their Xbox competitors.
Looking back at the last few months of Xbox Gold and PlayStation Plus selections, it’s not hard to see where the frustration is coming from. Xbox Gold members have gotten access to such major titles like Killer Instinct, Hand of Fate, and Lords of Fallen for the Xbox One. Meanwhile, PS Plus members have gotten titles such as Grim Fandango Remastered, Hardware Rivals, Helldivers, Nom Nom Galaxy, and Broforce for the PS4.
PlayStation's penchant for offering up smaller games may be a source of ire among some gamers who’ve gotten increasingly frustrated by the lack of major titles released for free under PS+, but are expectations too high? While it’d definitely be nice to get thrown some AAA bones by the company every once in a while, especially since it's a paid-for service, the service at least is providing gamers with a unique opportunity for broadening horizons and gaining new experiences with games that otherwise might have been missed. That doesn't mean we can't have the best of both worlds though and that's on Sony.
There can be no denying that the indie game market is one of the more vibrant areas of modern gaming, with an increasing frequency of upstart companies creating unique and inspired gaming experiences not offered by the major development studios. Major games these days tend to be over reliant on familiar tropes and scenarios, as well as in-game purchases, in order to make their money and keep fans coming back year after year. The indie market, on the other hand, has been breaking ground with exciting games that harken back to the spirit of old school gaming.
By offering these smaller titles, PlayStation is giving much needed exposure to smaller companies who, quite often, live and die by word of mouth. Look at Rocket League as a shining example of how an indie game given for free on PS+ can be a game-changer. Given the vibrancy and diversity of the smaller game market these days, PlayStation's support of these games could affect some seriously positive long term change for the gaming industry.
That being said, with numbers as low as they are, it would definitely behoove Playstation to change their direction and offer users some "AAA" titles in addition to their smaller games. Given that this the new front of the console wars, Sony cannot allow too much ground to be gained by Microsoft on the road to E3 2016. Perhaps it’s time for the company to heed the calls that the vocal have been crying for months now, and it wouldn’t hurt to give the devoted more of the kinds of games they want after forcing the service as a requirement on the PS4 to play online.