We can't say that this is a bad move; at least the free PS Network is staying around instead of being replaced. The new service is called PlayStation Plus, which is supposed to deliver "a whole new experience" to end users. PS Plus will bring "value-added offerings including exclusive services and content on June 29, 2010, worldwide." Those will "enhance" the PS Network (which now reaches over 50 million people globally) by giving users frequent discounts on PlayStation Store content, free and exclusive access to select games, full game trials, early invitations to select betas of popular games, and new functionality such as content downloads and updates which will automatically be "pushed" to the PS3 system even when consumers are not using their system.
While all PlayStation Network users will continue to have free access to its expanding game and non-game content and service offerings for the PS3 and PSP systems, PlayStation Plus members will gain access to an exclusive set of features and functionalities designed specifically for gamers--things like free access to WipEout HD, Minis and PS one Classics. Additionally, members will always have access to their virtual library of free games for as long as they keep their PlayStation Plus membership. The service will be available worldwide, but North American users only have two pay options: a full year starting June 29 for $49.99, and if you buy early, you'll get 3 months free. The other is a 90-day subscription for $17.99. Let's count: a new sound system, the PS Move, and now this? It's like you're investing in your gaming experience all over again.
By accessing PlayStation®Store via PlayStation®3 (PS3®), PlayStation Network users will be able to purchase membership*1 to PlayStation Plus, providing members with new options to expand and enhance their gaming experience and enabling them to gain an exclusive set of features and content. For users' convenience, PlayStation Plus will be available in different subscription options of 30 days (Japan: 500 yen, Asia: HK$38), 90 days (North America: $17.99, Europe: euro 14.99) and 365 days (Japan: 5,000 yen, Asia: HK$233, North America: $49.99, Europe: euro 49.99).
PlayStation Plus features include*2:
- Full game trial*3 - Members will have access to full versions of designated PS3® and PlayStation Network titles including PS one® Archives (PS one® Classics). The titles on offer will be available for download on PlayStation Store for a stated period and change every month. Members will be able to play the full version of the game for a designated period and even after the trial period expires, users will be able to continue playing the game by purchasing the game on-line*4.
- Games - Member will be able to play the full version of designated PS3 downloadable and PlayStation Network titles including PS one Archives (PS one Classics) and minis*5 with no limit of time as long as membership is effective. These games will become available exclusively for PlayStation Plus members at no extra cost.
- Special content - Content such as avatars and custom themes many of which are exclusive will become available for PlayStation Plus members at no extra cost.
- Discounts - Members will have access to exclusive discounts on designated PS3 and PSP® (PlayStation®Portable) titles. Titles will vary every month on PlayStation Store.
- Early access - Members will have early access to designated new game beta trials, game demos and video content prior to public distribution.
- Automatic content downloads and updates - PS3 will automatically download and install designated game demos and game updates and also download the system software update data*6. PS3 will automatically start up at a designated time to download content and will turn off after the download has completed.