In Defence of Playstation Plus’s Free Games

Super Meat Boy

Every month, I do something which nobody of a sane mind would do: I deliberately wander into a comments section on the internet. Not just any comments section either, it’s the one to accompany Sony’s confirmation of the coming month’s free new PlayStation Plus games.

I would be a liar if I didn’t say that it sometimes leaves me a little disappointed to find out that I won’t be receiving a massive, headline-making game for free, but not to the extent that I publicly deride the company for resorting to “yet another stupid indie game” in their monthly line-up. The comments range from the declaration of quitting the subscription service because of the lack of AAA games to those that are pleased they are playing something they otherwise might not have had the chance to. The majority unfortunately seem to fall into the former category.

Take October’s selection of free PlayStation Plus games, for example. It’s led by the almost perfect platformer that is Super Meat Boy: a game so mechanically tight and fluid that it’s hard to really get mad after falling in lava for the 2560th time. Other highlights included the oddly charming but often too obtuse (translation: me no brain good) Unmechanical and the fascinating Broken Age. When you total the value of these games alone up, it comes to more than the cost of your subscription by some distance. It might not have been the absolutely best month for PlayStation Plus, but it was still up there, opening doors to games that most people might not have even thought of experiencing.

That’s the problem, people don’t trust what they don’t know. Instead of giving these indies a chance, too many gamers are too quick discard them as not good enough or outright insulting – I think it’s fair to say there hasn’t been a single objectively bad game in any of the months so far, nearly two years after its launch. If every month had a game as successful as Rocket League, you probably wouldn’t have to put up with my seemingly fanboy-ish rambling, but that’s just the way it is.

Here’s the thing. I would prefer to have 1000 Super Meat Boys instead of 1 true AAA game for free every month. Small developers needs all the help they can get to sometimes just break even – I would much prefer to support a team that could potentially create the next Ocarina of Time or The Last of Us rather than being just one more pair of pair of thumbs on a controller, delving into a series from a publisher that’s become stagnant, refusing to budge from their yearly cycle of tweaking their biggest games and expecting consumers to lap it up each time.

Although I can’t even begin to understand how it works, I have to assume that these indie developers are paid a fee for the licensing of their game, which brings a whole new audience to their products. Would a company like Ubisoft or EA see their stock soar because one of their games was available for free? No. But how about a small, dedicated team who are trying to make games the honest way? You bet. The money and publicity could be the push in the direction they need to make something truly groundbreaking.

I will continue to pay for and gladly use PlayStation Plus, even if I don’t necessarily play any of its free games to death each month. It might not always wow me, but once in awhile, it’s absolutely inspired. If a good reception for an indie game helps the developer to reach new heights, who am I to complain?

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