Playstation Plus is Sony's 'paid' service that normal PSN users can subscribe to for extra services to their PSN account as well as free games and discounts on the Playstation Store.
When it was announced and first rolled out, there was a lot of criticism saying that 'it wasn't worth it' or that it didn't offer enough for the price. Even I was hesitant to get it and held off for a while. That was until March 2011 when Sega announced they were bringing the Sega Vintage Collection to the PSN and that they would be giving them away for free to PSN+ users. Since I quite fancied these games anyway I joined PSN+ and worked out that the cost of them all would have covered a huge portion of the price for PSN+, for some reason I think it more or less covered it, but thats probably wrong.
Joining it was quite a fun start, I managed to snag Sonic 1 for free and another full game for free too, which had trophies =p As well as several free dashboard themes and some new avatars which I otherwise wouldn't have bought.
So things seemed quite good, yet I couldn't understand why so many people on the EU blog were complaining about it... however, one look at the US blog I found out why.
Much like every online store, there are differences between them, typically theres 3 main PSN stores, the Asian/Japanese one, the United States & the Europe store. And there is also a noticable quality/content difference between the three, the Japanese store is by far the largest of the three, it has so much more on it and it even has stuff which has never been on the US or EU store yet why this is the case has never been made clear. e.g. the Night of the Warehog movie is on the Japanese store, yet it's never been put on the US/EU store.
And these differences also extend to Playstation Plus' content. For some reason, the EU store really does miss out on a lot of content, quite often the excuse is given 'territorial differences' and the finger instantly gets pointed to Germany's censorship rules. However this is often disputed when differences include avatars of games which had a universal rating worldwide.
But the reverse is also true, quite often the EU store gets a free game/deal or some kind of special offer which no other store does. This month the EU store has been doing a 12 days of christmas deal, PSN+ users get a free game every 2 days up until December 25th as well as a big discount on a game. The US store didn't get anything like this. Another example would be the game Red Faction Battlegrounds, free for EU users the first week it was out, the US never had this offer.
So the content isn't truly universal, you might find yourself looking on with envy at another store, whilst a month later they're the ones yelling EUROPEANS GET EVERYTHING!
I'll come back to the issue of free/discounted content in a moment. For now lets talk about the other features that come with PSN+, the ones which are most hyped.
* Automatic downloads (this includes patches for all/most recently played games, game demos & recomendations from friends)
* Automatic trophy sync.
* Cloud Saving.
Theres a few other things, but those are the most hyped/talked about things/stuff you're likely to use.
Automatic downloads.... for me, this is the worst feature of PSN+ I have it turned off, you basically set your PS3 a time and it'll turn on (so long as it's in standby mode) download patches for your most recently played games, which sounds great... but then you notice it's also downloading demos and game trials based on what you've been looking at on the store, now you can customise it not to do this, to only download patches... but I turned it off for this reason.
Once the PS3 begins to auto update... it's very difficult to turn it off! It started to download stuff the moment I quit a game (it was during the time period I set it to download things), I decided to just turn off my PS3... however it instantly turned back on... took me to the dashboard and continued to download... again I told it to stop... turned off the PS3... it turns back on...
Only way I could stop it was to go into my settings and turn off auto updates.
Automatic trophy sync. This is pointless. It doesn't auto update trophies (which is what we want), it's like auto downloads, you set a time on your PS3, it'll turn on then auto sync your trophies. Again pointless, just do it when you finish playing a game.
Cloud Saving... this... this is almost worth the price of PSN+ alone! Now had this been around when I had my first PS3, I'd probably be saying just buy PSN+ for this! For me, having Final Fantasy 13 at nearly 100% completion, only for the PS3 to break, along with the save file is not a nice thing to experience, as well as loosing all the other saved data for other games.
Nowever, this has also given me freedom with a lot of games to do stuff I wouldn't normally do. A lot of games are copy protected, but cloud saving allows a copy/download function to that protective file, the only catch is that you can only access that save file once every 24 hours. Take this for example. If I'm playing Dark Souls and I backup the save, I continue to play and then come to a decision, 'do I play the game this way... or this way...' So I pick one... if after a while I regret my decision, previously I would be locked into continuing, or a total restart, now I can re-load an earlier save whereas before I would be tied to one extreme or the other.
And this is true for every game, the backup save function allows you to do things one way over another. It even assists greatly with getting 100% trophies on some games, you see, a lot of games tend to have 'branching moment's' which forces the player to do a second playthrough and sometimes a third or fourth. But PSN+'s cloud saving allows players to make 'checkpoints' for games which don't offer additional save slots, thuss saving time and a lot of grinding work.
But the best thing? When you save a file to the PSN+ cloud system, it's there forever, even if you are no longer a PSN+ member. So should the worst happen to your PS3 and you can't replace/access your account for a while... that 300 hour character on Demons Souls or White Knight Chronicles is no longer lost forever, and your Just Cause 2 file, still there and you can explore it again if the need takes you.
If theres one thing you should strongly consider PSN+ for, it's this... But enough of that... lets talk about the freebies.
Free Stuff/Exclusive stuff/Cheap stuff.
The following spoiler contains a list of games I have gotten for free since I joined PSN+ back in March 2011. This list only includes full games and games which had trophies on them, it does not include minis or PS1 classic games.
Like I said... that list doesn't include other free games I've downloaded (as it's harder for me to check), but it would include games like Crash Bandicoot 1/2/3 & CTR, Destruction Derby, MediEvil & Cool Boarders.
That list also doesn't include any of the free themes (both the universal and exclusive PSN+ ones) or avatars.
Now I'm not sure what the total cost of those games would be had I just bought them... but I think it's safe to say that my initial PSN+ purchase... has pretty much paid for itself several times over. Now with some of the non trophy games, I've not played them all, nor do I think I will do. But thats not to say they were bad, today I got Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo HD Remix for free, good game, but just not for me... but it certainly saved me actually buying it.
Looking at those games, thats a lot of gaming, from looking at what I've got, you'd think that I would have been over the moon...
However, it's very easy to get frustrated with PSN+. Typically, it has a big update at the start of the month, then much smaller updates as the month goes on. Unfortunately, some of the updates are not good, it's even more annoying when you discover the big game is one you already own.
Take November - December. This for me was the worst time to be a PSN+ user, They ended October with Dead nation, a game I already had (had I not had this game, it would have been amazing, a very long game that gives a platinum trophy), then the big game for December was Tomb Raider Underworld... another game I already had... But fortunately the 12 days of Christmas happened, and I got a lot of free games to make up for it.
So is PSN+ worth it?
For me, I will never use the automatic downloads/updates, but cloud storage is almost worth the cost of it alone. You do truly get a huge selection of games, even if you're not interested in them, just download, then cancel the download, it'll go on your history and will always be there should you decide to go for it later on.
The game selection you get is quite vast, not to mention the exclusive stuff, I managed to pick up a very cool 1990's Sega room dynamic theme which has never been released outside of the PSN+ store. It's also quite useful in getting you to try out games you wouldn't ever consider. I've played a lot of beat em' up games thanks to this that I wouldn't ever have dreamed of looking at thanks to PSN+ some I've liked, others not so much. But had it not been for this service, I would never have tried it.
If you are thinking about getting it, I would definately recommend it.... However... PSN+ is almost always on offer in some way, some offers are much better than others... e.g. "Get 3 months free" (How I wish I got this!) "get X% off", Get a choice of game free (Games have included, Jurassic Park (all episodes) & Daytona HD). If theres nothing in the months PSN+ update you like the look of (just look at the PS blogs for whats there this month), just wait until theres an offer you like the look of and take advantage of it.
It is definately worth the money... but... there can be one month where you feel like it's totally worthless. when your 'month' turns up, it's the best thing ever, but when it's a dry month for stuff you're interested in, it can be a little annoying.