Memories Of A Generation

With the new generation of home consoles now officially upon us games media has, not unexpectedly, been buried under a veritable slurry of Game Of The Generation lists. There’s enough of those though, and there’s only so many ways the genius of a select few titles can be dissected, so I decided to do something a little bit different, and write up my Memories Of A Generation – a list of games which may not necessarily be the greatest technical or artistic achievements, but those which I shall cherish as defining moments of my love for this industry, and its seventh coming.


Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns Of The Patriots

Missing the tail end of the PS2’s era, and the first couple of years of PS3 meant Metal Gear Solid 4 was one of the first PS3 games I experienced, and perhaps warrants its position atop my list for that reason alone – being the game which introduced me to PlayStation 3.
A few dabbles of unexciting new IP aside, Guns Of The Patriots was most certainly the first PlayStation 3 game I sat down to for more than a fleeting moment, knowing instead I simply had to play-through Kojima’s newest outing in its entirety.

The first Metal Gear Solid game some ten years earlier had been full of unforgettable moments, but until I’d played through it again – and again – the depth of the characters had escaped me. It was a game as much about the classic gaming trope of not getting caught by the bad guys,as infiltrating a nuclear weapons cache, for example.

Metal Gear Solid 4, and the generation to which it belonged, changed things – I came of age.

Looking back, the actual gameplay wasn’t nearly as thrilling as I remember, and those cut-scenes are an insufferable length, but MGS4 shall forever hold its place as the first time I actively engaged with a video-game’s intentions to provide an interactive and inclusive narrative, and as a platform for storytelling beyond “rescue the princess” or “defeat the boss”. Sure there had been games many years earlier which I realised had a story, but for the most part I ignored them, choosing instead to race, shoot, sneak and smash my way through each defined level in the fastest time, looking for the instant gratification that comes from the classic leaderboard or credits screen.

Metal Gear Solid 4 changed the way I viewed, and subsequently shaped the way I played video games, to this day.


Bioshock

Ken Levine’s tale of a dystopian underwater existence could just as well appear on my list because of its story, one which I am still very much enjoying to this day as I read John Shirley’s novel Rapture – a prequel of sorts – but it doesn’t. Instead Bioshock features in my Top 5 because of its DLC, The Challenge Rooms. This humble £6.49 package was the first digital game content I’d purchased on a console, and as we leave the generation in which post-release add-ons, in-app purchases and subscription based season passes became an accepted norm, Bioshock once again stands as a marked turning point for my experience with videogames, and the digital arena games now roam.


The tiles I mentioned above both bestow deep woven and intricate narratives upon the player, escalating their surroundings from mere gaming environments to entertainment experiences akin to great cinematic releases. Both Bioshock and Metal Gear resonate massively with myself because of this fact, and no doubt would be on many a “Games Of The Generation” list for that very reason, but as games become increasingly detailed and bogged down with trite over-production, many step away from what we all knew and loved as video games back in our younger years; Seemingly simple characters, doing seemingly simple things.

The recent indie resurgence on PlayStation consoles has gone some way to recapturing that era for me, but there will always be one company that leads the way in championing the unadulterated essence of classic gaming and the childlike innocence of videogames as toys. Nintendo.


Wii Sports

Nintendo’s Wii console released alongside the 360 and PS3 to instant widespread acclaim. The broad appeal of one-button gaming and gesture controls meant that come Christmas 2006 Nintendo had a captive, interested, audience – including everyone from little Jimmy to Aunt Maude.

And their master-stroke? Including Wii Sports. The collection was quite obviously packaged as an introduction to the new motion-sensitive tech, but Nintendo – whether they quite expected it or not – had struck on something magical. Wii Sports rejuvenated family gaming, and everyone from 3 to 93 had an open-ended invite to videogames for the first time in years.


Little Big Planet

Whilst creation modes and level editors within existing games were not unheard of, the arrival of Little Big Planet flipped that idea on its head. There was a fairly complete and enjoyable platformer in the box, but that wasn’t the game, it was a tutorial. For those inclined Media Molecule’s masterpiece is a game creation tool with a platformer attached. An online community with an imagination infinitely broader than mine crafted everything from their own platformers and puzzlers to first person shooters and absolutely everything in between.

Little Big Planet pulled PlayStation gamers away from their dingy identi-kit shooters and into a world of colourful creativity, one which we’ve since seen blossom with the likes of Minecraft – and will surely see more of when Microsoft’s own Project Spark launches for Xbox One – and for that it surely deserves a place on my list.


Burnout Paradise

Critereon’s massive open-world racer simply has to take my final spot on the podium. Though many have tried since, Paradise remains unrivaled in its delivery of sheer brilliance at break-neck speed. This reinvention of the Burnout franchise does absolutely everything right from the moment you boot it up – be that roaring around Paradise City cherry-picking races on a whim, or pulling up alongside friends and throwing down a challenge over PSN.

That’s why it’s here – Burnout Paradise has an online infrastructure that just works. There’s no need to faff about with traditional lobbies and waiting times, just a group of up to 8 friends cruising the same persistent open-world and dropping in and out of races with the press of a button. Burnout Paradise’s online mode is fast, furious and most importantly, fun!



Note: This post originated at TheSixthAxis.com, where I asked readers to join in, and that they did. You can read those thoughts by clicking through to part one, and part two.
Thank you.

Memories Of A Generation

Going Hands On With Sony’s PlayStation 4

This past weekend I headed down to London for a day of gaming and general geek debauchery at Eurogamer Expo. After awaking from my slumber at Ridiculous O’Clock, spending ninety minutes on cramped public transport and then queuing in the bowels of the Earls Court dungeon, the show doors opened – and the day of my PS4 hands-on had come.

First impressions? It’s a bit bloody special.

I spent the majority of my day on the PS4 or Vita, and thankfully managed to play a fair selection of upcoming titles. Those ever-generous folks at Playstation Access had also given me fast-track access to what shall henceforth be known as “the cordoned off area of dreams”, and with the queues well into two-plus hours by mid-afternoon, for that I am eternally grateful. There are not enough hours in the day to experience everything Sony had to offer, let alone explore all the other goodies dotted around the expansive show floor.

The Dualshock 4 maintains the tried and tested ergonomics of it’s predecessors, including the iconic four face buttons, twin analog sticks, and shoulder buttons. This time around, however, Sony have made some notable changes, which, whilst impactful enough to enhance the overall PlayStation experience, still remain faithful to the proven control method we all love.

For starters, there’s the stonking great trackpad right there on the front, which is both clickable, and allows for two-point touch input. This new capacitive touchpad sits neatly above the redesigned analog sticks, pushing the old Start and Select buttons – now Share & Options – to the side. The 2.5” 16.9 pad is surprisingly easy to get to with your thumbs during gameplay, that said, however, I’m not so sure about using the multitouch component in practice; Even though clicking and swiping the panel whilst still holding the controller naturally was a breeze, It felt somewhat uncomfortable and counter-intuitive to perform precision motions on.

Whilst it’s still very much early days, the DualShock4’s touchpad, if used correctly – quickly flicking up to throw a grenade in an FPS for example – will in my opinion prove to be a revolutionary attribute. Sadly, I can’t help but worry it’ll be shoehorned into every single launch title, utilised badly, and as such receive a negative reaction from consumers – leading developers to all but forget about it thereafter.

Say Hello to the DualShock 3’s SixAxis, won’t you?

As you’d expect, the face buttons and d-pad are present and correct, and thankfully all have solid and satisfying clicks to them, a trait afforded by the DS4 reverting to a digital button array, rather than emulating the DualShock 3’s analog approach. This switch comes at a cost, of course – the on / off nature of digital means the loss of pressure sensitive action buttons, which, whilst tricky to master, were still remarkably handy for sports titles and some racing games in particular, on my PS3.

There’s also the required charging port, which is now Micro, rather than Mini-USB, and sits on the bottom of the pad alongside the newly introduced headset jack. A wired headset will be included in your PS4 box, which is by no means a system seller, but will certainly please those who’ve been using a similar set up with their Xbox 360 previously. Let’s not forget Nintendo’s influence on Sony’s new masterpiece either, as the Dualshock 4 now touts a small mono speaker up front – you know, like the one on your Wii-mote which you simply couldn’t have lived without.

No? Nevermind.

The Dualshock 4’s shoulder buttons and dual-analog sticks have been tweaked to improve the player’s experience, too. The triggers slightly larger, with a greater travel and a new concave design which, like the slight recess in each thumbstick, makes using the control for any considerable period of time far more comfortable than previously.

Between those reshaped triggers sits the DualShock 4 Light Bar, a curious little thing which seems to have two defined features; When I saw it used at the weekend, this glowing oddity served as a secondary visual feedback which accompanied the game, but didn’t really enhance anything. It sat shining ‘PlayStation Blue’ for the most part, occasionally flashing red, or yellow, to replicate the goings-on on screen. A cursory gimmick. The Light Bar’s true appeal, and ultimately the reason for it’s inclusion, is that it can be tracked via the PlayStation Camera however – Wizardry last seen with the PS3’s Move wand peripheral.

The newly designed PlayStation Eye, now called the PlayStation Camera, is, afterall, a wonderful bit of kit – its dual-camera and quad-microphone set-up all housed in a surprisingly unobtrusive device not dissimilar in width to the DualShock – but coming at an additional cost, it’s bound to deter potential consumers, and in turn, delay or entirely deter development of games utilising the Light Bar.

These concerns are not to take anything away from the new controller though. All in all, what Sony have achieved with the Dualshock 4 is brilliance. The glossy front and matt rear afford it a stylistic identity to match the forthcoming console and whilst It’s slightly larger, and nearly 20g heavier than its PS3 companion, the DS4 appears to be far more user-friendly, comfortable, and dare I say, a little less sweaty during those lengthy play sessions.

The PlayStation team have refined their iconic controller and crafted what is, in my eyes, the definitive next-gen pad. We’ve come a long way from A & B buttons on a rectangle.

A particular talking point for both Housemarque’s Resogun and Guerilla Game’s latest Killzone outing has to be the lighting effects and sheer visual vibrancy in their design – both titles looked absolutely stunning.

Resogun is being described as the spiritual successor to PS3’s Super Stardust – which was not only the first HD title to release on Sony’s current-gen machine, but later also became the first to support the system’s 3D capabilities – and boy does it show; The gameplay borrows enormously from its elder brother, and just like in the Super Stardust games previously, every single button press in Resogun results in a ridiculously beautiful explosion of ocular delight. This is one to watch.

Similarly, Killzone: Shadow Fall features an abundance of shimmering light effects and hues traditionally unseen in big-budget console shooters. Shadow Fall’s multiplayer was a joy to play too, with the DualShock 4’s new triggers lending themselves nicely to the genre.

Drive Club, the latest creation from Motorstorm developer Evolution Studios, is PS4’s big social racer for launch, and is set to compete with the likes of Xbox One’s Forza Motorsport 5 and Ubisoft’s cross-platform The Crew as we embrace the next-gen “connected” experience.

Either way, both Resogun & Drive Club will be included for free with PlayStation Plus at launch, so you’ve no excuse not to check those out for yourself.

To close, It’s fair to say everything Sony had to show, with regards to the Hardware, right down to the games, was, in a word, awesome.

It would have been nice to have seen first hand just how Sony are implementing their Remote Play features with regards to the Vita and such, but none the less, my little jaunt to London on Saturday has undeniably rejuvenated my desire for Sony’s PlayStation 4.

Personally, I just can not wait to tear into such amazing games all over again a few short months from now.

Is it November 29th yet?

Going Hands On With Sony’s PlayStation 4

Still Rocking A CRT Or Are We Truly A High Definition Generation?

Insomniac’s long-awaited Ratchet: Gladiator launched earlier this week, finally hitting the PlayStation Network storefront after multiple delays. Even after the long wait however, a minority of gamers may still find the title to be completely unplayable.

The reasoning? That magical box of tricks to which your PS3 is connected: the goggle-box; your TV. You see, Gladiator’s store description holds the following salient piece of information:

“High definition display required. This game does not support standard definition TVs.”

You what? I can’t play this game panned, scanned, and in full glorious monochrome on my 14” portable? Outrageous! I jest of course, I’ve a lovely LCD set, but the listing does pose some curious discussion about whether we’re equipped for not only HD ready, but HD reliant gaming.

Gladiator’s unexpected requirement – believed to be the first of its kind – had me wondering whether an HD-exclusive future is on the horizon or whether we’re currently living in one now.

When the PS3 launched in late 2006 / early 2007, consumers worldwide were just starting to make the transition to high-def, but now with the next generation of consoles mere months away, HD is all but a necessity. Nintendo’s mid-gen release, the Wii U, still happily outputs via component cables or HDMI, but both Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Microsoft’s forthcoming Xbox One will feature a singular source of video output, and yep, you guessed it, that’s HDMI.

Come Christmas roughly a quarter of Western households will be entirely unable to join in on the likes of Killzone: ShadowFall, or Forza 5. The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board estimates 26.8 million private domestic households (approx. 97%) in the UK own televisions, however data released last summer (July 2012) by the UK’s communications industries regulator, Ofcom, reveals that only 70% of UK households have a HD ready TV, which whilst a 10% marked increase on 2011’s figures, still leaves nearly a third of households – some 9million TV-owning consumers – potentially unable to partake in next-gen.

If Ratchet: Gladiator is a sign of things to come, this SD TV owning demographic won’t be any better off sticking with the PS3 or Xbox 360 either. Those consoles may well be supported into 2014 and beyond, but their ‘legacy’ connectivity, however, is still deemed useless if the newly released content isn’t compatible – as today’s release surely highlights.

Research group Leichtman, Inc. conducted a similar study earlier this year in the US, whereby 75% of respondents claimed ownership of a HD TV. 38% of this sample had access to more than one HD capable television.

Interestingly, the Leichtman report also indicates that less than a quarter of all US homes, 23% in fact, had access to a HD TV in 2007, with UK figures for mid-2008 thought to be around 10m sets. Of course, a generation ago HD was still very costly, and the vast majority of people, myself included, felt they could, and potentially should, wait a while and ride out their trusty, undying CRT.

Nowadays, old fashioned SD TV sets are no longer found for sale in the mainsteam, and yes, those who enjoy games on more than a once-a-week casual level are increasingly likely to already have a HD set or two at their disposal – nonetheless, the figures are remarkably telling, and with so many households potentially still relying on the tried and tested box-in-the-corner, the next couple of years could be interesting for video-games.

Still, at least HD-only titles mean you’ll never have to sit with your nose pressed against the glass, squinting furiously as you try to make out some semblance of a weird Japanese game’s subtitled plot-line, eh?

Still Rocking A CRT Or Are We Truly A High Definition Generation?

Why Have HMV Removed Wii U From Shelves, But Not Sale?

Following reductions over the last couple of weeks elsewhere, HMV have today discounted their Sony hardware, bringing their PS3 and Vita bundle prices in line with what other retailers are offering.

The price cuts have led me down a rather curious path with regards to HMV and their policies though. Let me explain…

It’s no secret that short of the spattering of neon pink Beats headphones, next to all ‘tech’ has disappeared from HMV shelves in recent months. This move, back to the retailer’s core audience of music and video was, as I’m sure you’re mostly aware, brought about by the company’s financial troubles, which led to numerous store closures earlier in the year.

So then, last night, when a local HMV tweeted some rather tempting deals for Sony’s handheld, I enquired as to the reasoning behind the price cut, asking if it was a mark-down, or indeed another case of technology being removed from the stores.

The reply I then received, however, was mind-boggling.

You see, I frequent the branch in question, and had noticed that within the last few weeks all traces of Nintendo’s Wii U had disappeared – instead being replaced by the much higher mark-up of current movie release merchandise, and One Direction mugs (in both a literal, and figurative sense). I’d accepted the consoles fate, assuming HMV’s Wii U presence had gone the same way as other retailers.

Apparently not so. HMV are still selling Wii U consoles, but only if you ask for one. The troubled retailer are hedging their bets that consumers looking for this particular item, are going to wade through the stacks of unofficial X-Factor biographies, and queue up empty-handed this Christmas, rather than walking three minutes down the street to GAME or even Argos, both of which clearly have the product for sale.

Let’s be clear – this isn’t Cliff’s back catalogue, or a black and white western on VHS. Nor is it a Furby, bottle of bleach, or Henry the Hoover. It’s a product for which you carry stock, and should be openly promoting. There’s an entire aisle dedicated to PS3 and 360 titles, and even a handful of 3DS bits and bobs – but not a sniffle with regards to Wii U hardware. Nothing, not even a shelf edge label alerting me, the paying customer, that you stock Wii U. My brain hurts.

HMV appear to have mistaken Club Nintendo for Fight Club. What’s the rule again?

While this bizarre little jaunt into sales and marketing policies perhaps gives us an idea as to why the Wii U isn’t selling particularly well, it almost certainly gives us a clear insight as to why HMV had to ditch their tech makeover before it was really off the ground.

Dear confused retailers,

As gamers, many of us love a digital quest – but generally we would prefer our purchases to be more like opening a loot-chest, and less like embarking on an encrypted secret intel based mini-game.

Thanks.

Why Have HMV Removed Wii U From Shelves, But Not Sale?

The Real Cost Of Being A Saint?

Recently it was revealed that a special edition of Saints Row IV, known as the Wad Wad Edition was to be made available – for the princely sum of $1,000,000 (exchange at time of writing: £646,496).

There’s already your bog standard edition, a Commander edition and even the hilarious Wub Wub Dubstep Edition, but the latest Saints Row IV collectors package really is taking the proverbial, even for the Saints.

The Saints Row IV: Super Dangerous Wad Wad Edition is, as you’d expect, limited to a single unit, and is being advertised by GAME.

As you can see, the package includes a fair few bits and bobs, but how much is all that really worth? After speaking with Saints Row PR, and being told this bundle was indeed “a legitimate special edition” I took it upon myself to investigate.

“If you have $1,000,000 then lets talk” I was told, and so, talk I did.

First things first, the package obviously contains a copy of Saints Row IV – and it’s the Commander in Chief Edition no less – that’ll set you back £30 via Amazon, and since we were all buying that anyway, that’s only another £646,466 to find down the back of the sofa. Seems reasonable.

The only other exclusively Saints related item in the package is the replica Dubstep Gun, which, from what I can tell, is exclusive to another of the game’s special editions. That one will set you back £90, but includes a Johnny Gat statuette and other tidbits. Deducting those items, I’ve put an assumed value of £30 on the noisy plastic keepsake.

Now, on to one of the more eccentric items – the “bespoke” plastic surgery. According to sources, the most requested forms of comestic surgery are Lipoplasty, Rhinoplasty, and Breast Augmentation. Each of these procedures are commonplace and could cost somewhere in the region of £3,000, for what is considered an average treatment. Let’s take all three.

Naturally, to go with that new body, you’ll need a new wardrobe, and that’s no problem, a personal shopper will fit you out with a capsule wardrobe any Z-list celebrity would be proud of. Having been to one or two gamer conventions, however, it’s clear to me I’m not the only average Joe who favours a hoodie and sweats whilst playing. Not entirely sure the value of this one – but let’s guesstimate £10,000 here.

Then there’s the holidays. Can you get tailored mankinis?

The Saints Presidential PR will be sending you for seven nights in Dubai’s Burj-Al-Arab at a cost of £103,360, followed by seven nights in Washington DC’s Jefferson Hotel at a further £3,600.

For those keeping track, after including airfares for the two holidays (totalling around £7,000), we’re up to £133,020.

Oh, right – there’s a third ‘holiday’, but it’s more about the flight than the destination – A Virgin Galactic suborbital space flight, to be precise. Did I mention Saints Row is a little bit mental? I can’t comment on the leg room, but I hear the views are to die for. £160,150.

Once you’re back on terra firma, a couple of experience days are thrown into the mix, each costing £125 or so online, so if you fancy being a soldier or spy, you’re covered. Tinkers and Tailors need not apply – unless they’re making that mankini.

Finally, for those who have a real need for speed, there’s also a supercar bundle comprising a brand new Toyota Prius boasting a monumental top speed of 112mph, and the latest little runaround by Lamborghini, a Gallardo Spyder Performante.

Fully specced, the former costs somewhere in the region of £35,000 including the insurance, with the latter a far more acceptable £186,600 on-the-road. If neither of those cars tickle your fancy, an annual unlimited Supercar membership which grants access to track days throughout the UK is also included, at a retail of roughly £10,000. Phew.

Let’s do some sums, shall we? Using the above information, and today’s Google exchange rate, the total “value” of the Saints Row IV: Wad Wad Edition is far from its purported million dollars – with the contents costing a mere £525,020, some £121,476 short of its £646,496 asking.

I’m sure you’ll agree, that’s a whole lot of crazy for your money, but, alas, not nearly enough.

Saints Row IV is released for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 & Windows PC next Friday. Now, where’s that £150 steelbook version of GTA V?

The Real Cost Of Being A Saint?

Sony’s Big Giveaway: One Year With PlayStation’s Instant Game Collection

About a year ago, as Sony reimagined PlayStation Plus for its second anniversary, I wrote an article about the subscription model, and its monetary value. Twelve months on from the relaunch, I’ve decided once again to look at the service, round up the figures, and throw my two-penneth into the pot.

The evolution of PlayStation Plus from a somewhat niche product running alongside the PS3 – acting as little more, in my opinion, than a promotional tool – to what is now a fully-fledged PlayStation experience, has been more than welcome.

Of course, the arrival of what Sony calls its “Instant Game Collection” has been the biggest change, bringing top-rated AAA titles to the service and making PlayStation Plus now almost unrecognisable in terms of content from its humble beginnings. The other noticeable difference implemented this year, is the inclusion of PlayStation Vita titles, and the subsequent removal of minis and Classics, from the monthly updates.

At the time of writing, anyone with a Plus subscription can access 15 games completely free of charge, which at their current PlayStation Store retail prices would cost well in excess of £300.

There’s 10 games, amounting to £250.40 of content for PlayStation 3 gamers alone, and whilst we have to account for the PSN’s less than favourable pricing system against physical media, you’ve got to admit that’s a ridiculous amount of money. More than half a PlayStation 4 in fact.

Vita players get a modest 5 titles, totaling £81.95 worth of downloads, although again, this saving could net you another two years of PlayStation Plus (or one, and that Vita Memory card you’ll be requiring) making the service pay for itself instantly.

Sony advertise PlayStation Plus with the catchy strapline of “pay less, play more”, and looking at the figures above you’d be hard pressed to argue. £39.99 for a year of a service which provides top quality games such as Battlefield 3, Uncharted: Golden Abyss & Xcom: Enemy Unknown each month is certainly making me want to play more.

Being the massive geek I am, I’ve looked at all the games made available for free to subscribers during the first year of PlayStation Plus’ Instant Game Collection, and found some simply mind boggling results.

Why I’m giving you these figures and not Sony is beyond me.

For clarity: To the best of my knowledge, the following quoted figures include all PS3, PlayStation Vita & native PSN releases within the UK, but exclude PSP, PSOne Classics, PS2 Classics, Minis & PS Mobile titles. Also excluded are any other items, such as themes, avatars and DLC. Cross Buy titles are counted once, and all prices are correct as of July 10th, 2013.)

Currently, the PlayStation 3 is where Plus subscribers will find the biggest savings: the platform’s large games back catalogue and install base of some 70 million (shipped units, 2011) make the home console a brilliant pedestal for Sony’s service. More recently the push to get their handheld – the PlayStation Vita – into the hearts and minds of this generation’s mobile gamers has been a priority.

In the last 12 months, Vita owners have been able to enjoy 21 releases, with a PSN retail price of £260.09.

To put that into perspective – the amount you’ve saved on games in the first twelve months of its lifecycle has paid for the console itself.
On launch day, I hurried down to my local, ill-fated GameStation and spent £270 on a PlayStation Vita 3G. As with most new consoles, my Vita had no games out of the box, resulting in a further £40 being spent on the rather exquisite Golden Abyss & Rayman Origins. A solid investment, I thought. That £40 would have given me these two games, and 20 more over the year, had I bought a Plus subscription. Crikey.

More astonishing still, however, are the figures related to PlayStation 3 games, with 74 releases worth a staggering £1,121.16. Seventy-four marvelous PS3 titles for the price of one new release. And, even if you only play half of them you’ve paid little more than a pound per game.
Even LoveFilm can’t rent you titles for that price.
Of course, there’re a number of PlayStation Plus subscribers with both Sony platforms at their disposal. These guys have, potentially, paid a mere 41 pence each for their 96 games.

Over both platforms, an average PSN retail price of just over £14 shows these freebies aren’t just filler either, with a good mix of big-budget titles such as those I mentioned earlier, right down to the already stupidly cheap indie gems such as Thomas Was Alone and Velocity Ultra.
All in all, my ridiculous spreadsheet of games and their prices tells me that there have been been gratis downloads to the value of £1,347.29 since last July. At £39.99, that’s the cost for another 33 years of PlayStation Plus.

Moving into next-gen, and looking towards the PlayStation 4, Sony have already reported that whilst maintaining all the current benefits across PlayStation 3 and Vita, PS4 titles are to be included within the PlayStation Plus Instant Game Collection catalogue, and a PS+ special edition of Evolution Studios’ social racer #DriveClub will be available at launch, joined by one new title on rotation each month.

It has also been announced that much like Microsoft’s long standing Xbox Live service, a PlayStation Plus subscription will be essential to unlock some of the new console’s core features, such as online multiplayer.

As a former nay-sayer, I still have my doubts. Instant Game Collection is undoubtedly a triumph for both PlayStation and consumers but digital distribution isn’t without its drawbacks, and my personal preference for physical media plays a part, but again, there’s absolutely no denying those numbers.

I don’t even know where to start with regards to the plethora of discounts Plus affords each annum, but I think I’ll go “£80 down, £3,000 up” for my first two years of PlayStation 4.

What about you?

Sony’s Big Giveaway: One Year With PlayStation’s Instant Game Collection

Special Editions, Special Limitations?

In the world of videogames, special editions and pre-order bonuses are nothing new – and as the day one sales figures for traditional boxed products have started to dwindle in recent years, these incentives have ramped up significantly.

I’m not talking physical collectors sets or fancy boxes and statues here; Nearly every big release nowadays will come with some sort of digital perk for early adopters or those with an extra fiver to throw around.

Fancy a few extra tracks for your racing game? A new rifle or multiplayer map for your FPS of choice? Or even new characters for that Action RPG? They’re all available – but only if you shop in the right place.

You see, a new breed of special edition has popped up – the retail specific edition, with content exclusive to one particular store or chain.

Troubled high-street retailer GAME has been particularly aggressive with this, carrying a perk for every notable AAA title over the last 12 months or so. Of course, it’s not only GAME; Even the supermarket giants of Asda and Sainsbury’s have all offered different packages for your Pound. The majority of these additions are in the form of codes for DLC, which, although clearly complete and ready for download, remains hidden, and is exclusively available to gamers with these unique codes, only available from the ‘right’ retailer.

So, what’re you and I to do if we want to experience this wealth of content, the full game, as it were, from day one?

I find it hard to believe that anyone, in all honestly, can expect the average consumer to be willing, or financially able, to shell out for two, sometimes three physical versions of the game, and therefore, my options appear to be twofold. Do I settle for an indefinite wait – usually for the exclusivity deal to expire, after which the content might appear at a premium price on the XBL/PSN stores – or, more likely, just forget about these parts of the game, and miss them out of my experience altogether?

I won’t pretend to hold any sort of specialist knowledge, but speaking purely from personal experience, I can see how these deals favour the retailer and their relationship with the publisher over the consumer. Even the game’s development team seem to get a raw deal, working tirelessly to create content which a majority of consumers may well never see.

Walking into a shopping centre and picking up a new release is a conflicting, crowded and often confusing marketplace.

Looking forward, I can’t see much changing in the way of the aforementioned, mostly unimportant, DLC codes and the like, yet I question what would happen if the exclusives on offer affected the game at a more grassroots level?

Much discussion has been had in the past about single use “online pass” codes being used to lock out characters and entire chapters of gameplay to those buying pre-owned – but what if buying your pristine, cellophane wrapped, game at launch from Toys R Us rather than Tesco meant the same thing? Would you be happy if your game had, for want of a better phrase, missing content, all based upon your shopping habits? Even as timed exclusives this would surely segregate the player base massively, and in the entertainment industry, shared experience and word-of-mouth marketing are massively important.

In game achievements and trophies could be another victim – perhaps not as important to the core gameplay dynamic, but many gamers, myself included, would argue these to be a vital mark of ‘completion’ for any big budget release.

Unfortunately, with ‘next-gen’ rapidly approaching, and retailers struggling to ensure footfall, I can’t help but feel these exclusivity deals may well become ever more audacious. An interesting, and potentially disconcerting, juxtaposition for the gamer who wants it all.

Character skins are neither here-nor-there, and offering digital content for free as part of a special edition bundle is nothing more than a treat for any particular shop’s loyal customers, however, when the core gameplay is under the knife, there’s a precedent I don’t wish to see followed.

In an industry which is arguably struggling to stay atop the larger profit margins afforded by smaller budget and mobile releases, AAA titles cannot, in my opinion, allow for ‘exclusives’ to create a two-tier system.

Different content in the box is absolutely grand, so long as all the alternatives are still made available – to those who want them – soon after release, if not immediately.

Special Editions, Special Limitations?