We’re approaching the two year anniversary of the release of the Playstation 4. And with this milestone for the leading eighth generation console comes another; almost two years since Sony threw up the paywall for online multiplayer via its Playstation Network service. On Playstation 3 players could play online for free, but with the release of PS4 players had to pay for this service by subscribing to PS Plus. I’m not against paying for playing online; I’ve been doing so for countless years on Xbox Live, and I get free access to multiple games as part of the deal. But I’m not paying for PS Plus any more, because quite frankly I’ve had enough of how terrible a service it is, and I am against paying for something bad.
As I’ve documented here at Words About Games before, I owned a PS3 for all of a few months back in 2010 (for reasons I won’t go into), so it was a console I never really got into, and I never took advantage of the online services besides spending an hour or two messing around with Playstation Home. For some of my gaming friends, however, the PS3 was their default console. They still won’t shut up about how amazing Killzone 3 multiplayer was, which fills me with envy as all I got was the lacklustre Killzone: Shadow Fall. Ugh.
One achillies heel my friends, and people in general, would always bring up about Playstation was their experience using PSN. It wasn’t great. However it was free, so while lengthy downtime, missing features, sudden crashes and poor performance were frustrating, at least no-one was paying for it. Even when PS Plus was announced as a subscription service, on PS3 it was simply for the free games. You could still play online for free, the sub was just to get some new games every month. It all changed when PS4 was released, and suddenly PS Plus was mandatory if you wanted to play online on the new console.
As a paid-for service PSN is a shambles. It’s a bug-ridden mess that is missing basic functionality. Even if Microsoft weren’t offering a better online experience on Xbox, PSN would still be considered a fairly bad joke. The “but it’s free” excuse ran out almost two years ago, and I think that’s a long enough amount of time for Sony to have taken the cash generated from PS Plus and used it to make a better service. In actual fact very little has changed.
The number one complaint regarding PSN is downtime. Aside from scheduled maintenance, it seems like PSN is constantly going down. When Rocket League was released it was a nightmare to download thanks to awful download speeds, and trying to play it was equally difficult, because PSN kept crashing. A quick search on Twitter for “PSN” will usually reveal problems on the network. And searching for it on Google News will show you more news stories about the service going down than any other news related to it.
Frequent downtime isn’t the only problem with PSN, in fact there are so many issues and missing features in Playstation’s online service that it has spurred members of NeoGAF to start a #BetterPSN campaign, complete with a website, complete with a multitude of suggested improvements for the service. Here are some of the most popular suggestions:
- The ability to change your online status
- The ability to change your username
- A real library for your games
- Enhanced user data with game statistics
- Continuous trophy syncing, as opposed the current system of manual syncing (and considering the issues I’ve personally had with trophies this seems like a no brainer)
- Auto resume downloads if network connection resets
- Two-step security authentication (the lack of which, considering Sony’s history with hacks and the fact that they demand your card details for PS Plus, is an abhorrent oversight)
- Correctly tagged games in the Playstation store
- Dedicated servers
- NAT stability
- PSN status indicator
There are dozens more improvements at the site. Some of them are great, out of the box ideas, but what’s depressing is that a lot of them are simply core functionality that should already be part of PSN, but for whatever reason isn’t. What I’ve listed above and quite a lot more from the #BetterPSN website is something users shouldn’t need to ask for, especially not almost two years down the line.
Until Sony actually crafts a service worth paying for, I won’t be paying for it any more. The only thing I will lose is the ability to play online multiplayer and access to my PS Plus games (because unlike Xbox One, you lose access to your PS Plus games if you stop paying for PS Plus). Not a great loss considering I’ve only ever played three games I’ve obtained from the service; Metrico, Fez and Rocket League. And to be honest I am more than happy to support Psyonix and actually buy Rocket League on PC.
The money would be better spent on games I actually want to play.