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Sony Quietly Winning Console War with Free Games on PS4

I kind of hate the whole line of reasoning that there has to be a “console war” every time there is more than one new console on the market, but this is sadly the world that we live in. If you check out videogame message boards and news sites you’ll see fans bickering over framerates, resolutions and other minutiae because clearly one has to be better than the other, especially when the PS4 and Xbox One sell at $400 and $500 price tags, respectively. While the fact that developers are having an easier time developing games with a slight edge on the PlayStation 4 is important, to the average consumer it probably isn’t going to be that huge of a deal. It’s all about the games, right?

What should be seen as a big deal would have to be PlayStation’s PlayStation Plus service, which has been around for a while now, but has set Sony apart from Microsoft since PlayStation 4’s launch back in November. There has been a distinct lack of new games to really sink your teeth into on either console since launch, but what is interesting to note is that most of the newer releases on the PlayStation 4 have been ports of well-received PC games from the past year and that they have launched for free on PlayStation Plus. PlayStation Plus on the PlayStation 4 has given the following games to PlayStation 4 owners; Contrast, Resogun, Don’t Starve and now Outlast, with the games varying in quality (Contrast isn’t very good while Resogun is amazing), they are still games that sell for at least $15 on their own and are going for free.

What is happening is that PlayStation 4 owners are being treated to monthly doses of free, quality games while Xbox One owners have been left with a rather barren set of offerings after the Xbox One’s launch. Now, honestly, both systems aren’t really seeing much going on at the moment, with Tomb Raider and the upcoming Thief being the biggest releases of this winter on both consoles, but at least on PS4 there is something happening and it is happening entirely for free.

If you have both Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus services and have for a while you’ll probably notice the disparity between the two, as Xbox Live Gold is needed to run entertainment apps like Netflix and HBO Go, while PlayStation Plus is only for free games and cloud services on the PS3 and serves as a paywall for [some] multiplayer games on the PS4. PlayStation Plus has been offering free games as a part of the service for a while now, with Microsoft playing catch-up with the “Games with Gold” initiative, but sadly, that initiative feels a bit like an insult.

On PlayStation 3 last month gamers were treated to Borderlands 2, BioShock Infinite and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. This month’s game on PS3 is last year’s fantastic Metro: Last Light and on PS4 is the brand new Outlast. Last month on Games with Gold was 2012’s Sleeping Dogs and 2010’s Lara Croft and the Guardians of Light, while this month’s game is 2011’s Dead Island. To me, at least, the disparity seems to be that Sony is offering quality games that gamers would actually buy, while Microsoft seems to be shoveling out games that aren’t selling very well with a free price tag in hopes of not being left behind.

Microsoft is starting to feel the pressure as they will soon launch “Games with Gold” on the Xbox One, but has yet to give any concrete details on it. The truth is, this is becoming a standard now, to give games away to consumers willing to subscribe to these gaming networks. As of right now Sony has done a much better job of offering quality games for free, especially on the PlayStation 4, during what is a rather slow time for both new consoles. One of the biggest talking points for Sony’s PlayStation 4 that gamers have used to favor it over the Xbox One has been Sony’s desire to do right by gamers and the offerings on PlayStation Plus right now, on top of the free-to-play offerings is just proving that point.

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