Free to play at point of entry: Why Sony lost me at E3

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At Sony’s E3 2014 press conference, a number of free to play games featured heavily. In fact, the very concept of free to play was a focal point of the presentation. Sony’s new CEO Shawn Layden boasted to his consumers after reveals like Guns Up! and PAIN that “free to play means free to play”.

Actually, that’s not all he said. Layden’s full quote was “at point of entry, free to play means free to play.”

At point of entry.

In other words, the game will be free to play at the moment you “buy” it from the PlayStation Store, but that doesn’t mean games like Planetside 2 will remain free past that point.

Get ready for a barrage of microtransactions, people.

Now, to be fair, we don’t yet know what those microtransactions will entail; they might be exclusively for cosmetic alternations that won’t give players skill-based advantages. Still, the way Sony presented the free to play games was in a way that should be taken as deceptive. The whole ‘hidden costs’ thing is something I thought was exclusively for the used car salesman.

freetoplay

Just like Sony managed to slip in the news that PlayStation Plus would be required for online play in their 2013 press conference, important information like a true explanation of “at point of entry” was touched upon, and then swept under the rug.

Why have a massive presentation on how you’re about to push out a stream of free to play titles and not bother telling gamers about the potential true impact to their wallet? Perhaps there wasn’t enough time to properly educate consumers on what free to play actually means and how it will absolutely benefit Sony and their bottom line. After all, Sony had to free up some of their schedule to take one more dig at Microsoft and their Kinect strategy.

This E3 has been quite different from the past two years; everything I’ve seen in the first day and half has been sound. Competent. There’s not a whole bunch of standout titles, but there’s also nothing I’d turn my nose at. I feel we’re in a great place, for consumers and publishers alike. Except for free to play at point of entry.

Sony, by numbers alone, you’re winning. Microsoft played it safe and focused on games, games and more games this year. You branched out into the thing you lambasted Microsoft for last year – television – and then barraged us with useless PSN stats for far longer than you should have. The bottom line is that you lost this year, mostly through sheer arrogance. It’s simple: be honest, don’t rest on your laurels and continue to lift your game year on year to ensure we’ll stand behind you.