PS Plus June 2014 Free Games: PS4′s First Major Mistake

The PS Plus June 2014 free games strategy marks a change in Sony's PS4 plans and the first major error in Sony's ways. Are more E3 mistakes on the way?

PlayStation 4 - PS4

Sony made some significant changes with the PS Plus June 2014 free games list, most notably where PS4 owners are concerned. And “concerned” is what PS4 owners should be, as Sony’s decision marks the first time the seemingly infallible hardware maker has made a mistake in this console generation.

Sony’s PS4 has smashed the Xbox One and Wii U in sales across the world. The only exception is Japan, where the Wii U has outsold the PS4 for several weeks in a row, including last week with Mario Kart 8. Regardless, the PS4 has been the hands-down victor so far in the next-gen console-sales race, even as Microsoft has made recent strides on both the sales and PR front.

Yet going into E3 2014 this week, Sony finds itself needing to make up a little more ground due to a mistake of its own doing. Those same PS Plus June 2014 free games changes (read about June’s free titles) Sony was touting in late May have had a horrible PR effect.

I don’t mean PR in the media-relations sense, but in the company’s actual relating to the public. Sony’s PlayStation Plus program was unpredictable for years, but PlayStation owners knew they were in for many free games each month and a whole host of discounts.

Starting in July, every title in the PS Plus Instant Game Collection will be available for a full month the first Tuesday of each month. It will be free until the first Tuesday of the following month, taking the guesswork out of how long the game will be available for free. Starting now, Sony’s begun phasing out several of the titles that have been in the Instant Game Collection for some time.

By contrast, Microsoft’s Xbox Games with Gold program has always been predictable down to the day and time of a specific Games with Gold release date. Its problem was that it only included two games.

When Sony announced its PS Plus June 2014 free games changes, two problems arose. First, it coincided with a few antithetical changes to Microsoft’s program. Most notably, Games with Gold now includes Xbox One games, the Games with Gold June 2014 free games list includes three titles, and Microsoft removed the Xbox Live Gold requirement for streaming Netflix, YouTube and other such apps.

Second, and more important, it removed the lustre of PS4 gamers holding out hope that the PS Plus free PS4 games would eventually increase in number each month, much like they had for the PS3 and PS Vita. Sony’s change in PS Plus policy was a downer for current PS4 owners. The fact that it coincided with Microsoft’s expansion of its own similar program, not to mention the Xbox One price drop starting June 9, is potentially disastrous.

Sony owned E3 last year, and it seemed poised to increase its lead and momentum through E3 2014 this week as well. Now I’m not so sure. With the Xbox One now priced the same as the PS4, with a PS Plus June 2014 free games policy that’s on par or perhaps even a little behind the similar Xbox One program, and with Microsoft turning on its PR afterburners, Sony’s facing an uphill battle few people expected.

I’m not ready to go all Chicken Little on Sony’s prospects. The company’s made too much progress in the past year to count them out all that fast. But Microsoft is nothing if not capitalistic, and it’s bound to pounce on Sony’s PS Plus misstep.

The PS4 hasn’t stumbled much in the past year, but in the past three weeks it’s suffered two black eyes. First was the Wii U outselling PS4 in Japan, followed shortly thereafter by the PS Plus June 2014 free games change. The former may have been a matter of circumstances, but the latter was clearly a black eye of Sony’s own doing.

With E3 media briefings set to begin tomorrow morning, Sony had better triple-check its messaging to make sure E3 2014 goes in the intended direction. E3 2013 got completely away from Microsoft, and the past year has been a roller-coaster ride for Microsoft and a game of catch-up at best. If Sony’s not careful, those PS Plus June 2014 changes that seem to have struck an untenable chord could be just the beginning of a PS4 downturn.

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