Sony Details "Welcome Back" Program

Today, Sony announced via their blog the details of their “Welcome Back” program meant to thank PlayStation Network users back after a 26 day loss of service.

Soon after the PlayStation Store is back up, users will be able to choose two of the following five PlayStation 3 titles, which are able to be kept forever:

  • Dead Nation
  • inFAMOUS
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Super Stardust HD
  • Wipeout HD + Fury
  • For PlayStation Portable owners, four titles will be available, with two to keep forever:

  • LittleBigPlanet (PSP)
  • ModNation Racers
  • Pursuit Force
  • Killzone Liberation
  • EDIT: In the EU, gamers are getting Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty instead of Super Stardust HD. The exception is Germany. Likely due to their rigorous censorship laws, they will be getting Super Stardust HD and Hustle Kings instead of InFAMOUS and Dead Nation. On the PSP, gamers in Germany will get Everybody’s Golf 2 and Buzz Junior Jungle Party instead of Killzone: Liberation and Pursuit Force.

    In addition to these, Sony has offered the following perks:

  • A selection of “On Us” rental movie titles will be available to PlayStation Network customers over one weekend, where Video Service is available. Those titles will be announced soon.
  • 30 days free PlayStation Plus membership for non PlayStation Plus subscribers.
  • Existing PlayStation Plus subscribers will receive an additional 60 days of free subscription. (It is unclear if this would be on top of the 30 days non subscribers are getting, or instead of. We have asked Sony for clarification – Ed.)
  • Existing Music Unlimited Premium Trial subscription members will receive an additional 30 days of free premium subscription.
  • Additional 30 days + time lost for existing members of Music Unlimited Premium/Basic subscription free of charge for existing Premium/Basic members.
  • To welcome users Home, PlayStation Home will be offering 100 free virtual items. Additional free content will be released soon, including the next addition to the Home Mansion personal space, and Ooblag’s Alien Casino, an exclusive game.
  • Sony has also stated that to “catch up” on past releases, they will be updating the PlayStation Store multiple times each week until the backlog is emptied. This will be for both PlayStation Store and PlayStation Plus content.

    Analysis: When I commented on the Welcome Back program in a post last week, I stated that Sony should tread carefully with this, stating that if they gave us Digger HD and Thexder Neo, there would be wails of agony from gamers.

    Credit them for using bigger names, but I have to call attention to what this program is: a massive smokescreen.

    Simply put, the games in this selection were all selected for three major reasons:

    1) They’re alternatively either old or cheap. Super Stardust HD is four years old. Dead Nation is $15. Killzone: Liberation is almost five years old, and is currently going on the used market for $10. Pursuit Force is over five years old, and is $5 on the third hand market, AND it had a sequel in 2008.

    2) They want us to buy the DLC within the game. Little Big Planet and Modnation Racers are the big culprits here, though Super Stardust HD also has a DLC pack.

    3) They want us to focus on the sequel. This is again the case with Little Big Planet, but it’s also the case with InFAMOUS, whose sequel was in beta when the network went down. Sucker Punch has stated that it is evaluating an extension of the beta. InFAMOUS 2 is due to drop in a month, so I don’t believe the timing of this is an accident. I also think they gave us the inferior PSP version of Modnation Racers to entice us into purchasing the PS3 version, but that’s not something I’d put money on.

    In short, where Sony felt they could use the opportunity to sell us more crap via DLC, they used it. In places where they didn’t, they gave us things that most people wouldn’t want at this point. Unfortunately, it’s working. The majority of feedback I’ve read around the internet is people saying “yay! I get this game!” instead of calling bullshit on the whole thing. In fact, the only complaints I’ve read are from the people who are SUCH big fans of Sony that they own all of the games mentioned. That’s what’s funny about this: Sony’s update hurts those that have supported them through thick and thin, usually at full price. But of course, Sony’s proven me right: if you give gamers a trinket or two, they’ll do anything you want. “You lost all my data, possibly my credit card information, and aren’t even sure enough of your own security to please Japanese regulators. But you gave me a four year old PSN game. BFFs~” This is why we can’t have nice things.

    Looking at the rest of the perks, a few other things jump out at me:

    * So these rental movies are available for *one* weekend? On Sony, eh? And they’re rentals? Oooh, let me fire up the ol’ popcorn popper for that one! But tell me, Sony… why wouldn’t I just watch whatever I want to watch on Netflix? And does this involve any further interaction on my part in the PlayStation Store? What’s your angle? I don’t watch or rent movies via the PSN, so I’m not entirely aware of the process, but this seems a load of bollocks to me.

    * As noted above, we’re unsure if the time for PS+ subscribers is a value-add or a replacement. I also don’t know if my PS+ time is counting against me now, or if I’m going to be told when I rebill. Speaking of that rebill, let me reiterate: when I bought my PS+ subscription, it was for three months. I specifically bought it at Gamestop because I did NOT want a rebill; I only wanted to try the service to see if it was worth it, and I did not want a repeat of the myriad issues I’ve had in the past trying to cancel Xbox Live Gold, where you’re forced to call Microsoft and endure a hard sell. Yet, I was forced to enable rebilling if I wanted to use my unrefundable code. That’s likely still going to be the policy once the store’s back up. Plus, will PS+ “trial” members start getting nag screens that they’re going to lose their access? Will Sony do what they did when the service first launched: front-load the big updates, get people bought in, and then slow it down? Sony seems to do nothing without an ulterior financial motive, and I’m frankly a bit upset that they’re turning proverbial chicken shit into chicken salad so openly, even if I called it.

    * It’s funny that I complain about this considering what I just said about PS+, but I notice that only existing customers get any premium music benefits.

    * I already judge people who are heavily involved in the economy of PlayStation Home. I judge them negatively. So I’m obviously not too excited over the spectre of in-Home items being given away, as if giving away things that don’t exist and serve only for the sake of vanity was some sort of value add.

    I’ll be flamed for this, but the Welcome Back program is nothing more than Sony figuring out the best way to turn a negative into both a perceived positive (“yay, they’re being nice to us!”) and an actual positive (increased revenue due to increased attention on sequels and the potential for increased DLC sales). I’ll be flamed because gamers have Stockholm Syndrome. This isn’t even a case of “hardcore” gamers at this point. The casuals are in Facebook, buying items with real world money that allow them to make 100 clicks in a game instead of 80 to benefit them in a game that never ends and gives no satisfaction other than having bragging rights over the other bored office workers in the cubicle farm. The hardcores are too busy alternatively telling me why Sony is the best and why I’m gay, and telling me that I’m a 360/Wii fanboy, and that I’m a gay. Meanwhile, Sony’s laughing all the way to the bank, assuming they keep their publishers – the real people that matter in our current system – on board.

    Christopher Bowen

    About Christopher Bowen

    Christopher Bowen is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus. Before opening Gaming Bus in May of 2011, he was the News Editor at Diehard GameFAN, a lead reporter for DailyGamesNews, and a reviewer at Not A True Ending, also contributing to VIMM, SNESZone and Scotsmanality. Outside of the industry, he is a network engineer in Norwalk, CT and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.