Full details on PlayStation Plus

One of the surprises (okay, not really a surprise) at this afternoon’s Sony press conference at E3 was the announcement of a new tier of PlayStation Network service.

PlayStation Plus will cost about $50 a year, or $17.99 for three months of service. (No monthly price is available for North America or Europe.)

Since basic online gaming will still be free, a lot of people are wondering why they’d want to upgrade to the next tier of service.

Well, according to a press release from shortly after the conference’s end, some PlayStation Plus features include:

  • Full game trials – the games up for download will change every month, but during that month, you can play the full game. If you want to keep playing the game after the trial period ends, you can buy it.
  • Membership includes some games for free, and you can play them for as long as you want, with no end period except the end of your membership.
  • Special content, like avatars and custom themes, will be available for free.
  • Discounts on PS3 and PSP titles, which ones you save on will change from month to month.
  • Early access to beta trials, game demos and video content.
  • Automatic updates and content downloads. Your console will turn on at a designated time, download the content, and you’ll be prompted to install when you turn the console on again. Basically, if you use PlayStation Plus, they’re going to force you to be up to date.

Now, the key word in all of this is “include.” That means that these features aren’t all that will be up for sale in a membership. A lot of people are still hoping for more full-featured chat options, so hopefully this will be included.

In order to support the new features, you’ll need to install firmware version 3.40, which will become available on June 22.

And, of course, if you don’t want any part of this, you don’t have to buy into the program to keep playing online. A lot of people are thanking Sony for that this afternoon.

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