Sony's PlayStation Plus subscription, as well as other console manufacturers' online services, should be offered free of charge to all users amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Video games and particularly online games are keeping self-isolating people entertained and distracting them from the stressful reality of the world today, which has led many to wonder why companies like Sony, and Microsoft, among others, are still charging users for basic online access.
Uptick in video gaming since lockdown
The global pandemic has forced countries into lockdown and people across the globe are stuck at home as they practice social distancing to "flatten the curve" and contain the deadly virus. In order to prevent themselves from succumbing to boredom and loneliness, many people have started playing video games like "Animal Crossing: New Horizons," where they can hang out with their friends online.
This surge in video gaming has led to shortages of gaming consoles, such as the sold-out Nintendo Switch, which means it can be difficult for people who do not already own a console to explore the world of gaming. But paying for online services is still a big stumbling block for those who already do own a gaming system.
Why should PS Plus, other online services be free?
Amid the lockdown, Steam set a new record high of 24 million users on its platform and Microsoft reported a similar record player count for Xbox's online service, Xbox Live, which experienced a 775 percent uptick in cloud service demand – and both PlayStation Plus and Nintendo Switch Online also witnessed a similar spike.
PC game launchers like Steam and the Epic Games Store are gaming platforms that offer access to their games' online features free of charge, with gamers only paying for the video games, if required. However, Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo do charge for the same, costing $9.99, $9.99, and $3.99 per month, respectively.
Given the increased traffic these platforms are experiencing, it is possible that these companies are making a significant amount of money through their online subscriptions. However, they have a moral obligation to make online access free given the current circumstances we are in.
According to BuzzFeed News, approximately 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims over the past two weeks. This means, in all likelihood, that many people do not have jobs to pay for online multiplayer services and could be struggling to afford other important expenses.
In the same manner, as social media has for years, games have become an important digital space for people separated by physical distance to hang out and people should not have to continue paying for the ability to socialise amid the ongoing COVID-19 situation, even if its for a limited period.
These gaming consoles should be inspired by PornHub, the adult entertainment website, which has given users around the world access to its Premium subscription for a month completely free of charge, as previously reported. Even if this means making a separate, free tier of online services that does not include access to the monthly complimentary games available through PlayStation Plus and Xbox Live Gold.