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Sony clarifies PlayStation Plus pricing, downloads

Free copy of LittleBigPlanet for early adopters, as first wave of downloads announced

Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) has revealed more details of the PlayStation Plus subscription service, including the final UK prices and the initial wave of downloads available.

After months of rumours the service was announced at Sony's pre-E3 media briefing last week and will officially launch on June 29. Although the current online services will be unaffected, and remain free to use, PlayStation Plus will offer free games, discounts, exclusive PlayStation Store items, full game trails and automatic downloads.

The subscription-based membership is available for either 90 days or a full calendar year (a 30 day subscription is also available in Asia). In the UK 90 day access now has a confirmed price of £11.99 ($17.99 in the US, €14.99 in Europe) and £39.99 ($49.99 in the US, €49.99 in Europe) for a full year.

As an introductory offer SCEE are offering a free digital copy of LittleBigPlanet for anyone that signs up for a full year between June 29 and August 3. Access to the game is not dependent on maintaining a constant subscription.

Standard membership guarantees a minimum of at least four free games a month, from a selection of one PlayStation Network game, two PSP minis, and one PSone classic. Titles on offer during the first month (June 29 to August 3) include WipEout HD, Field Runners, Age of Zombies and Destruction Derby.

Unlike the LittleBigPlanet introductory offer games obtained as a member of PlayStation Plus are only accessible as long as a subscription is maintained, although they can be reactivated if there is a gap in membership.

Also available each month will be two dynamic themes, two premium avatars and other miscellaneous premium game elements/add-ons - many of which will be exclusive to PlayStation Plus users and are not tied to maintaining a subscription.

For the first month the downloads offered will include LittleBigPlanet and PlayStation "Game Is Just The Start" themes, two Fat Princess premium avatars and Killzone 2 downloadable content.

Plus members will also be offered exclusive PlayStation Store discounts ranging from 20 to 50 per cent off. In the first month this will include the LittleBigPlanet God of War and LocoRoco costume packs at 50 per cent off, as well as full games Gravity Crash and Fat Princess at 20 per cent off.

Subscribers will also be included in some selected demos and beta trials ahead of other PlayStation 3 users. Writing on the official PlayStation Blog PlayStation network product manager James Thorpe claims that the game themes and avatars alone are worth over £200 a year.

Another major feature of the service is full game trials, which allow subscribers to download two full games and play them unrestricted for a set period of time (typically one hour). The games Shatter and Savage Moon will be offered during the first month.

Finally, only PlayStation Plus users will have access to the new automatic download service, which allows the PlayStation 3 to download software when in standby mode and pre-install firmware updates, game updates and demos. Featured demos in the first month will include Heavy Rain and ModNation Racers.

Thorpe also clarified that the much rumoured cross-game chat for PlayStation Network will not be included as part of PlayStation Plus, although he did not indicate whether the feature would be available as part of the standard service.

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David Jenkins