What is it?
Plus is a subscription service that allows users to download free or discounted content from the PlayStation Store to their PlayStation 3. In Australia, a one year subscription will set you back AU$70, while a 90 days membership will lighten your wallet of AU$21.
Each month there will be four free games for download — one PlayStation Network game, two Minis and one PS One Classic. The catch here is that Sony decides which games are available and you'll only be able to play these games if your PlayStation subscription is still paid up and current.
Essentially a try-before-you-buy mode for two games per month, which are again chosen by Sony. You download the full game and play it for a trial period (usually an hour) before you have to decide whether you're going to purchase it and continue playing away. Once bought, the game is yours to keep even if your Plus membership lapses.
Themes and avatars
Two dynamic themes and two premium avatars will be available each month for free. You can keep using these even if your PlayStation Plus subscription is no longer current.
Demos and betas
Users can expect a bunch of demos every month, but beta trials will only be scheduled in on an ad hoc basis.
Every month there will be at least four discounted games or add-on packs. As with everything else that requires you to splash out money over and above the PlayStation Plus fee, these are yours to use forever if you decide to purchase them.
Do I have to pay for PlayStation Network access now?
The short answer is no.
Before the details of PlayStation Plus were officially announced, there were fears that Sony would allow Plus users priority access to the PlayStation Network or start charging for access to the network, making it much like Microsoft's pay-to-use Xbox Live network service. Neither of these cases turned out to be true.
The question of whether one should subscribe to PlayStation Plus is really dependent on what type of PS3 user you are. If you rarely download paid content from the PlayStation Store then the Plus will offer little value to you, but if you're a regular then it's definitely worth a look.
As Sony is releasing a schedule of the games and items available via PlayStation Plus only about two months in advance, it's difficult to make a final judgement call on the true value of a Plus subscription. The company estimates that the themes and avatars alone are worth AU$300-plus, which is all well and good if you're into that sort of thing. For us, though, the true worth lies in the games and whether you're into those type of games.