There's a sandwich place near our office. It does my head in.
It's one of those 'build-your-own-sandwich' spots. You know the type: cold cuts, onions, grated carrot. All conveniently spread out for your perusal. Choose from these ingredients! Make the sandwich of your dreams!
I loathe these paces with a passion.
Why? Well it's pretty simple really. If I wanted to make my own sandwich I would have just made my own sandwich. At home. I'd have opened the fridge door, I'd have dragged out the lettuce and the tomatoes and shit. Point being: I pay a premium at a sandwich bar for a reason. You are supposed to be the sandwich experts. You are the one that should be telling me how to make the sandwich. What goes well together? What flavours blend effortlessly to make the perfect sandwich? I don't bloody well know. I'm a sandwich noob. Help me out here!
This is an extended metaphor. Yes, this sandwich place exists. Yes, it bugs the hell out of me. But here's what's really bugging me right now: PlayStation Plus and it's brand new 'Vote To Play' initiative.
Vote To Play is an initiative with its heart in the right place. Each month PlayStation Plus gives its subscribers a handful of games they can download for free. These games will continue to be free for the lifetime of your subscription. It's the best. I've had so many tremendous experiences because of PlayStation Plus. I would have ignored Velocity 2X if it wasn't for PlayStation Plus. Fez is another great example. Once upon a time it was just another game I forgot to finish. Then it appeared on PlayStation Plus. I played it over the course of a weekend on my PlayStation Vita and it's now one of my all-time favourites.
The success of PlayStation Plus, in my opinion, is a direct result of its curation. To date PlayStation Plus has been a glorious mix of major triple A games you may have forgotten about, big indie releases you missed out on first time round and — crucially — brand new gaming experiences. Games that would have no doubt sunk without trace had Sony not taken the risk and made them free for a month to PlayStation Plus subscribers.
Hopefully the whole sandwich metaphor is starting to make a bit more sense. I don't want to choose.
I want the choice made for me. This might sound bizarre, but I want PlayStation Plus to remain curated. At all times. I want to wander up to the stand and have the sandwich guys tell me what the best sandwich is. I don't know enough about sandwiches to choose. What if I miss out on an incredible new sandwich experience because I was too lazy to experiment? Maybe I'll just get chicken again. And again. And again. Into infinity until I'm lying on my death bed regretting all those bog-standard sandwiches I ate.
Here's another way of looking at it: last month Rocket League was free on PlayStation Plus. One month later it has been downloaded by five million users. It's a well-deserved gaming phenomenon. It's probably my favourite game of 2015 so far.
Would you have voted for Rocket League?
Seriously. Imagine if, two months ago, Sony asked the public to choose between Rocket League and, say, InFamous: Second Son or Transitor. Be honest with yourself: would you have chosen this unproven game by an unknown developer? Would you have picked the Car-Football game over the indie darling you forgot to buy at launch? Or the gorgeous AAA game you couldn't afford to drop $90 on?
Let's be real here. Rocket League would have disappeared off the face of the planet.
This month is another case in point. The Vote To Play initiative asked PlayStation users to chose between three games: Grow Home, Zombie Vikings and Armello. One was a game with the word 'Zombie' in the title, another an (admittedly cool) experimental game with the might of Ubisoft behind it.
Then there's Armello: a game that doesn't quite have the same elevator pitch. It's a role-playing strategy board game essentially; the debut game from Melbourne-based studio League of Geeks. It looks amazing, and will almost certainly find some level of success, but there's little doubt here: Armello is the Rocket League of September's 'Vote To Play' choices.
And it didn't win. Of course it didn't.
Grow Home ended up winning a PlayStation Plus slot with around 44% of the vote.
Don't get me wrong: Grow Home is a very cool game and, being perfectly honest, falls neatly into the 'Indie game we forgot to play' category. It's actually a good choice, Grow Home is the kind of game I'd like to see on PlayStation Plus.
But Armello needs it more.
And the fact is games like Armello will always suffer in votes like this. It didn't have a shot in hell. Your Rocket Leagues and your Armellos will always be ignored in votes like this. Simply put: we're gonna end up with a helluva lot more chicken sandwiches. Grow Home — as good as it is — is a chicken sandwich.
Again: it's about curation. PlayStation Plus should be about curation. Votes like this are infrequent but subvert that process.
I'm looking forward to playing Grow Home, but I am lamenting this fact: Armello just lost its chance at becoming the new Rocket League.