No matter what way you decide to see it, paying to play games online sucks. Having to pay a fee on top of our cable services is a cash-grab, an opportunistic regulation that every major console manufacturer (sans Nintendo, for the time being) has employed, and we as gamers have little choice but to comply.
But these companies try to incentive our subscription services, at least just a little. With both Games With Gold and PlayStation Plus' Instant Games Collection, games are given to us for free (or, in the case with Sony, at least until our contracts expire) every month – a obvious method for softening the blow to an unneeded paywall.
Back when it existed in the PlayStation 3 era, Plus existed as a much more periphery service, suitable mostly for the hardcore that wanted better discounts during weekly sales. As it stood then, the "free" games it had were great, too. It wasn't too uncommon to see a AAA game join the Plus ranks less than a year after release, actually, with some notable titles that come to mind being Bioshock Infinite, Starhawk, Tomb Raider, Bioshock 2, and Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition. Since then, however, the quality of games on the Instant Games Collection has waned.
With Plus required to access PlayStation 4's online services, including multiplayer functionality, having "free" games as an incentive to get users to sign for a subscription was no longer needed. Xbox gamers transitioning over to PS4 were used to paying for online with little else offered anyway, so why try as hard? This, coupled with the fact that Plus actually became $10 more expensive towards the end of last year altered the service's personality as less friendly and more cruel.
This year, however, it seems Sony has had a bit of a change of heart. Whether due simply to the console's age and accumulation of AAA experiences or not, the manufacturer has progressively become better with its Instant Game Collection offerings. This year alone, people with the service have received Until Dawn, Drawn To Death, Life Is Strange, Killing Floor 2, Tales from the Borderlands, and now Just Cause 3 in August. Online infrastructure doesn't seem to be as intrusive as it was last year, either, though there are still some annoying maintenance periods. Can getting a Plus subscription in 2017 finally be worth it?
Though the benefits are in the eye of the beholder, the short answer, in my opinion, is no. Though the "free" games are a nice perk, especially if the offerings seem to be getting better with the console's age, having to play to access a title's online functionality is robbery. We as consumers already pay enough with our cable bills, and having extra fees applied for entertainment is never a bonus. As it stands, Plus still just isn't worth shelling out the extra money. And as for the "free" games? Buy the ones you want on discount, and play the games you already have, will ya? That backlog isn't going to finish itself.