Expected since E3 if slightly hazy in terms of specifics, Sony's PlayStation Plus subscriber service is now available for gamers willing to part with $50 a year. All you need is the latest 3.40 firmware update, a credit card number, and a bit of disposable income.
I just pulled it down, a trifle slow coming, through whether size or traffic-related I couldn't say, and ran through the subscriber options to see whether it's worth $50.
3.40's Free Side
Not everything in 3.40 takes credit cards. For instance: You can now edit video content saved to the PS3 and upload that video to YouTube or Facebook. Using the feature's as simple as tapping on the Video Editor & Uploader icon, two stacked dots topped by a triangle. I had to download an additional 44MB update to get started, after which a simple "add," "edit," and "finish" interface let me import and tinker with various video slices. A note warns that video copied to the system prior to the 3.40 update won't work (it'll have to be recopied) nor will "copyright protected" content, for obvious reasons.
You can also share new photos or comment on existing ones at sites like Facebook or Picasa in Photo Gallery, and while I didn't try it, the update claims you can now print photos as well. Again, I had to install an additional (110MB!) update, though it wasn't clear if that actually predated the 3.40 firmware change, since I haven't fiddled with Photo Gallery in ages.
System Auto-Off now defaults to 2 hours and offers several alternative settings (1, 3, or 5), though why you can just plug a number in manually seems odd. Why not 4, 6, or for that matter, 10.5?
Perhaps the best new gratis feature is five-star rating support, long overdue, and available on the Xbox 360's LIVE service since 2008, which lets you rate PlayStation Store content. Scan around the Store and you'll notice games are already racking up ratings by the hundreds.
PlayStation Plus Troubles
Once you sign into the PlayStation Store, you'll spy the new PlayStation Plus rectangle stacked atop the old left-hand column harboring New Release, Games, and Demos. Click on it and you'll get a list of menu squares, some overlaid with yellow d-pad icons indicating content that now sits behind the PlayStation Plus subscriber paywall.
The first icon lets you subscribe to the service itself. Tapping it brings up two options: A £40 one year package (currently offering an additional three bonus months) and a three-month package. Both offer full access to the full service, which includes full game trial versions (try before you buy), early access to demos and game purchases, and exclusive discounts and free games from the PlayStation Store.