Sony will use the launch of the PlayStation 4 later this year to make a number of significant changes to its PlayStation Plus subscription service.
MD of SCEE UK and Ireland Fergal Gara has revealed that PS4's auto updates feature will not require a PS Plus subscription to function.
Frequent and lengthy updates were a key criticism of the PS3, and while auto-updating was possible on the machine the feature was only activated when a user subscribed to the PS Plus service.
But auto updates will be free to all on PS4, Gara revealed to VideoGamer in a discussion over Sony's decision to move online multiplayer behind the PS Plus paywall.
"It is time to charge, but it is time to charge and still continue to deliver phenomenal value," said Gara of online multiplayer.
"A PlayStation Plus subscriber for PlayStation 4 comes away with a hell of a lot. First of all, the subscription applies across all three platforms [PS4, PS3 & PS Vita], so if you have the three platforms then you have an instant game collection on all three. So that's hugely powerful in its own right."
Gara went on, "If you choose not to subscribe we are still gating relatively little in many senses, so access to online catch-up TV and online movie services sit outside of the gate, for example. The social features of PS4 and PS4 games sit out of the subscription service. Things like auto-updates on PS4 sit outside of PlayStation Plus, so we're trying to be as balanced and as fair as we possibly can."
Sony announced during E3 that it will launch its Gaikai streaming service to play PS3 games on PS4 in 2014. Gara said the firm "hasn't decided yet" how this will be charged for. "Will that be part of PlayStation Plus? I genuinely don't know. Will that require some other, different charging mechanism? Perhaps. We just haven't sat down to answer that question yet," he said.
Sony has said the PS4 release date is set for "Christmas 2013" across Europe and the US. CVG understands the Japan launch could be pushed to 2014 if manufacturing count comes up short, though a final decision hasn't been made yet.