PlayStation Stars, a free-to-join rewards program Sony announced in July, is being gently rolled out to the whole world—it’s currently live in Asia, will reach the Americas on October 5, and Europe, Australia, and New Zealand will receive the service on October 13. Not as gently, PlayStation might be pushing players to join the program by deciding to prioritize high-ranking members’ customer service requests, the Japanese gaming website Automaton said.
According to a translation of the site, one feature of “PlayStation Stars is that the status level changes according to activity. Participants start at Level 1. Purchasing a full game on the PS Store and obtaining a trophy with a higher rarity than normal will promote you to Level 2.” Buy four full-price games and earn 128 rare trophies and you’ll hit level 4, which comes with what Automaton, or, rather, that translation of it, describes as an “interesting” perk. “In addition to getting various digital items, when contacting PlayStation customer support, the chat order will be ‘prioritized.’ People who are playing are given higher priority when responding to inquiries. It’s an interesting mechanism.”
Interesting and a bit outrageous. Though you can sign up for PlayStation Stars for free, PlayStation says in its blog announcing the program’s arrival in Asia that levels are determined by both “the number of non-common trophies earned for gameplay as well as full game purchases from the PlayStation Store.” So, if Level 4’s “priority” customer service feature gets rolled out internationally, support requests globally could be ranked based on which user sank more time into getting trophies, or who has tossed poor Sony Interactive more cash.
Responses to this news, as shared on Twitter by Automaton, have been none too thrilled. As VGC reports, one person replied commenting that “customer support must be equal,” noting that “there are people who like a few titles and play them, and there are gamers who can’t afford money or time,” while another said “I don’t think it’s a good idea to prioritize customer support. I bought a PS5 just for FF16!” and rejected the idea that this makes it acceptable to delay helping them in favor of customers who have spent more and played more games.
PlayStation doesn’t get into details for Levels-based perks in its announcement blog, and its U.S. landing page for Stars doesn’t mention Levels at all. It, instead, explains some of Stars’ other, more expected loyalty perks, including rewards for completing campaigns, “digital collectibles” that thankfully don’t seem to be euphemistic NFTs, and redeemable loyalty points, which PlayStation Plus members earn automatically with every PS Store purchase (this is the only added benefit for Plus members).
Back to the outrage—PlayStation also wrote in its announcement blog that “Once you reach a status level, you will stay there for the remainder of the calendar year plus an additional 13 months,” so a Level 4 Stars member is guaranteed to get better customer service for over one year. Since PlayStation’s U.S. Stars page doesn’t mention Levels, it could be a regional feature, but it’s still wildly unfair. Pay-to-win was bad enough, now we have to pay for support?
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