PlayStation Plus launches: game trial, freebies & beta access

Sony's v3.40 update for the PlayStation 3 brings with it support for PlayStation Plus, but what exactly is the new subscription-based service?  Priced at $49.99 for a full year (or $17.99 for three months), PlayStation Plus allows for up to one-hour of free trial gameplay of new titles, automatic downloads of new demos, patches and firmware updates, discounts of up to 50-percent on PlayStation Store purchases and early access to Sony's upcoming beta launches.

For most, it'll be the trial gameplay that makes PlayStation Plus worth it.  The try-before-you-buy system will allow for up to sixty minutes of full access, after which titles can be purchased through the PS Store and all achievements and awards gained during the trial carried forward into the unlocked version.  As for early beta access, Sony say they'll be picking from PlayStation Plus subscribers for their first beta invites and "select" early demos of new games.

There'll also be the usual freebies and downloads, though there's no telling exactly what they'll be.  Right now Sony is hoping to drum up business by offering a three month bonus to one-year subscriptions – 15 months for the price of 12 – though it's a limited availability offer.  You'll need firmware 3.40 on your PS3 in order to access PlayStation plus; anyone tempted to sign up?