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Breaking down Sony’s confusing PlayStation Plus subscription relaunch


Layers upon layers.
Enlarge / Layers upon layers.

Tuesday morning, Sony announced plans to combine its PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now subscription services. The newly revamped, multi-tier PlayStation Plus hydra will offer multiple pricing and access options for downloadable and streaming games from across the PlayStation’s more than 25-year catalog.

Starting in June, the revamped PlayStation Plus will be broken into three overlapping tiers, with benefits and pricing as follows:

PlayStation Plus Essential
$9.99/month or $59.99/year

This is a renamed version of the current PlayStation Plus offering, providing two monthly downloadable games, cloud saves, and basic access to online multiplayer games.

PlayStation Plus Extra
$14.99/month or $99.99/year

This tier adds access to downloadable versions of “up to 400” PS4 and PS5 games. This will include some titles from Sony’s first-party PlayStation Studios but not brand-new titles on the day of release (more on that below).

PlayStation Plus Premium
$17.99/month or $119.99/year

This tier offers additional downloadable access to “up to 340” games from the PS1, PS2, and PSP. Premium-tier customers can also stream available games from the PS1, PS2, PS3, PS4, and PSP to a PS4, PS5, or PC.

Streaming access for PlayStation Plus subscribers will initially be limited to countries where PlayStation Now is currently available: the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, and 15 European countries. Other countries will have access to a lower-priced PlayStation Plus Deluxe tier that gives all of the benefits of Premium sans streaming.

Game Pass’ long shadow

Sony currently offers streaming and/or downloadable access to nearly 800 titles from the PS2 through the PS4 via PlayStation Now. And while Sony hasn’t published full game lists for any of the coming PlayStation Plus tiers, the company did announce a handful of PS4 and PS5 titles that will be available in the Extra and Premium tiers: Death Stranding, God of War (2018), Spider-Man, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Mortal Kombat 11, and Returnal.

When it comes to new first-party releases, though, Sony is still unwilling to match Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass, which promises downloadable access to every first-party Microsoft Studios game on the day it’s released.

“[In terms of] putting our own games into this service, or any of our services, upon their release… as you well know, this is not a road that we’ve gone down in the past. And it’s not a road that we’re going to go down with this new service,” PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan told GamesIndustry.biz in an interview alongside today’s announcement.

Access to first-party games on launch day remains a major selling point for Xbox Game Pass.
Enlarge / Access to first-party games on launch day remains a major selling point for Xbox Game Pass.

Microsoft

Ryan went on to say that bundling those games as part of a subscription would break a “virtuous cycle” in which early purchases (at a full price of up to $70) help fund the next round of game development. “The level of investment that we need to make in our studios would not be possible, and we think the knock-on effect on the quality of the games that we make would not be something that gamers want.”

Sony has been famously stingy with subscription access to its own first-party games; titles like God of War (2018), Uncharted 4, and Infamous: Second Son weren’t made available to PSNow subscribers until late 2019, for instance. That said, Ryan noted that Sony reserves the right to change its mind on subscription access to its new releases beyond the “short term.”

Development funding aside, the lack of new releases is going to be an immediate comparison point between the revamped PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass—one where Sony won’t come out looking great. And Game Pass Ultimate’s $14.99 monthly fee is actually cheaper than the $17.99 Sony is asking for its comparable premium tier (though the cost comparison flips if you buy PlayStation Plus a year at a time for $119.99).



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