PlayStation’s long-awaited overhaul of PlayStation Plus goes into effect in June. Now offering three tiers of service, PlayStation Plus will more resemble the kind of subscription package for which Microsoft’s Xbox Games Pass is known. But is it a direct match of its rival platform? And is the money PlayStation’s asking for better, worse, or break-even for consumers?
We’ll recap the features and take a closer look here, but first, we have to call out the single biggest difference between the new PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass: Sony’s esteemed first-party line of titles will not make any same-day launches on PlayStation Plus. Where Microsoft has used Xbox Game Pass as a showcase for new games like Forza Horizon 5 or Halo Infinite, PlayStation’s boss is very clear that big titles from studios like Naughty Dog, Insomniac, or Guerrilla Games will continue with their retail-only availability when they launch.
“The level of investment that we need to make in our studios would not be possible,” if these $69.99 games were also available in a $14.99 monthly subscription, PlayStation chief executive Jim Ryan told GamesIndustry.biz on Tuesday. “[W]e think the knock-on effect on the quality of the games that we make would not be something that gamers want.”
PS Plus Extra and Premium: What you get
That said, PlayStation Plus’ two new tiers — called PlayStation Plus Extra and PlayStation Plus Premium — are not exactly content-poor. In replacing the PlayStation Now service, Sony will offer 400 games, playable by download, to the PS Plus Extra tier, and more than 700 total in the Premium tier. PlayStation Now currently has 788 games spanning three console generations.
It appears this is just a simple library split and rebrand, although Jim Ryan, in a PlayStation Blog post Tuesday morning, noted that Extra and Premium tiers will include first-party games like Death Stranding, God of War (2018), and Marvel’s Spider-Man, as well as Mortal Kombat 11. (All of those games, by the way, were part of the PlayStation Plus Collection that PlayStation 5 owners received with their purchase.)
PS Plus Extra subscribers get access to 400 PS4 and PS5 games already in PlayStation Now, and Premium subscribers get access to everything — which includes original PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable games. And if that’s the case, a monthly subscriber to PlayStation Plus Premium would end up paying less for the same services offered in the current PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now subscriptions.
PlayStation Plus’ new prices
Currently, both PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus sell subscriptions at the same rates: $59.99 for a year, $24.99 for three months, $9.99 for one month. Yearly and quarterly subscriptions to PlayStation Plus Premium essentially double that ($119.99 yearly, and $49.99 quarterly). The monthly PlayStation Plus Premium subscription is $17.99. Of course, over the course of a year, the customer would pay almost $100 more — $215.88 — than they would if they bought all 12 months up-front at $119.99.
Those who don’t need or care for PlayStation 3 and older games, or being able to stream them, can pick up the PS Plus Extra subscription for $14.99 monthly, $39.99 quarterly, or $99.99 yearly. For those who are already PS Plus and PS Now subscribers, that’s a savings of $5, $10, and $20, respectively.
And, of course, nothing forces you to get the extra stuff Sony is offering. The current PlayStation Plus subscription is being rebranded as the PlayStation Plus Essential tier, and it costs the same: $9.99 a month, $24.99 for three months, $59.99 a year.
The new PlayStation Plus vs. Xbox Game Pass
The monthly subscription to PlayStation Plus Premium is, yes, $3 more than Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, the highest tier that Microsoft offers. The difference, however, is that Microsoft does not sell Game Pass subscriptions, in any tier, in three-month or one-year blocks. Game Pass’ library is, by numbers alone, smaller (about 450 games), but the list is more curated, includes same-day launches of new titles, and EA Play’s library, as well as cloud streaming to computers, consoles, and mobile devices.
The verdict: It’s hard to see the new PlayStation Plus as much more than bolting the lesser-used PlayStation Now onto the more mandatory (for online multiplayer) existing PS Plus benefits. While this bundling is long overdue, it also doesn’t really make much of a new case to players who were doing just fine without PlayStation Now.
Microsoft, by contrast, started by creating Xbox Game Pass and driving value to it, then paired it with Xbox Live Gold with in-for-a-dime-in-for-a-dollar pricing that made the highest level of service the most attractive plan. The result is that, even with a smaller overall library, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate feels like a better value and an altogether new subscription, rather than a vast, semi-curated library tacked on for a few dollars more.