PlayStation Plus relaunching in June
Sony is revamping its subscription service in a big way - but will the PlayStation community embrace these changes?
The rumors were true and it’s now official: Sony’s initiative formerly known as “Project Spartacus”, which many thought of it as “an answer to Xbox Game Pass”, is actually a substantial revamp of PlayStation Plus and a new beginning for the service. The company just laid out most of the details in a blog post, essentially confirming what many of us were already expecting: that Sony can successfully merge its PlayStation Now streaming service with PlayStation Plus in its current form, but that it also can’t afford to offer day-one game releases as part of the new offer. So this is a far, far better PlayStation Plus but not the “PlayStation Game Pass” some were hoping for.
Come June, there will be three PlayStation Plus tiers: Essential, Extra and Premium. The Essential tier offers what PS Plus does today: multiplayer access, two monthly downloadable games, discounts and cloud storage for game saves. It is priced at €9.99/$8.99 per month or €59.99/$59.99 per year. Sony notes that “there are no changes for existing PlayStation Plus members in this tier”, which probably means that there will be two monthly games per format (PS4/PS5), as is the case today.
Two new tiers, much more interesting options
Things get interesting at the Extra tier. This includes everything the Essential tier offers, plus access to a catalog of “up to 400 PS4 or PS5 games”, all downloadable. At launch, Sony plans to include AAA games like Death Stranding, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Mortal Kombat 11 and Returnal. Crucially, the company does not mention any new and upcoming exclusive PlayStation games available through the new PS Plus on launch day (and we do not expect it to). This Extra tier is priced at €13.99/$14.99 per month or €99.99/$99.99 per year.
The third tier, Premium, makes its case by offering a lot more for the amount of money that PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now combined used to cost. It includes everything the Essential and Extra tiers offer, plus “up to 340” more games: PS3 titles that can be streamed and PSOne, PS2 and PSP games that can be streamed or downloaded. All streamable games can be played on PS4, PS5 or PC. Subscribers of this tier also have access to time-limited game trials “for select games”. It is priced at €16.99/$17.99 per month or €119.99/$119.99 per year.
There’s an additional fourth tier called Deluxe, which will be available to “select markets” going forward. This was essentially created because PlayStation Now is not available in many countries around the world, so the “merging” of PS Plus and PS Now would not be offering the same benefits there. Subscribers to this tier still get everything from the Essential and Extra tiers, plus access to the PSOne, PS2 and PSP games in downloadable form, as well as the time-limited game trials, for a lower cost which was not disclosed.
In context: is this what PlayStation fans were hoping for?
Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way first: for people hoping that Sony would offer a direct “answer” to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass with a service that works in the exact same way, the revamped PlayStation Plus may seem like a miss. It’s not. Sony simply doesn’t have the money to burn Microsoft does, so it cannot afford to release its new blockbuster first-party games on this service on launch day at no cost. This is less of a strategic choice and more of a necessity: those games cost a ton of money to develop and they just have to make that money back for Sony in retail sales before they are even considered for a PS Plus release. This is unlikely to change in the future and that’s OK. We knew that already.
What these new tiers actually offer to the PlayStation community is more content, more options and considerably higher value overall. It’s obvious that the Extra tier will be the most popular one and, depending on what its final games catalog will look like, it’s an easy-to-recommend upsell for current PS Plus subscribers (the yearly price difference is less than the cost of a single new PS4/PS5 game). The yearly cost of a Premium tier PS Plus subscription costs twice as much as a current PS Plus one, so that’s definitely something to consider, but consumers interested in game streaming and legacy PlayStation games now have an option offering just that for the price of a current PS Now subscription. Not bad at all.
From what Sony chose to share today it’s clear that the company does not expect its subscription numbers to suddenly grow significantly through this revamp of the PlayStation Plus service. That will happen gradually over time, as it already does. What the Japanese are hoping for is the aforementioned upsell, i.e. the upgrade of as many current PS Plus subscribers to the Extra tier so as to increase its profit per customer on the service. Sony will continue to rely on retail purchases of games and DLC (developed internally along with third-party made) while maximizing revenue from its unified, streamlined PlayStation subscription offering.
It is a carefully balanced approach and one much more suitable to a company like Sony than the subscription service-focused approach Microsoft chose to follow. What consumers will think of the new PS Plus options offered to them remains to be seen.