Sony unveils PlayStation Plus overhaul to compete with Xbox Game Pass

A PlayStation 5 looms close over a teal background.

photo: T3 magazine (Getty Images)

Forget Netflix for games for a second. The talk to watch this week is “Hulu for games.” Yes, Sony has finally lifted the curtain on the much-anticipated overhaul of PS Plus and PS Now, formerly codenamed Spartacus. The new service has three tiers, the middle one adds over 400 PS4 and PS5 games, and the third and most expensive (at $120 per year) additionally omits PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP games from subscribers play in Sony’s back catalogue.

The current PlayStation Plus remains the lowest tier, now confusingly called PlayStation Plus Essential. This keeps the two free monthly games and various bonuses that current users are familiar with for the same $10 price.

However, as expected tThe new setup will drop the PS Now name and instead integrate it into the second tier: PlayStation Plus Extra.

Here are the details per a new PlayStation blog post:

PlayStation Plus Essential

  • Offers the same benefits PlayStation Plus members get today, such as: B.: Two monthly downloadable games, exclusive discounts, cloud storage for saved games, online multiplayer access.
  • There are no changes for existing PlayStation Plus members at this tier.
  • Price: $9.99 monthly / $24.99 quarterly / $59.99 annually

PlayStation Plus Extra

  • Offers all the benefits of the Essential tier
  • Adds a catalog of up to 400* of the most entertaining PS4 and PS5 games – including blockbuster hits from our PlayStation Studios catalog and third parties. Games in the extra tier can be downloaded to play.
  • price: United States$14.99 monthly / $39.99 quarterly / $99.99 annually

PlayStation Plus Premium**

  • Offers all the benefits of the Essential and Extra plans
  • Adds up to 340* additional games including: PS3 games available via cloud streaming. an approxtalog of popular classic games available in both streaming and download options from the original PlayStation, PS2 and PSP generations
  • Provides cloud streaming access for PlayStation, PS2, PSP and PS4 original games offered at the Extra and Premium tiers in markets** where PlayStation Now is currently available.
  • Customers can stream games using PS4 and PS5 consoles and PC.*** This tier also offers limited-time game trials, allowing customers to try selected games before purchasing.
  • Price: $17.99 monthly / $49.99 quarterly / $119.99 annually

The new service will launch on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 in the first half of 2022. The service will also include the following games at launch: Death Stranding, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales , Mortal Kombat 11 and Returnal.

Essentially, the new PS Plus combines the best aspects of Sony’s other two subscription programs, PS Plus and PS Now. It’s a response to Game Pass, Microsoft’s hugely popular games-on-demand subscription for Xbox and PC. Like Game Pass, Sony’s new service is available at a variety of prices, with more expensive tiers offering better perks. In December, Bloomberg first reported the existence of the service, then codenamed “Spartacus.”

The idea was to bring PlayStation’s subscriptions under one neat roof, merging PS Now’s games-on-demand library with PS Plus’s free monthly games. There will also be access to game demos, a fast-fading relic in the age of digital ownership. However, last week Bloomberg also reported that exclusive first-party games like the upcoming God of War Ragnarök would not be available as day-one releases on the service. That’s in stark contrast to a key selling point for Game Pass: Microsoft releases all first-party games like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 immediately after launch. As for the business moves, Sony’s misguided line of dialogue is Pirates of the Caribbean.

In a new one Interview with GamesIndustry.bizHead of Sony Interactive4 Entertainment, Jim Ryan, confirmed that the new PS Plus will not regularly receive first-party Sony games on launch day.

First-party PlayStation games are already flying off shelves; There’s no reason to put them on a subscription that’s likely to be attracting a user base at a similar pace, if only for the novelty. To be sure, PS Now technically beat Game Pass by years when it comes to offering a library of hundreds of games and offering those games via cloud streaming. But confusing messages and an odd rental price — you had to pay to access certain games for a certain number of hours or days — put players off. Although Sony eventually switched the pricing scheme to a more standard monthly membership, the damage was done. It never came close to matching the industry-changing numbers of the so-called “Netflix for Games,” which Microsoft recently said has more than 25 million subscribers. Sony unveils PlayStation Plus overhaul to compete with Xbox Game Pass

Curtis Crabtree

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