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Playstation Plus gets an upgrade: Sony lays out next-gen cloud gaming, subscription strategy
Three pricing tiers, cloud storage, retro games galore… and no more PS Now.
If you’re among the players who found Sony’s pair of online video game subscription setups confusing, this might be the news you’ve been waiting for. A newly revamped PlayStation Plus is on the way, merging the features of the current PlayStation Plus and PS Now service into one, while bringing aboard a ton of new gaming perks aimed at giving PlayStation players a more robust online service to compete with Microsoft’s Xbox Live.
Sony Interactive president Jim Ryan unveiled the new PlayStation Plus in a blog post outlining the new service with a three-tiered pricing plan that grants boosted levels of access to content and features with each step. Going away is the current PS Now games streaming service, whose existing members will be rolled into the top tier of the new PlayStation Plus plan. The new service is expected to go live starting in June in Asia, followed by rollouts in North America and globally soon after that.
Three tiers may be a lot to wrap your head around, so what do you get with each one — and how much do they cost?
Starting at the basic level, there’s PlayStation Plus Essential — the lowest-priced plan that retains “the same benefits that PlayStation Plus members are getting today,” according to Sony. The Essential plan, well, essentially matches the current PlayStation Plus service in pretty much every way, and that includes the price: It’ll remain at the current PlayStation Plus monthly cost of $9.99 per month.
Stepping up to the middle tier gets players access to PlayStation Plus Extra, which rolls everything from the basic PlayStation Plus Essential plan into a package that also adds “a catalog of up to 400 of the most enjoyable PS4 and PS5 games — including blockbuster hits from our PlayStation Studios catalog and third-party partners,” says Sony. The Extra plan also will allow subscribers to download game titles for offline play, and it’ll cost $14.99 per month.
Topping things out is the PlayStation Plus Premium plan, a $17.99 per-month service that unlocks a significant boost in additional features, including play-as-you-go games streaming and a wider trove of game titles that dives deeper into the retro PlayStation library.
In addition to everything offered in the two lower tiers, the Premium plan will add on “up to 340 additional games,” with PS3 titles available via cloud streaming and a “catalog of beloved classic games available in both streaming and download options from the original PlayStation, PS2 and PSP generations.” Coupled with the 400+ games in the next lower tier, the Premium plan unlocks more than 700 game titles in all.
For fans who miss some of the PS3’s biggest names, it’s still too early to know whether Sony will make PS3 classics like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots available as downloadable games rather than streaming-only titles. Big-name games are definitely part of Sony’s overall subscription strategy, though — but unlike Xbox Live, subscribers won’t find the newest AAA releases there.
As before, Sony’s approach to brand-new PlayStation-only exclusives is to give them plenty of room as standalone purchases through their launch windows, before adding them in to the new service’s lineup of playable titles via a subscription. One cool feature in the Premium plan is the option to try out new games without buying them — for a limited amount of time, of course. “Time-limited game trials will also be offered in this tier, so customers can try select games before they buy,” says Sony.
In terms of access to classic games, Sony’s subscription approach appears somewhat comparable with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate plan. Both service promise access to a wide array of older games on demand, though players will have to opt into one of Sony’s higher-end tiers to take advantage of games streaming. Sony’s philosophy of keeping exclusive new-release PlayStation games away from a subscription model is the real difference: Xbox Game Pass allows players to dive into new Xbox Studios games the day they’re released, while Sony subscribers will still have to buy upcoming exclusives like God of War Ragnarök separately if they want day-one access.
Judging from Sony’s lineup of launch games, the wait to play the latest and greatest at least appears not to be too long. Relatively recent PS5 hits were among the ones Ryan names as part of the new PlayStation Plus launch lineup. In the two upper tiers, “we plan to include titles such as Death Stranding, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Mortal Kombat 11, and Returnal,” Ryan wrote, pledging the subscription library will be “regularly refreshed.”