The PlayStation Stars program, Sony’s revamped reward system for players, is out in the wild starting today. It’s also just about as confusing as you might expect from the company that brought you nine different editions of Horizon Forbidden West and made PlayStation Plus into a confusing, multi-tiered service. Here’s everything you need to know about how it works and how you can start earning points to get free PS4 and PS5 games.
Glad you asked. It’s a bit unintuitive actually. As far as I can tell, you can’t actually sign up through the console. Instead you need to go to the PlayStation website or download the PlayStation app and manually opt-in. From there you can start racking up points and collecting weird visual tokens (which are definitely not NFTs) to show off how cool you are. But all of this stuff can only be managed from the app at the moment.
On the surface, it’s a bizarre new meta-layer to the PlayStation experience that has you buy games and “complete campaigns” in order to rank up and amass a small library of virtual collectibles that other PSN users can see when they check out your profile. Who’s that guy or gal who just headshotted me in Fortnite and then squatted over my fading corpse? Oh look, they’ve got a rotating model of a PlayStation Tech Demo Tyrannosaurus Rex in their virtual bookcase. How old school!
But the real point of the program is to try and claw back a little extra savings from all of those PlayStation Store purchases. The program rewards gold points that can be redeemed for PSN bucks. Every 1,250 points you earn is the equivalent of $5 you can put toward buying new games. It’s basically Sony’s version of what Nintendo and Microsoft have already been doing for some time, and what Sony had at one point done in the past.
PlayStation Stars is gamified to make you feel like it’s building toward something. There are four levels. They don’t get you better discounts but they do get you more not-NFT trinkets. Reach level four and you’ll also get the most controversial perk: better customer service. Here’s what you need to do to hit each new rank:
- Milestones: Joined PlayStation Stars, started playing and completing campaigns.
- Benefits: Get access to digital collectibles by completing campaigns. Receive a celebration collectible.
- Milestones: Bought one full game from PlayStation Store, earned one uncommon trophy.
- Benefits: Receive a Level 2 celebration collectible and access to all collectibles from Level 1.
- Milestones: Bought two full games from PlayStation Store, earned 32 uncommon trophies.
- Benefits: Receive a Level 3 celebration collectible and a birthday collectible.
- Milestones: Bought four full games from PlayStation Store, earned 128 uncommon trophies.
- Benefits: Receive a celebration collectible, enjoy chat priority routing, and retain all collectibles from Levels 1, 2, and 3.
Well, first you have to pay for them. Completing “campaigns” like buying from a pre-selected list of games will net you some bonus points, but the majority of them are earned automatically every time you buy something on PSN as long as you’re a PlayStation Plus subscriber. That last part is important. If you’re not a current subscriber, you won’t get any points for regular purchases. If you are, however, you’ll get 4%. Buy The Last of Us Part I for $70 and you’ll get the equivalent of $2.80 back in points. Not bad! Be sure to spend your points as you get them though, because they expire after 24 months.
In addition to needing to be a paying PS Plus member to get points back, you also need to buy games directly through PSN rather than with funds loaded onto your PSN wallet. This might seem like a distinction without a difference, but one great way to save money on PlayStation Store purchases is by waiting for a sale on PSN cards and then buying them at a discount. The current version of PlayStation Stars won’t count those, however.
You don’t get any credit for physical purchases either, much to the chagrin of people who like collecting boxes to display on their shelves or who simply want a more permanent means of preserving their gaming library. It also doesn’t seem to be counting recent purchases for some of the campaign objectives. Users are already complaining online about having recently bought Inscryption and other games required for one of the early rank-up challenges and not having it counted toward their progress.
While it’s nice that Sony is finally doing something to try and reward its most dedicated players, PlayStation Stars still isn’t as generous as what Nintendo offers. Currently, anytime you buy a game on Nintendo’s eShop you get 5% back in “gold coins” you can spend on future games. In addition, it works whether you buy the games directly with cash or fund your account with eShop cards, meaning you can grab the latter when they are 10% off, and then use them to get an additional 5% back.
Wait until there’s a sale and you’re getting even more bang for your buck. Plus, you don’t have to be a Switch Online subscriber and you can still get 1% credit for physical purchases. The gold coins can also be cashed in directly rather than waiting until you hit a certain threshold.
I like the idea of accumulating virtual statues and discounts simply for doing the stuff I already do on PlayStation like buying games and earning trophies. But it also feels way underbaked and overly confusing for a program coming two years into the PS5’s lifecycle. I have yet to discover a collectible I would actually be proud to display, and the overall presentation even feels cheap at times.
PlayStation Stars showcases Sony’s uncanny knack for making things unnecessarily difficult as well. Rather than make each point equal to one penny, or one tenth of a penny, a point is equal to the extremely unintuitive amount of $0.004. And you can’t just redeem them willy-nilly either. Instead, you have to wait to cash them in for $5 or $20, at intervals of 1,250 and 5,000 points respectively. I’d thought we’d left this garbage behind in the Xbox 360 days, but funny-money math is back folks.
Some players have already started freaking out because they had previously preordered God of War Ragnarök and are now afraid they won’t get their 700 points for buying it. Don’t worry though, Sony says that’s just a glitch and that the points will be added to those accounts in the coming week. So at least there’s that!
And that’s the long and short of it. PlayStation Stars arrives just a few months after the Game Pass-ification of PlayStation Plus and gives subscribers a few small perks to reward them for continuing to buy stuff. At the same time, it still falls short of the standard set by even the notoriously stingy Nintendo, and doesn’t really seem to fit into the rest of what’s being built on PS5 between the new built-in guides system and other social features meant to make PlayStation feel more like a community than just a screen between you and your Spider-Man: Miles Morales save file that loads in 15 seconds. Maybe in time it will be.