Forget “Netflix for games” for a sec. The conversation to watch this week is “Hulu for games.” Yes, Sony has finally lifted the curtain on its eagerly anticipated overhaul of PS Plus and PS Now, formerly known under the code name “Spartacus.”
The new service has three tiers, the middle level adding over 400 PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games to download, and the third and most expensive (at $120 a year) additionally letting subscribers play PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation Portable games from Sony’s back catalog.
The current PlayStation Plus will come to exist as the lowest tier, to somewhat confusingly be called PlayStation Plus Essential. This will keep the two free monthly games and various bonuses current users are familiar with, for the same $10 price.
As expected the new setup will ditch the PS Now name, and instead merge that into the second tier: PlayStation Plus Extra. This is essentially their Game Pass equivalent, with all the Essential tier stuff, and “up to 400" PS4 and PS5 games, now available to download. That will match Microsoft’s Game Pass Ultimate monthly price at $15.
Finally there’s PlayStation Plus Premium, which includes the previous two levels, then adds in a back catalogue of “up to 340" PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP games to cloud stream, as well as the ability to cloud stream the PS4 games. It’ll also let you stream your games to PC, and provide time-limited trials of games before you buy them.
Here are the full details via a new PlayStation Blog post:
- Provides the same benefits that PlayStation Plus members are getting today, such as: Two monthly downloadable games, exclusive discounts, cloud storage for saved games, online multiplayer access.
- There are no changes for existing PlayStation Plus members in this tier.
- Price: $9.99 monthly / $24.99 quarterly / $59.99 yearly
- Provides all the benefits from the Essential tier
- 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. Games in the Extra tier are downloadable for play.
- Price: $14.99 monthly / $39.99 quarterly / $99.99 yearly
- Provides all the benefits from Essential and Extra tiers
- Adds up to 340* additional games, including: PS3 games available via cloud streaming. A catalog of beloved classic games available in both streaming and download options from the original PlayStation, PS2 and PSP generations
- Offers cloud streaming access for original PlayStation, PS2, PSP and PS4 games offered in the Extra and Premium tiers in markets where PlayStation Now is currently available.
- Customers can stream games using PS4 and PS5 consoles, and PC. Time-limited game trials will also be offered in this tier, so customers can try select games before they buy.
- Price: $17.99 monthly / $49.99 quarterly / $119.99 yearly
The new service will roll out on PS4 and PS5 in the first half of 2022. It’s starting in Asia in June, and then will roll out to the U.S. and Europe after that, before becoming available in the rest of the world. The service will also include the following games when it launches: 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 an answer to Game Pass, Microsoft’s immensely popular games-on-demand subscription for Xbox and PC. In December, Bloomberg first reported the existence of the service, which was then codenamed “Spartacus.”
The idea was to merge PlayStation’s subscriptions under one tidy umbrella, marrying the games-on-demand library of PS Now with the free monthly games of PS Plus. It will also give access to game demos at the top tier, a rapidly fading relic in the era of digital ownership. Last week, though, Bloomberg additionally reported that first-party exclusive games, like the forthcoming God of War Ragnarök, wouldn’t be available as day-one releases on the service. That’s a stark contrast to a key selling point for Game Pass: Microsoft releases all first-party games, like like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 immediately upon launch.
In a new interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Jim Ryan, head of Sony Interactive Entertainment, confirmed the new PS Plus will not regularly be getting first-party Sony games on launch day.
As far as business moves go, Sony’s is an errant line of dialogue from Pirates of the Caribbean. First-party PlayStation games already fly off the shelves; there’s no reason to put them on a subscription that’ll likely pick up a user base at similar pace, if only for the novelty. To be sure, PS Now technically beat Game Pass to the punch by years in terms of offering a library of hundreds of games and offering those games via cloud streaming. But confusing messaging plus a weird rental rate—you had to pay for a set number of hours or days of access to specific games—turned players off.
Even though Sony eventually pivoted the pricing scheme to a more standard monthly membership, the damage was done. It never came close to attaining the industry-shifting numbers of the so-called “Netflix for Games,” which Microsoft recently said has more than 25 million subscribers. It’ll be interesting to see how this new relaunch will prosper.