This morning, Sony finally unveiled its games-on-demand service in a blog post with more asterisks than the lease on your first apartment.. It’s a revamp of PS Plus called… [drum roll] wait for it… [another drum roll] PS Plus.
In line with details first reported by Bloomberg, PS Plus 2.0—yep, that’s what I’m gonna call it—essentially merges Sony’s two subscription services, PS Plus and PS Now, into one easily digestible package. At face value, the new-and-improved service seems like an obvious answer to Game Pass, Microsoft’s games-on-demand service currently subscribed to by more than 25 million people. Both offer access to hundreds of games. Both are available as monthly memberships. Both have options that allow you to stream games.
But the two deviate enough in details and approach that it’s not a one-to-one comparison. If Game Pass is the “Netflix for games,” as folks so often like to say, Sony’s offering is more like, say, the “Hulu for games.” Let’s break it down.
PS Plus is available in four tiers. There’s PS Plus Essential, fundamentally unchanged from the current service, for $10 a month or $60 a year. PS Plus Extra is $15 a month or $100 a year, and adds a library of PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games. PS Plus Premium goes for $18 a month or $120 a year and adds games from previous PlayStation generations, plus game demos. Finally, geographical regions that don’t allow for game-streaming can sign up for PS Plus Deluxe, which Sony says will cost a “lower price” than Premium and exclude PS3 games. (Exact pricing is up in the air. Sony did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.)
Game Pass, meanwhile, is available in two tiers. The base level, available on either Xbox or PC, is $10 and gives access to a library of Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and PC games. The higher level, Game Pass Ultimate, costs $15 a month and pairs both together plus a number of other perks. There’s currently no (formal) option to buy an annual membership up front at a markdown, though you can sometimes find a three-month card via third-party retailers. But Microsoft, apparently confident in the retention rate of Game Pass, charges only $1 for the first month.
It’s easy, then, to look at these prices and immediately balk at Sony’s highest tier. Yes, $18 is more expensive than the $15 going rate of Game Pass Ultimate. But by that same measure, PS Plus Premium’s annual cost ($120) is significantly less expensive than Ultimate’s ($180). If you know you’re planning on subscribing long term, Sony’s service already seems a bit more attractive.
Of course, any games-on-demand service can succeed on the strength of its library. Game Pass, per its latest update, features around 450 games, roughly 350 of which are playable on PC. You can download any game from the library to Xbox or PC, and stream approximately 100 games on compatible devices, including phones.
By comparison, the PS Plus library is a bit more confusing. At launch, PS Plus Extra will include 400 PS4 and PS5 games, anchored by marquees like Death Stranding, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Mortal Kombat 11, and Returnal. PS5 owners will note, by the way, how some of those games overlap with the offerings made available through PS Plus Collection, which makes 20 of the best-selling PS4 games available to PS5-owning subscribers of PS Plus at no extra cost. It’s unclear whether or not the rollout of PS Plus 2.0 will have any effect on that particular perk. Sony did not respond to a request for comment.
Subscribing to PS Plus Premium adds a further 340 games from the PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, PSP, and PlayStation 3 libraries. You can download PS1, PS2, PS4, PS5, and PSP games, and stream some too, but you can’t download PS3 games. You can only stream those. Basically, it’s PS Now.
There’s also a notable divide in how each service handles its respective exclusive games. Xbox puts first-party games—everything from smash hits like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 to forthcoming blockbusters Starfield and Redfall—on Game Pass at launch. For PS Plus, though, Sony won’t adopt that strategy, at least not in the short-term. PlayStation boss Jim Ryan said, in a recent interview, there’s basically no reason to, as doing so could devalue the prestige status of games produced by the company’s in-house studios. Sony’s first-party games like Horizon Forbidden West and God of War already tear up the charts and enamor both fans and critics; they don’t need the extra attention from a subscription service. In other words, don’t expect to see God of War Ragnarök available on PS Plus any time soon.
There’s a lot of hay about how PS Plus 2.0 is positioned as a counter to Game Pass, and while such comparisons are fair, I’m not entirely convinced they capture the full picture. Yes, both services fundamentally do the same thing (offer a bunch of easy-access games for a monthly membership). They’re similar enough that it’s worth scrutinizing the broader strokes in which they’re distinct (Sony’s service may be cheaper annually, but it lacks the best feature of Game Pass: day-one exclusives). It’s also fun to play “pros and cons.”
But such mental exercises conveniently gloss over the fact that Sony has no need to compete directly with Game Pass. Its first-party games are doing just fine. And they have legs, too: Horizon Zero Dawn, which came to PC three years after its exclusive release on PS4, has sold more than 20 million copies, thanks in no small part to its PC port.
To me, the big takeaway from today is nothing to do with competing corporate behemoths. Rather, it’s that the era of subscription services—which upended the film, music, and television industries over the past decade—is officially here for gaming now too. And it’s not going anywhere any time soon.