Sony has announced its long-expected overhaul (opens in new tab) of PlayStation subscription services, a move that was somewhat forced on the Japanese giant by the gathering momentum of Microsoft's Game Pass. The latter seems to get more impressive by the week, offers tremendous value-for-money, and has the simple headline pitch of "every first party exclusive on day one." PlayStation's alternatives, PlayStation+ and PSNow, are decent ways to access the PlayStation back catalogue, but next to Game Pass, increasingly felt irrelevant.
Sony's answer? The new PlayStation Plus was announced in the most underwhelming manner possible, a dry-as-dust blogpost (opens in new tab) that outlined three different tiers of service: Essential, Extra, and Premium. PlayStation Plus re-launches with these new tiers in June. When it replaces the existing PS Now streaming service, Premium (the most expensive tier) will be the only one that lets you play PlayStation games on PC.
The Premium tier offers this:
- Provides all the benefits from Essential and Extra tiers
- Adds up to 340 additional games, which includes:
- 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.
Premium costs $17.99 monthly / $49.99 quarterly / $119.99 yearly in the US.
So to make the most obvious point first: This is a giant price hike for PC players. Currently you can subscribe to PS Now, without an additional PS+ subscription, and you'd be paying $9.99 monthly/$24.99 quarterly/$59.99 for an annual subscription. Accessing PlayStation games on PC is about to double in price.
That is a retrograde step for Sony. Of course it has to take care of its bread-and-butter console audience, but in recent years has been more open to the opportunities for PlayStation games on PC. It even recently created a Playstation PC label (opens in new tab). PS Now always felt a bit more half-hearted on PC than it did on console (thanks largely to a terrible desktop app). But, at the same time it remains the only way to play Bloodborne on PC (opens in new tab).
If you wanted to play devil's advocate for Sony, the only real argument is how much more the Premium sub offers than the current PS Now subscription: over 700 games, all the benefits of the lower tiers, and a game trial system for any games not included. I mean… if you're exclusively a PlayStation player, that is no doubt a decent deal. But we're talking PC here, an ecosystem with endless dirt-cheap games and a variety of competitive subscription offerings, and one where the allure of old PS3, PS2 and PSP games is perhaps not quite so shining. $120 a year, when I think of how else that could be spent on PC, is not attractive.
It is understandable that PlayStation, a brand built upon its own bespoke hardware, wants to keep the biggest chunk of its business on that hardware. Part of that is making its console the most attractive place to play PlayStation games. But limiting the PC audience to Premium and effectively doubling the price of streaming PlayStation games on PC comes across like a statement. The PC side of the service has become even more of an afterthought than usual.
PS Now always felt like a slightly odd fit on PC, and you could sense from the product's lack of polish that it wasn't seen as any sort of a priority. That said, at least it was its own service—now it feels like PC streaming of PlayStation games is just being rolled into a wider category, and Sony's decided it wants to put the screws to PC gamers.
It is a strange time to be a PC gamer, because the consoles always used to be 'over there' somehow, distinct in what they offered and with little PC crossover. Now the consoles are almost becoming optional hardware, particularly in the case of Xbox, and these industry giants are gradually working out what their future on PC will look like.
For Microsoft and Xbox Game Pass, it looks bright. For Sony there have been positive signs—finally porting God of War (opens in new tab) was a very welcome move—but those are hard to square with the new PlayStation Plus. For PC players this all just looks muddled, and a worse deal than ever before.