Sony’s update for PlayStation Plus is here at last with a host of features and new (old) games. Now that it’s here, does it have what it takes to compete with Xbox Game Pass?
Sony has taken its time in responding to Microsoft’s juggernaut service, though it was clear something was in the works last summer when they announced, and then canceled, plans to delist their digital storefronts on older systems. The global rollout officially completed this week, however, and now PlayStation players have access to hundreds of additional titles depending on their membership tier.
It may not have the flashiness of day one access to brand new games, and the updates are not without their flaws, but there’s still plenty of great things to be found. So here are five pros and cons we’ve found with the updated PlayStation Plus:
Pro: Trophy Support for Older Games
It would have been easier to simply put classic titles on PlayStation Plus and call it a day. But Sony has gone the extra mile—or at least, enabled developers to go the extra mile—by adding support for trophies to classic titles. At launch only five games support it, granted, but they’re among the biggest draws of the current lineup: Ape Escape, Syphon Filter, Hot Shots Golf, Wild Arms, and I.Q.: Intelligent Qube.
This goes a long way to tie the new classic offerings into the established PlayStation ecosystem. Booting up Ape Escape was enough of a nostalgia hit, but the telltale ding when I earned a trophy for bagging my first ape was icing on the cake. Hopefully most developers will buy into this option as more games are added and give players a little more incentive to dust off the classics.
Con: Some Glaring Omissions
That being said, the initial catalog of games is somewhat sparse considering all of the classics at Sony’s potential disposal. It’s particularly pronounced with the oldest platforms. The PS3 is very well represented, while the PS2 and PS1 see diminishing returns, and the PSP has practically nothing.
Beyond that, many of first- and second-generation games are those that were re-released within the last few years on PS4, like Dark Cloud. Final Fantasy VII, VIII, and IX are included in the Game Catalog, as their recent PS4 updates but not the “classic” forms, if anyone was looking for an authentically retro experience. And even if the rumours are true and a Metal Gear Solid remake or compilation is in the works, there’s still value in having the original versions of remastered classics available.
Between the absence of truly golden exclusives like Metal Gear Solid and Twisted Metal: Black, and the inconsistent distribution of the titles that are present, the PlayStation Plus’ new lineup feels incomplete at best, and muddled at worst.
Pro: Streaming Works Well*
Of the extensive library of more recent games, many are available to play via streaming if you want to preserve precious hard drive space. Cloud streaming can be a contentious topic, but happily I found it to be a breeze. Granted, booting games up in this manner led to the longest load times I’ve encountered on the PS5 in the year since I got my console. Once the games started rolling, however, I saw no noticeable hiccups in performance.
It’s a nice alternative given how valuable hard drive space can be with today’s games and given the particular demands of expanding a PS5’s storage. That being said, if you live in an area with inferior internet performance, your results may differ drastically. Even if you have great performance, you’d still be better off ensuring your console is connected directly to your router with ethernet, just in case.
Con: Pricing & The Extra ”Extra” Tier
The second tier of the new PlayStation Plus paradigm is aptly named ”Extra.” For an addition $6 CAD per month, users at this level get access to the Game Catalog, modern highlights from available for download or streaming. This even includes PS5 titles like Returnal and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Death Stranding: Director’s Cut. Like the monthly offerings Sony has always offered subscribers, these remain playable so long as you remain a member.
But it’s not until you shell out another $4 per month that the rest of the benefits kick in, like the expanded Classics Catalog and limited full-game trials. This is also where the redundancy kicks in. Separating the Game Catalog and Classics Catalog makes some sense on paper, but also becomes a little tedious in practice.
The new PlayStation Plus program was clearly intended to compete with Xbox Game Pass, expanding the tried-and-true existing membership. Once the ball gets rolling, the benefits of the Premium tier are more than sufficient to balance the scales between the platforms. The Extra tier doesn’t offer quite enough value to justify its particular price increase, however, when it’s missing half the benefits.
Sony would have had a slam dunk on their hands if they’d offered all the benefits of Premium at the price of Extra. It would also have streamlined the whole process and offered more casual consumers less muddy waters. As it is, it could be an overwhelming turn-off for less informed customers.
Pro: The Best is Yet To Come
Qualms aside, Sony has laid the foundation for a very worthwhile service in the updated PlayStation Plus. Once those big gaps in the Classics Catalog are filled in, the infrastructure is in place to make this subscription a worthy contender to Game Pass, and certainly overshadowing Nintendo Switch Online’s offerings in the process.
What remains to be seen is how quickly the Classic Library will fill up. If it gets at least 1-2 new titles per month in the same way new titles have been added to the base membership, and if some of those missing pedigree titles come along quickly, Sony fans will have a downright multigenerational burden of riches.
The flies in the ointment are outweighed by all the potential PlayStation Plus can realize. It may not necessarily be worthwhile for all users right now, but keep an eye on the Premium tier as it’s rounded out in the months to come.