After a few months of leaks and rumours, Sony has officially unveiled Project Spartacus. Starting in June, PlayStation Plus is going to be revamped, which, in addition to folding PlayStation Now into PS Plus, will also offer new additional benefits across three subscription tiers. The first tier, PlayStation Plus Essential will be what PS Plus is right now, offering monthly free games, cloud saves, and online multiplayer access. PlayStation Plus Extra will add a library of 400 PS4 and PS5 games on top of that, while PlayStation Plus Premium will add another 340 games from older PlayStation platforms, limited-time game trials, and more.
It’s been a long time coming, of course. Xbox Game Pass has seen incredible success and growth since its inception a few years back, to the extent where it’s very much become central to Microsoft’s entire strategy. And as successful as Sony has been with its own model of blockbuster AAA first party exclusives – and they’ve been very successful – it’s become increasingly clear as time has gone on that they are going to need something on their console that offers something similar to what Xbox Game Pass offers.
In that, the introduction of the new PlayStation Plus is a good step forward. Enticing potential subscribers with the promise of a 400-game library that includes both first party and third party megatons is a good idea, while having a sizeable catalog of legacy titles is another great bonus. All of that praise, however, comes with more than a few caveats.
Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first. For PlayStation Plus, comparisons to Game Pass are going to be inevitable, and in those comparisons, it doesn’t fare too well. Sony has made it abundantly clear that it doesn’t plan on launching first party release day one on PlayStation Plus, which automatically puts it several levels below its main competitor. PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan said in a recent interview with GamesIndustry.biz that adopting that business model would preclude Sony from the sort of big budget blockbuster titles it’s become known for, but that notion doesn’t really hold much weight. The likes of Gears 5, Halo Infinite, and Forza Horizon 5 were all massive AAA releases, and they have all been immensely successful.
There are, of course, other reasons for why Sony isn’t as concerned with day and date PS Plus releases- like the fact that PS Plus isn’t really looking to compete with Game Pass, and both have very different roles and serve very different purposes within their respective ecosystems. Microsoft views Game Pass as the glue that holds the entire ecosystem together, but for Sony, PlayStation Plus is more of an additive offering on top of its main attraction of premium exclusives. The purpose of first party Xbox releases is to attract Game Pass subscribers, whereas the purpose of first party PlayStation releases is to sell software copies and drive hardware sales. That, more than the financial complications that Jim Ryan refers to, seems more prevalent.
Other aspects of the new PlayStation Plus seem disappointingly conservative as well. For instance, PlayStation Plus Premium’s library of legacy titles will also include PS3 games, but while PS1, PS2, and PSP titles can be both streamed or downloaded and played natively, PS3 games can only be streamed, which is a huge disappointment. The PS3’s notorious architecture has turned it into an island where its library remains stranded, but we know for a fact that if Sony did want to, it could get PS3 games to run on PS5 hardware. It would be a big financial investment, yes. Sony doesn’t think the investment would be worth it, which is a shame.
Of course, PS1, PS2, and PSP games aren’t going to be relegated to cloud streaming, which is definitely a good thing- but honestly, this is essentially Sony charging for backward compatibility. It’s the exact same model that Nintendo has adopted with Nintendo Switch Online, and both of them are equally scummy. Hopefully, Sony will allow these legacy games to be purchased individually as well, rather than locking all of them behind a PlayStation Plus Premium subscription- which isn’t cheap.
That’s the other big problem with PlayStation Plus- specifically with PlayStation Plus Premium, which will cost either $17.99 per month, $49.99 for a quarter, or $119.99 for 12 months. For comparison’s sake, an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (which also includes Gold, EA Play, PC Game Pass, and Xbox Cloud Gaming) costs $15 per month- though it doesn’t offer a yearly subscription plan, which means 12 months of PS Plus Premium are roughly $60 cheaper than 12 months of Game Pass Ultimate. But regardless of whether you’re spending $18 for one month or $120 for 12, is PS Plus Premium offering enough value?
Well, that’s one of the big questions we have right now, of course. The library of PS4 and PS5 games in the second tier and the library of legacy games in the third are both almost completely shrouded in mystery right now. Sony says every major third party publisher is going to have its games on PS Plus, and that at launch, PS Pus Extra’s library will offer the likes of Returnal, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Death Stranding, and Mortal Kombat 11. That’s a solid selection of games, and we’re obviously not expecting all 400 games in that tier to be on that same level- but will it have enough variety? We certainly hope so. With 400 slots to fill, it definitely has the room to do that. Meanwhile, where the legacy library is concerned, we have just as many questions, if note more. Will the older games run well? Does Sony plan on enhancing them in any way, the way Microsoft does with FPS Boost and other visual upgrades?
In an ideal scenario, answers to those questions will win the new PlayStation Plus huge brownie points- but the overriding sense here, one way or another, seems to be that Sony is only doing the bare minimum here. There’s clear value here, but not only does it seem a little overpriced, it’s also driving a lot of its value from backward compatibility, which – unless it comes with enhancements to older games – seems like a scummy move. Sure, the new PS Plus will still be successful, and it’ll drive up subscription numbers for Sony- but as it stands right now, there’s plenty of improvement here.
Things could always be worse though. At least it’s better than Nintendo Switch Online.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.