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The new PS Plus still couldn’t compete with Xbox Game Pass in 2022

PlayStation Plus Essential, what everyone used to call the good old PlayStation Plus, once again delivered a great list of free games for players to subscribe to and of course gamers have to subscribe if they want multiplayer access.

But in the subscription’s new Extra and Premium service levels, which launched in June, it’s honestly hard to see where the value is. And I say that as a PlayStation Plus Premium subscriber, which is mainly because of the work that I do.

No one expects PlayStation Plus to imitate Xbox Game Pass; an impersonator would be five years late to the party, anyway. But even the raw number of games available to PS Plus Extra and Premium members, most of which were inherited from the old PlayStation Now service, does little to make the PlayStation 4 and PS5 add-on program competitive with Microsoft’s.

By the end of the year, subscribers to PlayStation Plus Premium, the top tier of the service, had access to more than 1,000 games. (About 450 are PS4 and PS5 games, which form the core of the service and are available to PlayStation Plus Extra subscribers. The rest are streamable classics from the PlayStation 3 generation and earlier.) That’s a lot of games, more than twice as many as Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers currently have access to (thanks to the inclusion of the EA Play library).

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But that’s also because Xbox Game Pass is curated, with games rotating as new ones are added. PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium it looks like Sony, with the help of third-party publishers, is throwing things at the wall in the hope that something will stick. The problem is that everything sticks, making it almost impossible for the subscription to have a big-name game that stands out, let alone justify the $14.99 (Extra) or $17.99 (Premium) each month. PlayStation Plus Essential is still $9.99 a month.

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Second, the fact that Sony is on record saying it won’t release first-party games on the higher levels of the PS Plus service. That’s Sony’s choice, sure, but it’s also not like it’s forcing third-party publishers to release Extra or Premium. Losta console exclusive, and acclaimed to be sure, it’s the only title to launch on PS Plus Extra on the same day as its general release.

It seems strange that Sony would be so reluctant, when day-and-date releases are perhaps the defining feature of Xbox Game Pass, and especially when PlayStation Plus Essential hasn’t had a problem with day-and-date releases over the years, that cover titles like rocket league to smaller indie games exclusive to the platform. PS Plus Essential even had two PlayStation releases dated and day-dated in 2022.

The spate of games added to the top two tiers of PS Plus – 240 in all – isn’t worth looking at in the same way that we look at the smaller collection of PS Plus Essential games. Not when data like age (dozens are years old, if not dozen) and whether titles are offered on other services (many have appeared on the old PS Plus over the years) are basically moot points anyway.

Instead, this review will focus on what PlayStation Plus Extra and Premium could do in 2023 to make a subscription more worthwhile, rather than dwell on what Sony didn’t do in 2022.

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An image of the PlayStation 3 launch model, with the font

Ah, good old PS3 Phat. Many of the games available only in the Premium tier are PS3 titles (and others are older generation games).
Photo: William Hook/Flickr

Add value to PS Plus Premium, or remove it

The only real distinguishing feature of the higher level of PS Plus service is that subscribers can stream hundreds of games to their PS5, PS4 or PC, but more importantly, not to a mobile device, as Xbox Game Pass does. Ultimate. And the games that are available only to Premium subscribers, mostly PS3 and PlayStation Portable games from at least a decade, aren’t worth the extra $3 per month.

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Sony Interactive Entertainment should bolster the streaming opportunity (mobile support at the very least) or just expand the streaming capability they have to Extra and remove Premium. The added level of service only adds to customer confusion about what the new PlayStation Plus actually offers them. Generosity at the Extra level could also increase subscription numbers.

Julianna points a gun in Deathloop

death loopfrom Arkane Studios (2021) joined the PlayStation Plus Extra library in September.
Image: Arkane Studios via YouTube
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Pick a star every month and stick to it

SIE’s approach seems to be to open up a content hose, where its competitors on Game Pass have a more targeted approach. In particular, PS Plus Extra games don’t leave the library, and of course that’s valuable to the paying subscriber. But the new game additions each month – the biggest opportunity Sony has to market PlayStation Plus – feels more like a theme week – or overload – than a buffet guaranteed to like at least one thing.

For example: in addition to LostThe July release saw four Assassin’s Creed titles, including the ezio collection, which is actually three games, added to the PlayStation Plus Extra library. That’s along with marvel avengers (a PS4 and PS5 game that released in 2020) and Final Fantasy 7 Remake for PlayStation 5. Then, in September, death loopThe availability of competed with Assassin’s Creed Origins Y watchdogs 2.

It might seem moody and ungrateful to complain about so many AAA games coming to a monthly subscription. But again, Sony’s shotgun approach doesn’t seem to be working, as far as distinguishing PS Plus or telling gamers what unique value the service holds. In November, the company told investors that it actually lost about 2 million paying subscribers, even if overall revenue for PlayStation Network services increased 10% in that quarter. That means some people opted for the more expensive plans, but a 10% increase doesn’t seem like cause for celebration.

At the very least, additions to the game should follow clearly defined genre lines (a sports title here, a driving title there) rather than an onslaught of open-world adventures drowning out a timed console exclusive that released just a year earlier.

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past days

Sony Interactive Entertainment is not interested in putting its own titles like past days in PlayStation Plus Extra or Premium, but has had no problem delivering it later to PlayStation Plus Essential subscribers.
Image: Bend Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Reconsider day and date releases

Sony seems pretty adamant in its stance that day and first party date releases won’t happen on PlayStation Plus. But they’re launching a product whose customer expectations have been set, for the most part, by Microsoft over the past five years. This might be fine in 2022 when Xbox brought little to the table, but the disparity will become much more apparent in 2023.

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If Sony doesn’t want to push a title out of its in-house developer pool, or if it can’t convince another big publisher to go along with it, that’s their business. But Sony will have to be content with most of its subscribers sticking to just the PlayStation Plus Essential tier, as most look to be around by the end of 2022.

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