The New PlayStation Plus Tiers Are Here — How Do They Hold Up?
Sony’s new PlayStation Plus service kicked off last week in North America with three tiers being added to the service in a move to beef up its services. Over the last month, soft launches in several regions have given us insight into what subscribers would be getting with each tier. Now that the service has launched here in Canada, I decided to dive in and take a look at the new tiers: Essential, Extra, and Premium.
Let’s start from the top and work our way through to today. In March, after months of rumours, Sony finally revealed the revamped PlayStation Plus. Essentially what Sony decided to do was combine PS Now with the existing perks PS plus offers and rolled it into one package.
Depending on what you want from the service, there is something for everyone. Some of you may want the Essential tier— the same service as before and it gets you a few free monthly games, cloud saves, and discounts on new games.
To give you an idea of what you’ll pay per year if you decide to subscribe or increase your tier level:
PlayStation Plus Essential
Provides the same benefits that PlayStation Plus members are getting today, such as PS4 and PS5 monthly games, online multiplayer access, exclusive discounts, cloud storage and more. There are no changes for existing PlayStation Plus members in this plan and pricing remains the same.
Provides all the benefits from the Essential plan and adds a catalogue of up to 400 of the most enjoyable PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games – including blockbuster hits from our PlayStation Studios catalogue and third-party partners. Games in the Extra plan are downloadable for play.
Provides all the benefits from Essential and Extra plans and adds up to 340 additional games, including PlayStation 3 games available via cloud streaming, a catalogue of beloved classic games from the original PlayStation, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable generation.
Adds cloud streaming access for original PlayStation, PS2, PSP and PS4 games.
Time-limited game trials are also offered in this plan, so customers can try select games before they buy.
I’ve been spending the last week browsing through the included libraries to see what’s worth playing and while it seems like there is an overwhelming amount of variety, it’s a program that needs work.
PlayStation Plus Essential
Let’s begin with Essential – this is ideal for anyone who wants the bare essentials of cloud saves, a few games a month and discounts on new titles. This is what the previous PlayStation Plus model was based on and it worked for Sony for almost a decade. For most people, I think this is the sweet spot for most people right now as it offers just enough and offers discounts on new titles.
When looking at PlayStation Plus Extra, we begin to see where the value of this tier is: in the PS4/PS5 library you gain access to. This is also where you start to compare PS Plus to Xbox Game Pass and I don’t blame you for trying to get the most out of your subscription.
To be honest, I’m not impressed with Sony’s offerings at launch. Both the Extra and Premium tiers are where we can compare Xbox’s service to Sony’s with a clear winner. The biggest downside of Sony’s model is no first-party titles come to the service on day one (and I’m of the mind that this will change in the time given how popular Microsoft’s service has become).
There’s a fine mix of old and new titles available for players to play and without a doubt a ton of gems that you may already have played or are in your backlog. There are hundreds of games readily available from day one and the value is there but it’ll cost you.
PlayStation Plus Premium
This is the highest tier of PlayStation Plus available to consumers and the only tier where PlayStation 3 streaming becomes available. If that’s what you’re looking for then it’ll cost you $139.99 CAD a year, $39.99 CAD for three months, and $21.99 CAD for one month.
Some personal standout titles include Batman Arkham Origin, Battle Fantasia, Asura’s Wrath, Castlevania Lords of Shadow duology, Devil May Cry 4, Devil May Cry HD Collection, Disgaea 3, Disgaea 4, Epic Mickey 2, Mega Man 9, Mega Man 10, The Darkness duology, Tokyo Jungle, Urban Trial Freestyle.
North America’s relaunch of PlayStation Plus also includes the superior version of classic games — running at 60hz, compared to their PAL counterparts which only run at 50hz. These were generally found in Europe and Australia back in the 90s leading to lower framerates due to the refresh rates.
And while that’s great to see for us here in North America, the elephant in the room is content and how the service is lacking. It’s no secret PlayStation has some of the best games of all time across four console generations but you wouldn’t know that unless you owned those consoles at the time. It’s criminal I can’t use PlayStation Plus as a curated service celebrating the legacy of PlayStation by being able to go to a PlayStation 2 tab and play some of the best JRPGs of all time. That lacklustre selection of PlayStation 3 titles also is disappointing and leaves much to be desired. I can understand the legal hoops third-party games have to even get them on any service but Sony has always had some incredible first-party games going back to its earliest days and yet I can’t play The Legend of Dragoon. In total across PS, PS2, and PSP there are less than 40 classical games available.
I’m not even mentioning the PSP library filled with some great games I have a lot of nostalgia for and the lack of Secret Agent Clank and Patapon speaks volumes. I’m looking at this situation for what it is and as the launch of a revamped service, there’s still a lot to love but there’s also a lot of work Sony needs to do to make it worthwhile to its consumers.
This all ties back into the one thing that’s been on my mind since we learned of the program’s existence: why is upgrading so damn complicated and why is it segregated into tiers? Like many people, I pay for several streaming services and quite honestly, the first ones on the cancellation block are the ones that generally have tiers —looking at Netflix and the absurdity of charging for 4K access and the choice to stream on four devices is a slap in the face when you compare Netflix to Disney+. Or Amazon Prime or Crave or any other service where you pay one entry fee for the entire catalogue.
There’s so much potential going in
Xbox offers Xbox Live to its customers but it also incentivizes its userbase to upgrade to Xbox Game Pass with some incredible offers. It took me less than a minute to upgrade my plan when the $1 upgrade free was announced for Game Pass.
There are tiers for Game Pass with the base level costing $11.99 a month and the $16.99 Ultimate tier adding the EA Play service to your subscription and I’ve had no issues being able to discern these titles when browsing on my phone or my console.
Then you sign up for PlayStation Plus Essential or Premium and navigating is a nightmare. The categories don’t even make much sense and there’s no way to filter games by category — Sony throws every game under the ‘classics’ banner.
Timed trials for Premium Subscribers
I haven’t spent a lot of time with the game trials Sony offers for Premium members but you have two major first-party games (Horizon Forbidden West and Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection) available to play for roughly two hours (Horizon and Cyberpunk offer five-hour trials).
It’s hard to say how long these timed demos will be available or if more are planning to join the list given nearly every release has some sort of deal in place for a set amount of time. Given that this new iteration of PlayStation Plus is entirely new, I would like to believe we’ll see more being added before talking about removing games becomes the next talking point across social media.
It should also be noted that Sony has told developers that games hitting a certain pricing threshold are required to create a “time-limited” game trail of their game. This doesn’t apply retroactively apply to older games but will be the norm going forward making these timed trials available for at least one year for Premium subscribers.
Sony’s got a lot of goodwill going into the next phase of its growth and while the soft launch hasn’t gone smoothly with some controversial charges to consumers that were quickly reversed, there’s still a lot of work to do. On paper, the new PlayStation Plus tiers are everything I want from the service but realistically, Sony continues to struggle with its legacy.
At the Extra tier, the amount of PS4 and PS5 titles should be more than enough for newcomers to the ecosystem. At the Premium tier, it is hard to justify the entry point given the limited library of titles from PS1, PS2, PS3, and PSP. Sony has had ample time to examine the way Xbox has evolved with Game Pass. Naturally, I have come to expect more from Sony given how iconic its catalogue of games has grown over the last 30 years.
Sony needs to look at the Xbox Game Pass model if it wants to offer similar services. As it stands, there is a lack of incentive to pick up the higher-priced Premium tier for the average user. If you’re new to the PlayStation ecosystem then the Extra tier will fill in the last ten years of Sony’s legacy. But for someone who has invested heavily into the platform from the start, it’s harder to justify both the Extra or Premium tiers. Sony is seemingly afraid of its legacy and I have no idea why it won’t embrace what made the PlayStation brand great all those years ago.
Sony needs to work with its partners to enhance the service by adding more titles from the earlier eras of PlayStation if it wants to compete with Xbox Game Pass. I want more classic PlayStation games available on an official channel, is that so much to ask?