PlayStation Plus Premium needs a stronger selling point

Sony finally revealed how it’s combining PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now, and the reworked service lines up with exactly what we had heard in leaks. So far, we know PlayStation Plus Premium, the highest tier, will offer access to around 700 games that come from almost every PlayStation platform, but Sony has only revealed a small, underwhelming number of titles for the service. On top of that, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan already declared that putting new first-party PlayStation titles on the service on day one is “not a road that we’re going to go down with this new service.”

Many fans and industry pundits (myself included) have previously compared PlayStation Plus Premium to Xbox Game Pass. While the services are definitely competing as subscription offerings from major console manufacturers, it’s clear that Sony doesn’t plan to match Microsoft’s offerings one-to-one for the time being. With so many question marks around what games will be included, Sony has yet to give players a strong sales pitch for PlayStation Plus Premium.

Content is king

With game subscription services, content is king. Xbox Game Pass draws eyes because there are plenty of excellent AAA and indie titles available on the service, many of which are on there day one. Microsoft has managed to make Xbox Game Pass a compelling service that many gamers talk about because the games on it are diverse and intriguing. Currently, PlayStation Plus Premium doesn’t elicit that same response.

the playstation plus' logo, which features a giant yellow d-pad, in a white background.

While most of the games currently on PlayStation Now will presumably be part of PlayStation Plus Premium, the following titles are the only ones to be confirmed for the service so far:

  • Death Stranding
  • God of War
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man
  • Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales
  • Mortal Kombat 11
  • Returnal

We know that PlayStation Plus Premium will contain more than 700 games from “every major publisher,” although no PlayStation-published games will be on the service on day one. The subscription’s library will span the original PlayStation, PS2, PSP, PS3, PS4, and PS5, although many pre-PS4 titles will need to be streamed from the cloud. Currently, PlayStation Plus Premium seems to have too many caveats for a service whose only confirmed games are ones I already own.

Of course, I’m in a unique position because I’m required to keep up with the video game release frenzy, but PS4 games like Marvel’s Spider-Man and Death Stranding have sold well and even have remastered PS5 versions. As such, their presence on this service might not be a direct appeal to many. The quality of the current and retro titles offered also matters as much as the quantity.

Currently, PlayStation Plus Premium seems to have too many caveats for a service whose only confirmed games are ones I already own.

Unless some PS5 heavy hitters like Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and Horizon Forbidden West are on the service at — or soon after — launch, my interest won’t be piqued. Returnal’s inclusion is a good sign, but I still need more to go on before I upgrade, and many other PlayStation Plus subscribers will probably be in the same boat. The lower annual price for PlayStation Plus Premium compared to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is appealing, but right now, it’s hard to tell if doubling the cost of my current PlayStation subscription is worth it without a compelling game lineup.

The Disney of gaming

Day one PlayStation Studios games would make PlayStation Plus Premium more compelling for fans, so why doesn’t Sony want to do that? In an interview with GamesIndustry.biz, Ryan explains that Sony has a “virtuous cycle with the studios where the investment delivers success, which enables yet more investment, which delivers yet more success.” Currently, Sony believes that putting games on the service could devalue them and mess up that cycle.

“We feel if we were to do that with the games that we make at PlayStation Studios, that virtuous cycle will be broken,” he explained. “The level of investment that we need to make in our studios would not be possible, and we think the knock-on effect on the quality of the games that we make would not be something that gamers want.”

selene vassos from returnal.

Sony certainly seems worried that its new games would suffer if they were also on PlayStation Plus Premium, but Xbox Game Pass data seems to defy that assumption. Gears 5, Forza Horizon 5, and Halo Infinite all had massive launches on the service. Sarah Bond, Xbox’s game creator experience and ecosystem vice president, explained in a GDC Fireside Chat that “the engagement in a game when it goes into a subscription goes up eight times above where it was before, and members actually spend 50 percent more.”

Sony does not agree with the sentiment that games benefit from being in a subscription service; instead, Ryan sees live-service games as the future of game subscriptions. “I think that trend towards live services will continue, and if you look for a model in our category of entertainment which supports sustained engagement over a long period of time, live-services games arguably fit that bill better than a subscription service,” Ryan told GamesIndustry.biz. Although Xbox’s data shows that games can still do well as part of a subscription, Sony is likely concerned that individual game releases will feel less important if they are part of a subscription.

Sony is comparable to Disney in that it wants its hallmark, first-party releases to be exclusive events that people get excited for and talk about before launch, and engage with for months after release. Ryan seems to believe that making these games available on a subscription service will devalue the PlayStation brand, which is an understandable risk to be concerned about when PS5 is currently outselling the new Xbox consoles. Still, the approach makes PlayStation Plus Premium a less compelling service than it could be.

sam bridges shoots enemies in a firing range in death stranding: director's cut.

The service’s appeal will rely on how often it’s updated with new games, especially ones from Sony. Will we be waiting 90 days for new Sony releases? One year? And if there’s a consistent time frame for Sony games coming to service, wouldn’t that play into Ryan’s fears of people not buying games when they come out? Currently, it seems like we’re headed for a situation where MLB The Show 23 is available through Game Pass on day one and not PlayStation Plus Premium, which wouldn’t look good for Sony or this fledgling subscription tier.

While attempting to avoid devaluing the brand of its games, Sony is devaluing what a subscription service from PlayStation could potentially offer. And when content is the most important thing about game subscription services, that is a valid thing to be worried about. It’s hard to gauge how much of a splash the reworked PlayStation Plus will make until a full game library is revealed and the service is in players’ hands.

I’m not ready to upgrade my subscription just yet, as none of the announced games so far speak to my gaming needs. Sony needs some big recent PS5 game releases if it wants PlayStation Plus Premium to grab my attention, but Ryan and PlayStation don’t seem ready to take that step.

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