It’s been three years since Microsoft started releasing first-run Xbox and PC games on the all-in-one Xbox Game Pass service, and started an innovative platform-agnostic approach to publishing games. While Game Pass hasn’t conquered the game industry, it’s definitely making waves. Perennial console rival Sony has taken notice, and is now revamping its own subscription and streaming services for the PlayStation brand.
But if you were hoping that the newly-rechristened PlayStation Plus would be a true rival to Microsoft’s excellent Xbox Game Pass on the PC, well, keep hoping. The upcoming reboot of PlayStation Plus makes a lot of sense if you’re heavily invested in the PlayStation brand. If you primarily game on the PC, it just doesn’t offer anywhere near the same kind of value.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the tiers that will be available on the upcoming PlayStation Plus service:
Essential — $10 a month
Online multiplayer for PlayStation consoles
Two free PlayStation games a month
Cloud storage for game saves
PlayStation digital store discounts
Extra — $15 a month
Everything above, plus:
“Up to 400” PS4 and PS5 games available for console download only
Premium — $18 a month
Everything above, plus:
“Up to 340” additional games across PlayStation generations
PS3 games available only on streaming*
PS1, PS2, PSP, and PS4 games available to download or stream on console
All Plus streaming games available to stream on PC
*The PS3’s unique “Cell” chip architecture makes it extremely difficult to emulate, which is probably why it’s the only console generation without downloadable game options for current consoles.
So if you have a PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 5, the top tier of service can get you approximately 750 games spanning the original 1994 PlayStation all the way to the PS5. But if you’re on PC only, your streaming selection will be less than half of those games, with zero PS5 titles. Sony’s announcement also mentions some of the high-profile games that will launch on the new service: Spider-Man and Miles Morales, Death Stranding, God of War, Mortal Kombat 11, and Return.
Return is the newest of those games, and it will still be more than a year old when the new PlayStation Plus service launches in June. And again, because it’s a PS5 game, it won’t be playable on the PC streaming portion of the service. So Sony has decided not to compete with Microsoft on one of Xbox Game Pass’s biggest draws: new AAA releases hitting the subscription service on launch day. New and alluring console exclusives like Gran Turismo 7 and God of War Ragnarok will still need a hefty $70 purchase on day one, and won’t be offered for streaming for at least some time. Instead PlayStation Plus will lean on nearly three decades of back catalog titles, and Sony’s offering also notably omits any kind of mobile streaming option.
That doesn’t mean that PlayStation Plus is worthless. It just means that it’s only a real value proposition if you’re already all-in on the PlayStation gaming platform. If you spend $10 a month to get online multiplayer functionality for your console (stop laughing, PC gamers), an extra $8 for a huge library isn’t so bad. Sony’s approach makes sense for a company that’s still heavily invested in its console hardware. Though Sony is expanding its PC offerings, at the end of the day, it wants to sell you a new PlayStation 5. (Or maybe a PS4 if you still can’t find one.) PlayStation Plus is an extension of that approach, but not a draw in and of itself.
Contrast this with Microsoft’s approach. While it’s still happy to sell individual Xbox consoles and games, the old-fashioned console platform appears to be secondary to the Xbox Game Pass service itself. Microsoft wants to sell you a Netflix-style subscription and let you play games on console, PC, mobile, tablet, smart TVs, and maybe a smart thermostat by the end of the year. The hardware bolsters the service, not the other way around. That’s why the company has been gobbling up game studios and publishers as fast as it can.
It’s still early days for both the latest console generation and for Microsoft’s big bet on gaming as a service. For the time being, Sony’s betting on the conventional approach, and who could blame it. The PS4 outsold the Xbox One by more than two to one, and the PS5 has about a 30 percent lead on the Xbox Series S/X despite widespread hardware shortages. But if you’re coming from the perspective of a PC gamer, Game Pass is still the far better value as a service.