Sony’s PlayStation Plus service has reached 47.4 million active subscribers. This represents a growth of around 22% year on year, and an increase of 8.6 million active members compared to this time last year.
It’s also been revealed that 87% of PS5 owners are signed up for PlayStation Plus. Since there are an estimated 114 million PlayStation Network accounts in total, it means Sony isn’t too far from having around half of its online account holders paying for the premium service.
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Of course, on the surface this might seem like insignificant news to anyone outside of Sony. A giant company making giant sums of money through a subscription service is hardly uncommon. But this impressive growth in PlayStation Plus membership could be significant for players.
Xbox Game Pass seems to be the industry darling right now. Microsoft’s Netflix-style gaming service has been widely (and rightly) praised across the gaming world for offering users a wide selection of instantly available titles, as well as a regular slew of games that hit the service on day one.
PlayStation gamers have frequently wondered when Sony would strike back. Sure, the Japanese tech giant does have its own vaguely similar service, PlayStation Now, but it pales in comparison as it doesn’t offer the same breadth of titles as Xbox Game Pass.
However, these latest PlayStation Plus subscriber figures pose the question: Does Sony even need a Game Pass alternative? As of January this year there were around 18 million gamers signed up to Xbox Game Pass, a figure that PlayStation Plus already dwarfs.
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With PlayStation Plus, gamers get instant access to the PS Plus collection, a membership perk that really doesn’t get enough credit, as well as a rotating selection of monthly games. This month's offering includes Oddworld: Soulstorm and Day’s Gone. So it’s already a pretty sweet deal.
Of course, PlayStation Plus has the advantage of being a requirement in order to play games online on the PS4 and PS5. This paywall likely led to a significant proportion of users signing up in order to play online multiplayer games like Fortnite, FIFA, and Call of Duty.
Nevertheless, it would make sense for Sony to focus on increasing its membership to PlayStation Plus, rather than further split its player base with another gaming subscription service. Perhaps in the future PlayStation Now will be rolled into PlayStation Plus creating a multi-tier service, one just for playing online and one that also gives you access to a library of must-play games.
It’s all speculative, but the frequent calls for Sony to offer a Game Pass alternative seem misguided when you consider that Sony currently offers a service that has 50 million active subscribers. A number will almost certainly increase throughout the year.
It makes the most sense for Sony to consolidate what they’ve already got. It should offer an expanded PlayStation Plus Collection with more frequent updates. All the while, Sony will still reap the benefits of being able to sell its biggest exclusive titles for $70 a pop, rather than having to give them up for almost nothing as Xbox Series X is doing.
However, throwing a further spanner in the works is the recurring rumor that Sony is aiming to punch back at Game Pass. Don’t be surprised if that response is actually an expansion of PlayStation Plus. With so many gamers already onboard, Sony would be foolish to do anything else.