PlayStation Plus will undergo a few big changes this summer, as it gains features to help it go toe-to-toe with Xbox Game Pass. In a few months, PlayStation Plus will host three separate subscription tiers, a library of games and limited-time game trials, depending on your subscription. But one thing the service won’t support is the ability to stream games to Android or iOS.
Information comes directly from Sony’s official PlayStation Blog, which details the PlayStation Plus Essential, Extra and Premium tiers. The Essential tier will let you play PS4 and PS5 games online; the Extra tier will let you download hundreds of PS4 and PS5 games; the Premium tier will let you stream older PlayStation games to a PS4, PS5 or PC. Aside from streaming Premium games on PC, however, Sony doesn’t seem to have made any accommodations for non-PlayStation platforms.
A history of killing apps
Before we dive into Sony’s current plans, it’s worth taking a look at how the company has handled cloud gaming in the past. PlayStation Plus Premium appears to be, among other things, a way to combine existing PS Plus features with Sony’s PlayStation Now streaming service. PS Now is a cloud gaming platform that lets gamers stream or download PS2, PS3 and PS4 titles to PS4 or PS5 consoles. They can also stream some of these games to PC. Although it offers a lot of games, PS Now isn’t available on many different systems — but it used to be.
Today, you can access PS Now on a PS4, PS5 or PC, just as you’ll be able to access PS Plus Premium in a few months. But in the past, PS Now used to be available on PS3, PS Vita and a variety of smart TVs. Sony was even planning a PS Now app for smartphones. But over time, Sony killed each and every one of these apps. It was a baffling choice, considering that cloud gaming is arguably even more useful on non-gaming platforms. In fact, Sony pre-empted cloud gaming subscriptions such as Xbox Game Pass and Amazon Luna, then essentially abandoned the project just before the market started to mature.
Offering PS Plus Premium on PS4, PS5 and PC is a good start, to be sure. But revealing these new tiers was an opportunity for Sony to recover lost ground in the cloud gaming space. Instead, it seems content to stay exactly where PS Now is today. That may work for the near future, but the beauty of cloud gaming is that you can play your favorite games anywhere. “Anywhere” seems a lot more limited when you need a console or a relatively powerful PC.
Trailing behind Xbox
While we can debate the overall merits of Xbox Game Pass vs. PlayStation Plus, it’s a fact that unless Sony changes its plans between now and June, Xbox Game Pass will work on a much wider variety of platforms. At present, Xbox Cloud Gaming supports Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, gaming PCs, web browsers, Android devices and iOS devices. Compare and contrast to PlayStation Now (and presumably PS Plus Premium), which requires a PS4, PS5 or decently powerful PC.
While playing console games on smartphones is a bit of a mixed bag, it’s still probably where the industry is headed. With cross-save compatibility and the advent of cloud gaming, players have gotten their first taste of “play any game, anywhere,” and it’s hard to go back. Nothing is going to replace the fluidity of downloading a game and playing it on a console or gaming PC anytime soon, but the convenience of cloud gaming goes a long way toward overlooking a bevy of performance issues. Besides, as Internet speeds and streaming clients improve, those performance issues will abate over time.
It's entirely possible that Sony has Android and iOS functionality for PS Plus waiting in the wings, and is planning to reveal it before the end of the year. However, based on the company’s history of restricting cloud gaming apps, it’s also possible that Android and iOS functionality will be a long way off, if it ever comes at all.
Whatever the case, whether you love or hate cloud gaming on iOS and Android, it’s probably here to stay. Expanding, rather than reducing, the number of platforms for a cloud gaming service seems to be the way of the future. Let’s hope that Sony embraces that philosophy.