After months of rumors and speculation Sony finally confirmed PlayStation Plus is getting a major overhaul this week. Previously codenamed Project Spartacus, the refreshed online subscription service will now offer three unique tiers: Essential, Extra and Premium.
The first tier will essentially be the standard PlayStation Plus we have now, while the middle option will offer access to a catalog of up to 400 PS4 and PS5 games. However, it’s the top-tier premium package that has really drawn my ire. For $15 a month, you’ll get all of the above plus access to up to 340 additional games spanning titles from the PS1, PS2, PS3 and PSP.
As someone who’s very first gaming system was the original PlayStation, and has owned and loved every single Sony console since, this service should be tailor made for me, yet I can’t stop comparing it to Nintendo Switch Online, a subscription service that I’m not exactly a fan of.
While Xbox Game Pass continues to be the clear gold standard in gaming subscription services, both Sony and Nintendo appear to be making the same frustrating error: locking classic games behind a recurring paywall.
The PlayStation Blog article announcing the PlayStation Plus revamp makes no mention of being able to purchase the hundreds of classic games that will be included with the service separately. Here's why that's a mistake.
PlayStation Plus lets you rent but not purchase
A small selection of classic PlayStation games are currently available to play on PS5/PS4 via PlayStation Now (which is being effectively merged with PlayStation Plus in June), and presumably a bigger catalog will arrive with the Premium tier of the all-new PlayStation Plus, but what I want is the option to purchase these games a la carte.
I’d love to revisit some of my childhood favorites from the PS2 era like Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal or Tony Hawk’s Underground (assuming they’re included in the Premium library of course, no classic games have been confirmed yet). However, I want to buy these games outright so they are available to me even if I decide to let my PlayStation Plus subscription lapse, or downgrade to a lower tier.
I appreciate that from Sony’s perspective the goal is to keep me subscribed to PlayStation Plus Premium indefinitely, but I really dislike the idea of feeling compelled to pay in perpetuity for access to my favorite content. It’s why I often still buy movies I really enjoy even when they are available on streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus. This gives me the flexibility to temporarily pause or outright cancel my subscriptions as and went I want.
Of course, you could argue that $15 a month for as many as 340 classic PlayStation games represents strong value for money, and you’re not necessarily wrong (granted, we need to see the quality of games before making a final judgement call). But I’d honestly rather spend more to buy the games I wanted piecemeal than my continued access tied to an ongoing subscription service.
As noted, Sony are not the only ones taking this approach. Nintendo Switch Online also puts the same limit on access to NES, SNES and Nintendo 64 titles. Take for example, Banjo-Kazooie, It’s one of my favorite video games of all time, and the first I can ever recall playing. I’d love to own it for my Nintendo Switch, but I can’t. I can only effectively rent it through Nintendo’s $50 a year online subscription service. That sucks.
PlayStation Plus needs to be more like Xbox Game Pass
I really wish PlayStation Plus would take the same approach Microsoft has with Xbox Game Pass — and I’m not even talking about offering first-party titles on day one, that’s a totally separate discussion that I won't get into here.
On Xbox Series X, you have the option of subscribing to Xbox Game Pass to get instant access to a massive collection of games that span four generations of Xbox consoles. But these titles can also be bought individually as well if you’d rather pick and choose.
Iconic games like Dead Space, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and Skate 3 originally launched on the Xbox 360 and are included in the Game Pass library, but even though I have a rolling subscription, I’ve still purchased them individually to ensure I have access even if I cancel my membership down the road.
This flexible approach is one I hope to see Sony and Nintendo eventually replicate. From where I’m standing it seems like a win-win situation as well. Gamers get more choice in how they access the games they want to play and the platform holders make additional sales. If Microsoft can see that, why can’t Sony and Nintendo?