Last week Sony announced the selection of games that will be available to PlayStation Plus subscribers in the month of December on the PlayStation Blog (opens in new tab). The games in question are Godfall, Mortal Shell, and Lego DC Super-Villains.
On the surface that appears to be a reasonably solid selection of games. There’s a decent amount of variety in the trio with a looter-slasher (Gearbox’s term, not mine), a Soulslike and a family-friendly title complementing each other nicely. However, it’s quickly become apparent that two of the games actually come with pretty big disclaimers.
The revelation that what initially appeared to be a pretty strong month for PlayStation Plus, is actually a fairly disappointing one, has caused serious internet outrage with PS5 owners in particularly not best pleased. You don’t need to search far on social media to find PlayStation fans grumbling about the situation.
Some of the anger is of course pretty overblown but this month’s disastrous PlayStation Plus lineup does highlight the growing problems with service and why Sony’s rumored Xbox GamePass rival is more essential than ever.
The problems with PlayStation Plus this month
As mentioned, on the surface this month’s PlayStation Plus lineup seems solid enough. It’s not a remarkable offering, considering the three games have an average Metacritic score of 70, but it would appear to be fairly respectable nevertheless. However, dig a little deeper and the problems become apparent.
The biggest source of frustration has been the inclusion of Godfall, or should that be Godfall: Challenger Edition. This newly-created version of the game is a feature stripped edition that offers three endgame modes and entirely removes the game’s core campaign. Of course, publisher Gearbox will happily sell you an upgrade to the full game for an extra $15!
It’s a pretty outrageous move, essentially PlayStation Plus subscribers are being offered a glorified demo of the game rather than a complete experience. The service did experiment with a similar approach back in 2014 with Driveclub: PlayStation Plus Edition. However, the core difference was the content-stripped version of Driveclub was offered in addition to a regular selection of games that month.
Naturally, PlayStation Plus subscribers haven’t taken to the news particularly well with a Reddit thread (opens in new tab) urging gamers to “kill the demo trend before it starts” by not adding the game to their virtual library amassing more than 330 comments.
The brewing backlash only intensified when it was revealed that Mortal Shell wouldn’t come with a PS5 upgrade (opens in new tab). While regular owners have enjoyed a free upgrade to a bespoke next-gen edition, PlayStation Plus subscribers will only get the PS4 version and have no way of accessing the enhanced PS5 edition. There’s not even a way to upgrade for a nominal fee.
This has become a bit of a trend with PlayStation Plus games in recent months. Both Final Fantasy VII Remake and Greedfall were offered as part of the service this year, and similarly, subscribers were locked out of their respective PS5 upgrades which had been dolled out to regular owners at no additional cost.
Of course, PS5 owners can still play the PS4 version of Mortal Shell on their console via backwards compatibility, but it does feel pretty stingy to lock players out of the next-gen edition without even offering them a paid upgrade path as an alternative.
At least nobody is complaining about the inclusion of Lego DC Super-Villains! After all, you'd need a heart of stone to be annoyed at the chance to run around a Lego open-world as adorable plastic versions of iconic Batman and Superman foes such as The Joker and Lex Luthor.
Is PlayStation Plus on a slow decline?
Even as someone that has strongly advocated for PlayStation Plus in the past, especially in comparison to terrible competing subscriptions like Nintendo Switch Online, there are signs suggesting that PlayStation Plus is a service on a slow decline, from a value standpoint at least.
It’s not hard to see why Sony is comfortable resting on its laurels either. As of September 2021, PlayStation Plus has 47.2 million active subscribers with around 87% of PS5 owners signed up for the service. That doesn’t give Sony a particularly strong incentive to boost the quality of the service’s current offering. Gamers are signing up and staying subscribed regardless of controversial offerings like Godfall: Challengers Edtion.
Back when the service launched on the PS3 in 2010, it was a wholly optional membership that Sony really had to convince players to pay for. Now that it’s required for online play on the PS4 and PS5, many gamers (including myself) would likely still cough up a subscription fee even if there were no perks beyond the ability to play multiplayer.
In fairness, that’s not to say that PlayStation Plus isn’t overall pretty fantastic value for money. An annual subscription costs $60 (but can be purchased for around $35 on sale) and in 2021 alone $1,329 worth of games were included in the service. That’s a return on investment that is hard to argue against.
The problem is that Sony’s biggest competitor is offering a service that eclipses PlayStation Plus in the form of Xbox GamePass. A subscription that is regularly touted as the best deal in gaming for very good reason.
Sony's answer to GamePass is coming
While earlier this year I wasn’t so sure that Sony even needed an answer to GamePass, the value disparity is simply becoming too great. Xbox GamePass has become such a force in gaming that Sony not responding would seem bizarre at this point.
Not to mention, lackluster months of PlayStation Plus which serve only to anger the passionate PlayStation community rather than excite it, don’t exactly suggest that Sony staying its current course is the wisest move either.
It seems that Sony is in agreement as late last week news broke via Bloomberg (opens in new tab) that a PlayStation rival to GamePass, codenamed “Spartacus”, is set to launch in the Spring of 2022.
This service will reportedly merge PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now, Sony’s solid if unspectacular game streaming platform, into a single service. The Now moniker will be phased out but the Plus name will stick around, likely because it has vastly superior consumer recognition at this point.
The service will reportedly offer three tiers. The first will essentially just be the PlayStation Plus subscription we currently have, the second will offer a catalog of PS4 and (in time) PS5 games ala GamePass and the third will add extended game demos, game streaming and titles from classic PlayStation platforms including the PS3, PS2, PS1 and PSP.
It all sounds pretty exciting, at least on paper that is. The real test will be to see if Sony can compete with Xbox’s promise to put all major first-party games onto GamePass day one. Microsoft has allowed flagship titles like Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite to launch on GamePass, but I’d wager that Sony will stick to charging $70 for the likes of Horizon Forbidden West and God of War Ragnarok.
Nevertheless, PlayStation GamePass is an enticing proposition and right now it’s exactly the shot in the arm that the PlayStation Plus service could do with. It’s taking Sony a little while to get into the fight, but it looks like very shortly GamePass might finally have some competition.