As Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service continues to amass subscribers, its biggest competitor, Sony, has recently made changes and upgrades to its PlayStation Plus service. A few explanations were needed leading up to the PlayStation Plus relaunch, notably the different prices and the inclusion of the PlayStation Now cloud streaming service.
The dust has now settled enough for us to see the PlayStation Plus revamp in action for more than two months, and for the Best Value rating, Sony gets a high score. If you prepay for the “Premium” tier, for $10 a month you can access hundreds of games from every PlayStation generation, including a good mix of hits and acclaimed indies (along with hundreds of games that neither sales charts nor critics make burning lists).
However, Sony isn’t ready to meet Microsoft over a key selling point: a subscription to first-party games available on launch day. If you want new games in Sony exclusive series such as God of War or The last of us, these still require payment of a full MSRP at launch; Xbox Game Pass is more generous, offering access to all of its games from day one Halo infinity to Forza Motorsport. PlayStation Plus’ obvious counterpart to this was a new “Classics” library, exclusive to the most expensive tier of the service, which would include the PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable game libraries.
Calculate with “up to 340” classics
But so far, PlayStation Plus doesn’t feel representative of that original classics library destination, and a Wednesday blog post suggests Sony is dragging its feet.
PlayStation Plus’ latest blog post confirmed that 11 games would land on the service’s Premium and “Extra” tiers in August. While this list features three solid games from Sega yakuza Series and the whimsical preferences of modern indie Bugsnax and classic RPG reboot Trials of Mana, it does not include games from a Sony console library outside of PS4 and PS5. This follows a July addition of just three ‘classic’ games, all from the PSP, to PS Plus.
As a reminder, the PS Plus Classics selection launched in June with 27 games from the trio of systems above: 11 for PS1, 24 for PS2 and two for PSP. Two months later we have up to 30 conversions of the original versions of these consoles. And now that we’ve done the math, we’re afraid those libraries won’t get much bigger unless Sony overhauls its advertising.
Sony is telling PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers that its classics will grow to “up to 340” games, but that number includes titles that have already been on the PlayStation Now streaming service, which is almost entirely dedicated to PlayStation 3 games. PS Plus Premium subscribers in North America can access 294 PS3 games (although about five of those are iterative updates or DLC packs). Add 30 to that number and you have 16 possible additions.
Sony has yet to emulate PS3 games on native PS5 or PS4 hardware, so these will need to be streamed from the cloud. That’s very different from the service’s PS1, PS2, and PSP games, which can be downloaded and rendered natively without cloud-induced latency or pixel fidelity issues. Therefore, some modern console owners who enjoy playing classic games might find Sony’s current total of “324” classics misleading as long as their home internet connection or data cap proves prohibitive.
So many exclusive titles are missing on PS1, PS2, PSP and PS3
Third-party contracts and agreements limit the console manufacturer’s ability to release additional classic games. For example, re-issuing EA Sports classics from the ’90s on PlayStation Plus would require Sony to not only shake hands with EA, but also work out deals with athletes and other potential licensees featured in older games. But Sony’s 100% content on its first three consoles is plenty enough for 16 more games to be loaded onto PlayStation Plus tomorrow, and dozens more to choose from should the program ever be updated in the future. (And to clarify, PlayStation Plus Premium already includes third-party plans from the PS1, PS2, and PSP eras, made by studios like Capcom, Bandai Namco, Team 17, and THQ Nordic.)
Sony can be content with keeping its plans for releasing classic games to a minimum while still offering modern PS Plus additions such as PS Plus Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade and Stray. The company can inflate its selection of classics with hundreds of games that ran for years on the existing PlayStation Now service before being folded into the better-known PlayStation Plus fold. (We’ve already talked about Sony’s PlayStation Now branding issue.) But while the PlayStation Now lineup of PS3 games has some gems, it’s missing some of the PS3’s best exclusives, including the wildlife simulation game Tokyo junglethe local multiplayer madness of Calling all carsthe quirky puzzle platformer PuppeteerSequels in Sony’s own series Death zone and Resistanceand the PS3 classic Metal Gear Solid 4.
Perhaps Sony will change its classic release tune as PlayStation Plus’s new shine wears off to grab headlines and attract new customers. But for those PlayStation fans who bought a full year of PS Plus Premium ahead of time in anticipation of Sony celebrating its reign in the ’90s and early ’00s, the wait will apparently continue to be tough – especially as Microsoft is pushing a hardware-agnostic approach , to attract more gamers. Sony officials didn’t immediately respond to Ars Technica’s questions about what to expect from PlayStation Plus’ classic game selection in the coming months.