It has been just over a year and a half since the release of the Xbox Series X/S and the PlayStation 5.

In the midst of high-tech revisions of the controller, faster load times, improved graphics engine and the like, perhaps the biggest and most significant arrival came not in the form of a subscription service: Xbox Game Pass. Over its life, Game Pass has proven itself to be one of the most accessible and most consumer-friendly approaches to the modern era of gaming for players – from offering exclusive titles such as Halo: Infinite or the upcoming Starfield day 1 as long as you have even the cheapest subscription, the 100’s of titles from both current and past generations at the touch of a button, to the ability to play these games anywhere – and as a result, it is currently towering above the competition as a ‘must buy’ option if it’s accessible to you.

PlayStation, in contrast, has just begun moving towards the launch of its own Game Pass competitor: a revision of the decade-old PlayStation Plus system, which for so many years has only offered access to multiplayer for PS3, PS4 and now PS5 players, and several free titles each month. Information and game announcements for this new service have been steadily trickling out for a while now in the face of the service’s release on the 13th of June.

While this new service and what it stands for is most definitely a boon for PlayStation exclusive players (or those who simply cannot access Game Pass), it still most certainly behind in several key aspects when compared to Xbox and its subscription service.

Xbox Game Pass.

Day 364 Exclusives

One of the biggest differentiators between the two subscription services at current is PlayStation’s lack of a ‘Day 1 release’ for exclusives like Xbox does: as previously stated, the campaign for last years Halo: Infinite was available day 1, minute 1 as long as you owned some form of Game Pass. PlayStation has confirmed that it will not be doing this.

Speaking to gamesindustry.biz when the new service was revealed in March, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan said of day 1 exclusives:

“[In terms of] putting our own games into this service, or any of our services, upon their release… as you well know, this is not a road that we’ve gone down in the past. And it’s not a road that we’re going to go down with this new service. We feel if we were to do that with the games that we make at PlayStation Studios, that virtuous cycle will be broken. The level of investment that we need to make in our studios would not be possible, and we think the knock-on effect on the quality of the games that we make would not be something that gamers want.”

Jim Ryan, gameindustry.biz, 29th March 2022

What he says does speak some level of truth. When comparing the two companies’ side-by-side, Sony are confidently the leader of exclusive first-party offerings that shine with both quality and quantity – Insomniac’s Spider-Man, SIE Santa Monica’s God of War (2018) and the recent Returnal from Housemarque are testament to that – and so this idea of a ‘virtuous cycle’ does sort of hold. Whatever Sony and Jim Ryan do when picking out companies and properties to create, they appear to have the touch of King Midas and if day 1 exclusives would disrupt that in some way, I want to believe him.

At the same time, this refusal puts a very big void in the potential appeal of the new PlayStation Plus tiers.

Related: Should We Believe Jim Ryan About Exclusives on PS Plus?

Being able to tell someone, ‘Hey do you want to play Starfield? Well, just pay £7.99 on launch day and you’ll have it for a whole month!’ is such a lucrative and insanely prestigious deal that it will singlehandedly sell people on Game Pass. Unfortunately, there is next to nothing that PlayStation can offer of that level if they are not doing the same. Based on the appearance of games such as Returnal and the Demon’s Souls Remake on the list of games coming to the service at launch, Sony appears to be offering these exclusives as part of the service about a year after the launch… which definitely is not as lucrative as Game Pass’ promise.

Day 1 exclusives will always reign king, and so Sony needs some big strategy to combat that.

PlayStation Plus: Tiers and Tears

A strategy which doesn’t seem to have come into full focus, yet.

The service obviously does not release for another few weeks, but even now the information that Sony has given for the project is at the best muddled, and at worse outright insulting.

Firstly: the tier system. As per the PlayStation official blog on the service, there will be 3 tiers available for purchase: PlayStation Plus Essential, Extra and Premium.

Essential is just what is currently being offered at the same price, so free games every month and online multiplayer access without a price change.

Extra gets the addition of ‘a catalog of up to 400* of the most enjoyable PS4 and PS5 games – including blockbuster hits from our PlayStation Studios catalog and third-party partners. Games in the Extra tier are downloadable for play’. This tier will be available for £10.99 ($14.99) monthly, a £4 ($5) increase from Essential.

Premium is the final tier and gets the benefits of the previous two, as well as:

‘Up to 340* additional games, including: PS3 games available via cloud streaming + A catalog of beloved classic games available in both streaming and download options from the original PlayStation, PS2 and PSP generations

Offers cloud streaming access for original PlayStation, PS2, PSP and PS4 games offered in the Extra and Premium tiers in markets** where PlayStation Now is currently available. Customers can stream games using PS4 and PS5 consoles, and PC.***

Time-limited game trials will also be offered in this tier, so customers can try select games before they buy.’

PlayStation Blog, UPDATE: All-new PlayStation Plus launches in June with 700+ games and more value than ever

This upgrade will be £13.49 (17.99) a month. All information can be found on the official PlayStation Blog.

Some of the games coming to PlayStation Plus. PlayStation Blog

On their own, these tiers sound reasonable, if a bit convoluted. Xbox Game Pass has only 2 tiers, Game Pass PC and Game Pass Ultimate, and while this PlayStation revision is only an additional tier, it already is a little bit confusing.

Furthermore, some of these choices are just weird. The catalogue of games launching with the service has released been released here recently and there is good and bad. The list of games launching with the Extra tier are genuinely very good: as previously stated Returnal and the Demon’s Souls Remake are there, big PS4 hits like Ghost of Tsushima, Uncharted and God of War are present and several third-party titles like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla. For an extra £4 a month, it defiantly seems like a decent deal.

The ‘classic catalog’ on the other hand… needs some work.

The game list launching with the Premium tier is simply anaemic, missing a large chunk of core PlayStation classic properties that made the PS1, PS2 and PSP eras what they were. There just isn’t enough there to get excited about, not when compared to the offerings at Extra anyway, and even compared to the backward compatibility of Xbox. Sony has confirmed that some of these games will be able to be purchased outside of requiring a Premium tier subscription, which is excellent but just stops people from subscribing to this tier.

Other aspects such as the ‘game trials’ are nice but… why are we now charging for access to essentially demos? Demos and trials have only ever opened doors for developers on whether a consumer should buy their product, and with the recent price hike of PS5 games to £70, I most definitely want to ‘try before I buy’ most games. Locking it behind the most premium tier is just a bit ridiculous.

The Essential and Extra tiers for PlayStation Plus look promising and worth the money, but if Sony wants people to fork out cash for the Premium tier, they need to step up their game.

An Upgrade to Maybe Rival Game Pass

So, what can be done? What do we want to see Sony do to innovate on their new system to make it at least comparable to Game Pass?

Well, we have a few thoughts.

1. Go All-in on Classics and the PlayStation Exclusives Library

If PlayStation has been consistently better at one thing throughout its entire lifespan, it’s its IP.

Classic PlayStation franchises from the bygone eras of the PS1 and PS2 are some of the most recognisable faces in the entire industry: Sly Cooper, Crash Bandicoot, Parappa the Rapper, Ratchet and Clank. While some of them have made it to this new service, many have been ignored and are not going to be here at launch.

Sony is the king of nostalgia and is able to compete with Nintendo for character recognition with the power of its IP, so it’s in our belief that they need to just go all in on their classical library.

Nostalgia sells and while brand new shiny games will always be preferred, if Sony offered an expansive and vast library of classic games to people ranging from PS1 to PS3 games, it would most certainly draw a crowd.

A recent tweet from Bend Studios has showcased that when Syphon Filter releases it will feature trophies for players to collect, something that was obviously omitted from the original release. If all, or most, of the classic games come with a trophy system then the incentive is even greater as now there are new ways to play these classic games.

As we said, IP and the greatness of its cast of characters is one of PlayStations greatest strengths and so seeing them return to form would be a huge boon for the company in selling this new service.

2. Discounts on New Releases

Alright so if they’re not doing day 1 releases, they can at least discount them a bit.

One of the biggest reasons why PS5 game sales are potentially not as high as they could be (outside of scalpers and the lack of actual consoles) is that the games are so expensive now. Before, I could take a risk on a game that I maybe would have liked because it was far less of a cost. Now? Now if I dislike Returnal, then I’m out £70. For PS5 games, I have to know I will love them before I buy them, which ultimately means I’m buying less games than before.

Housemarque, Returnal

The new pricing scheme pushes people and stops people from trying out new titles and while the service seems like it will offer these titles as part of the line up a year after release, many people want to play them as soon as.

A system which could discount recently released PS5 games would be a massive help in incentivising players to buy these new games: a £15 – £20 decrease is all it takes to make a purchase worthy of risking it when before it was inaccessible. This way Sony still makes some cash and customers would be much happier.

It’s not day 1 exclusives, but it is something.

To be honest, there really is not a lot that PlayStation can do to compete with Game Pass right now: Xbox has both the advantage on multiplatform offerings, on pricing, and on day 1 exclusives for both mainline titles like Halo and for smaller indie games. Don’t get me wrong, the PlayStation Plus revision is a very good thing for people who own only a PlayStation: it gives them so much more to play with for not that much money.

However it will always live under the shadow of its competitor: Game Pass seems nigh unstoppable at the moment, whereas PlayStation Plus is only being to learn how to walk.

PlayStation Plus will have its revision on June 13th.

Up Next: Call of Duty Vanguard Review

Jack Carson

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