PlayStation Plus Premium shows how hard it is to compete with Game Pass –


After years of having two different ministries serving different purposes, Sony has finally merged PlayStation Now and PlayStation Plus into a single three-tiered service. As subscription plans continue to evolve and grow as always, the move is obviously a ploy to compete with Xbox’s hugely successful Game Pass. PlayStation Plus Premium, the highest of the three tiers, has gotten off to a decent start, especially for PlayStation-only players, but being decent is a little harder to sell when Xbox’s alternative has taken so long to build its legendary status.

PlayStation Plus Extra, the middle tier, is most similar to Game Pass and that’s where it’s easiest to compare the two. It has a selection of PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 downloadable games covering the whole spectrum of absolute first-party bangers return, The Last Guardian, God of Warand Spider-Man: Miles Morales to a handful of excellent third-party games like Guardians of the Galaxy, Mortal Kombat 11, Celesteand Red Dead Redemption 2 to, well, too many leftover rotten shovels clogging up the bottom of the PlayStation Now catalogue.

For those who have missed some of Sony’s first-party lineups, having such easy access to some of the best games from the last few generations is undeniably stunning. It even has Sony’s underrated gems like that patapon remasters and the gravity Games that are good titles in their own right, but also show how the company’s focus has shifted from these niche experiences. It’s not a bad balance, although the sheer amount of crap is overwhelming at times and is an unfortunate remnant of the foundation it was built on. While this PlayStation Now filth can be ignored, middle ground is more important and where the greatest value lies, and is a major place where this streaming service stumbled.

The gap between genre-defining experiences and OpenCritics Hall of Shame is wide, and that’s where most games fall. Lots of people played God of War, especially those who sign up in the first month of this revamped PlayStation Plus service, and almost everyone will ignore the worst games. While people rightly praise Xbox for putting their biggest games on the service, many are likely using Game Pass more regularly through the newer games they’ve heard good things about, the titles they want to try first, or the that are worth playing, but not at full price. Because of this, it’s great that many Annapurna titles came to the service, as the publisher usually puts out interesting releases that may not be worth buying right away.

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PlayStation Plus Extra has a decent selection of games that fall into this camp such as: The artful escape, tell lies, last stop, Man eater, and more and those who are exclusive to the PlayStation ecosystem will likely find a good number of games to play to justify their subscription. The new PlayStation Plus has followed up with this selection of games and Sony should continue to focus its efforts. Game Pass has the upper hand here, as Xbox often pre-emptively snaps up these types of titles and has them at launch. The same luxury cannot currently apply to PlayStation Plus as this is the first month. Hopefully Sony recognizes this and plans ahead.

The back catalog of these types of games is a decent gesture in that direction, but Sony has yet to announce many games like this to come in the future. From now on, Sony only revealed that Stray starts service in July. A game, sweet as it may seem, is hard to compare to the absolutely ridiculous amount of upcoming titles Xbox has announced are coming to Game Pass over the next 12 months. Having a back catalog of good older games is valuable, but having an onslaught of indie titles and mid-tier games to look forward to is the best result and once again shows the high bar that Xbox has set after years of experience could put.

PlayStation Plus Premium shows how tough it is to compete with Game Pass

PlayStation Plus doesn’t need to fully emulate Game Pass to be a good service, or overly prioritize looking forward, as Sony can thrive and also differentiate by looking back. There are simply more PlayStation systems to draw from and Sony has tried to capitalize on that with a selection of PS1, PS2, PSP and PS3 games available at the premium tier.

However, one of its unique selling points was launched in an inconsistent state. Nothing hints at this inconsistency more than the original PlayStation games. The addition of save states, the ability to rewind a surprising amount, and a whole host of filters and aspect ratios (even a silly option that shows them in their tiny, native resolution) are thoughtful and necessary when games this old are new to be published. They work intuitively and make it easier to go back to some of those archaic games. Trophies are also an excellent modern touch that give both nostalgic veterans and newcomers new incentives to check out these old titles.

However, not every retro release has trophies for some reason. In fact, many of them don’t. None of the third party games and not even Sony’s own Jumping Lightning has these unlockable rewards. This lack of standardization is confusing and makes it difficult to sell non-trophy trophies. It doesn’t bode well that Sony doesn’t mandate trophies, as the scattershot approach will likely result in them being overshadowed, and likely only in a small fraction of games. Trophies can be that little motivation to get users to play games they might otherwise have missed, or make the difference in choosing this service over an emulation.

The PlayStation 2 games are weirder as none of them are new. All PS2 games on the Services are only the PS2 on PS4 games that have been available on PlayStation Store for years. Technically these are PS4 games, so it’s quirky for Sony to say they’re PS2 games and it seems like the company is using modern ports to cover up its range of weak offerings that already were available. It’s still great to include them, but these don’t have any new features as they’re PS2 games in a PS4 packaging. That means they have trophies and are going well, which is a great standard for all future releases, but there’s no rewinding or save states like the PS1 games. Building that library and adding to what was already there is crucial given how many spectacular PS2 games exist and how many never made it to PS4.

PlayStation Plus Premium shows how tough it is to compete with Game Pass

The PlayStation 3 games are the sticking point, as they’re only available via streaming. With a fast connection, they look surprisingly good and are relatively responsive, showing just how far technology has come. It even has some of the better PS3 exclusives like that Notorious and resistance 3.

However, it’s not the best alternative, especially considering how well many Xbox 360 games run on Xbox Series X|S. Playing those old games on old hardware prone to hardware related slowdowns regardless of internet connection when games of the same generation run locally and better than ever on the competing console is not a good position. Sony has set up a game preservation team and is reportedly investigating PS3 emulation on PS5, which are great ventures when it comes to beefing up its PS5 library and PlayStation Plus offerings. What’s here is functional but lacking, less than ideal and limiting with not that many great PS3 games available. Streaming is fine as an option, but not when it’s the only option, especially when it’s limited and doesn’t support DualSense on PC or the Share button on any system.

Sony’s approach to its handhelds in this first month would be easy to skip, but the fact that it’s not worth mentioning is worth noting. It currently has only one PSP game, echochrome, and it’s bizarre because it’s a PSP port of a PS3 game (which also happens to be on the service). The PSP had a great library of its own original titles that weren’t ports, so not having a single notable title at launch is an odd oversight (although one is said to be coming soon). Implementing a more robust PSP catalog, and someday implementing Vita games, would be the best way to capitalize on Sony’s long-dead handheld company. And while that can still happen, this opening month doesn’t give the best indication that Sony will be heading in that direction with PlayStation Plus.

The new PlayStation Plus started off in solid shape, but it’s currently lacking in a few areas compared to Game Pass, which has had many years to find itself and reach its greatness. The time gap makes it an unfavorable but unavoidable comparison, but it’s no death knell for Sony’s new service. PlayStation Plus was original Launched in rough condition in 2010. It only offered discounts, exclusive demos, a sporadic offering of games, and a weird digital magazine called Qore. Sony ended Qore but expanded on each of these pillars, adding more features like cloud storage and Share Play over the years. This story means it’s possible for Sony to do the same with this iteration of PlayStation Plus, and it starts in a much better place this time.

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