PlayStation Plus subscription expands to include PS Now cloud gaming, back catalogue

With more than 25 million gamers having signed up for Xbox Game Pass (the Ultimate version of which includes Xbox cloud gaming access) and developers claiming that the subscription service is actually good for game sales, many had wondered if Sony would follow suit with an expanded version of its own PlayStation Plus subscription.

At the end of March, Sony announced that it will indeed offer a new version of PlayStation Plus starting this June. PS Plus will be offered in three tiers – Essential, Extra, and Premium – ranging in price from $60 to $120 monthly, with the Premium version offering hundreds of back catalogue games and PS Now cloud streaming access. As part of the PS Plus restructuring, PS Now will no longer be available on its own.

While the Extra and Premium tiers will offer many triple-A titles, brand-new releases will not be available to play at launch, which presents a significantly different approach to the market when compared to Xbox Game Pass. According to PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan, doing so would eventually lead to less investment in first-party studios and lower quality games. Sony says that it has a combined subscription userbase of 50 million between PS Plus and PS Now, with PS Plus accounting for 48 million of those subscribed.

Additionally, the company notes that 75% of PS Now subscribers also subscribe to PS Plus, but the latter isn’t subscribing to the former as much, with just 3.2 million PS Now subscribers as of Sony’s last fiscal year. Between Xbox cloud gaming, Google Stadia, Amazon Luna, and others, cloud gaming is starting to gain wider adoption, and the PS Plus Premium option is likely to boost PlayStation’s cloud offering over the long haul.

While the game community may look at the new PS Plus as “answering” Xbox Game Pass, the reality is that Sony is simply meeting consumer expectations. Subscriptions have become the norm in video entertainment, and while they still represent a fraction of gaming revenues, gamers are increasingly looking to subscribe to services like Xbox Game Pass, EA Play, Nintendo Switch Online, Humble Choice, or individual season passes for a variety of games. Rockstar Games, for example, just launched a GTA+ subscription for GTA Online.

According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, while the average US gamer only subscribes to one gaming service, Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus members both subscribe to an average of just over three gaming services. This reveals higher engagement among these gamers and an inclination to subscribe to access content they want to play. Numerous households own multiple consoles, so there is likely to be some crossover between Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus subscribers. With a rich back catalogue spanning generations back to the original PlayStation console, Sony is well positioned to lure more subscribers into its camp.

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