PlayStation Plus’ highest tier slams to an apparent halt on classic games

PlayStation Plus’ highest tier slams to an apparent halt on classic games
Sony Interactive Entertainment

As Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service continues racking up subscribers, its biggest competitor Sony recently swiped back with changes and upgrades to its PlayStation Plus service. The lead-up to PlayStation Plus’ relaunch required a few explainers, particularly its varying prices and absorption of the cloud-streaming PlayStation Now service.

The dust has since settled enough for us to see PlayStation Plus’ revision in action for more than two months, and as far as its bang-for-the-buck rating, Sony scores highly. Should you pre-pay for the “premium” tier, you can access hundreds of games from every PlayStation generation for $10 per month, including a good mix of hits and acclaimed indies (along with hundreds of games that neither set sales charts nor critics’ lists on fire).

However, Sony’s not ready to meet Microsoft in one key sales pitch: a subscription to first-party games available on launch day. Should you want to play new games in Sony-exclusive series like God of War or The Last of Us, those will continue to require payment of a full MSRP at launch; Xbox Game Pass is more generous with day-one access to all of its games, from Halo Infinite to Forza Motorsport. PlayStation Plus’ apparent counter to this came in a new “classics” library, exclusively on the service’s priciest tier, which would contain the PlayStation 1, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation Portable game libraries.

Doing the math on “up to 340” classics

But so far, PlayStation Plus doesn’t feel representative of that original classics-library target, and a Wednesday blog post suggests Sony is dragging its feet.

PlayStation Plus’s latest blog post confirmed that 11 games would land on the service’s premium and “extra” tiers in August. While this list includes three solid games from Sega’s Yakuza series, and the quirky likes of modern indie Bugsnax and classic RPG remake Trials of Mana, it doesn’t include games from any Sony console library outside PS4 and PS5. That follows a July addition of only three “classic” games, all from the PSP, to PS Plus.

As a reminder, PS Plus’ classics selection launched in June with 27 games from the trio of aforementioned systems: 11 for PS1, 24 for PS2, and two for PSP. Two months later, we’re up to 30 conversions of those consoles’ original versions. And now that we’ve done the math, we’re concerned that those libraries won’t get much bigger unless Sony revises its advertising.

Sony tells PlayStation Plus Premium subscribers that its classics will grow to “up to 340” games, but this number includes titles that had already been on the PlayStation Now streaming service, which revolves almost exclusively around PlayStation 3 games. North American PS Plus Premium subscribers can access 294 PS3 games (though about five of these are iterative updates or DLC packages). Add 30 to that number, and you’re left with 16 possible additions.

Sony has yet to emulate PS3 games on native PS5 or PS4 hardware, so these have to be streamed from the cloud. That differs largely from the service’s PS1, PS2, and PSP games, which can be downloaded and natively rendered without any cloud-induced issues with latency or pixel fidelity. Thus, some modern console owners eager to play classic games may see Sony’s current total of “324” classics as misleading, so long as their home Internet connection or data cap proves prohibitive.

So many exclusives missing from PS1, PS2, PSP, and PS3

Third-party contracts and arrangements limit the console maker’s ability to publish additional classic games. For example, republishing any ’90s EA Sports classics on PlayStation Plus would require that Sony not only shake hands with EA but also work out deals with athletes and other potential license holders represented in older games. But Sony’s wholly owned content across its first three consoles is plentiful enough that it could dump 16 more games onto PlayStation Plus tomorrow and still have dozens of games left to pick from, should it ever upgrade the program in the future. (And to clarify: PlayStation Plus Premium already includes third-party fare from the PS1, PS2, and PSP eras made by studios like Capcom, Bandai Namco, Team 17, and THQ Nordic.)

Sony may be satisfied keeping its classic game publication plans to a minimum while emphasizing modern PS Plus additions like Final Fantasy VII Remake Intergrade and Stray. The company can inflate its classics selection with hundreds of games that had been sitting on the existing PlayStation Now service for years, all before being folded into the better-known PlayStation Plus fold. (We’ve previously talked about Sony’s PlayStation Now branding problem.) But while PlayStation Now’s selection of PS3 games includes some gems, it’s missing some of the PS3’s best exclusives, including the local-multiplayer madness of Calling All Cars, the quirky puzzle-platformer Puppeteer, sequels in the Sony-owned series Killzone and Resistance, and the PS3 classic Metal Gear Solid 4.

Perhaps Sony will change its classic-publishing tune as PlayStation Plus’ new-tier shine wears off to help generate headlines and attract new customers. But for those PlayStation fans who pre-purchased a full year of PS Plus Premium with expectations of Sony celebrating its ’90s and early ’00s reign, the wait will apparently continue to be tough—especially as Microsoft pushes a hardware-agnostic approach to attract more gamers. Sony representatives did not immediately reply to Ars Technica’s questions about what to expect from PlayStation Plus’ classic game selection in the coming months.