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.


Sony’s new PlayStation Plus launches in US with over 800 games

When Sony announced its new tiered PlayStation Plus program in March, it promised that the most expensive Premium tier would include “up to” 740 games from across all five PlayStation consoles (and the PlayStation Portable). As recently as last month, the company had only revealed a bit over 100 of the games that would be included in its top-tier subscription plan.

With today’s launch of the new PlayStation Plus in the US, though, we can now see the full catalog of titles Sony is making available to subscribers for download and/or streaming. And that launch list actually surpasses Sony’s promises, including nearly 400 PS4/PS5 games (available on the “Extra” tier or above) and over 460 games from earlier console generations (available on the “Premium” tier).

In terms of recent-generation games, PlayStation Plus includes 34 that also offer an “enhanced” PS5 version, alongside a handful of PS5 exclusives like Returnal and Demon’s Souls. That list also includes 27 games from “Ubisoft Plus Classics” provided by the major third-party publisher.

Meanwhile, in the Premium tier’s “Classics Catalog,” there are hundreds of PS3 games that are only available via streaming (and which ran at 720p resolution in a quick test by Ars’ Sam Machkovech). Many games originally available for other consoles will also be available for streaming via a PS4, PS5, or PC on this tier, plus direct download on consoles.

It looks like the PS1 games available on PlayStation Plus are running at their original 60 Hz NTSC rate; they are not the slower 50 Hz PAL versions that were made available in some other regions.

Premium tier subscribers also get access to two-hour game trials for select PS4 and PS5 games. That trial availability is extremely limited for now, though, spanning just 12 games, including Cyberpunk 2077 and Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands.

Players who aren’t interested in downloadable/streamable game access can still sign up for the more limited Essential tier, which is roughly analogous to the previous PlayStation Plus offering. That $59.99 annual membership offers access to cloud saves, online multiplayer games, and two specially chosen game downloads from the PS4/PS5 library.

All of the new PlayStation Plus tiers also include access to the PlayStation Plus collection, with access to 19 PS4 classics that are playable only on PS5 consoles.


Sony lifts curtain on PlayStation Plus revamp: New features, curious game list

Sony's previous teases suggested that we'd see more games in this week's list of the revamped PlayStation Plus game selection.
Enlarge / Sony’s previous teases suggested that we’d see more games in this week’s list of the revamped PlayStation Plus game selection.
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Starting next week, the PlayStation Plus subscription service will relaunch exclusively in Asia across PlayStation and PC platforms, with other regions’ relaunches to follow throughout June. With such little time to go, Sony has decided to finally begin revealing its launch game selection across a new series of subscription tiers.

But Sony’s Monday announcement falls well short of advertising we’ve previously seen. We now know that 119 games are coming to three PlayStation Plus “collections,” and they will be available in the service’s $15/month “Premium” tier (with fewer games in the $10/month “Extra” tier). That number comes nowhere close to the “up to 740 games” count across six generations of PlayStation systems that Sony previously suggested would be coming.

Sony representatives did not immediately answer questions about whether this availability gap will narrow once the service rolls out. For now, we’re left with the announcement’s tease that more games may appear between now and next week, as Sony is calling this initial 119-strong list “some of the games” coming to the refreshed PlayStation Plus library.

Tier confusion

Sony has opted to combine its existing PlayStation Plus and PlayStation Now services into one catch-all subscription family, arguably to face off more directly with its competition at Xbox Game Pass. Historically, PlayStation Plus enabled online multiplayer on PlayStation consoles and added monthly game giveaways, while PlayStation Now opened up a mix of downloadable and cloud-streamed game access.

Now, you’ll get all of that stuff from the “PlayStation Plus” subscription family—but it’s a bit more confusing and less à la carte. For the $10/month “PS+ Essential” tier, subscribers get what was previously known as PlayStation Plus: online multiplayer access and a few free video game giveaways every month. The next tier up, at $15/month (“PS+ Extra”), includes the base tier’s features and adds a selection of “modern” downloadable games from PS4 and PS5 (dubbed “Game Collection”). Jump higher still to $18/month (“PS+ Premium”) for all the previous stuff, plus games from every other PlayStation generation, which are either downloadable (Classic Collection) or streamed from Sony’s servers (Game Streaming).

So if you only want to stream classic PS3 games from a server (since Sony still hasn’t figured out how to do PS3 emulation on PS5 hardware), you have to buy into the highest tier. Sony reminds interested subscribers that they can save money by subscribing for longer-term periods, either quarterly or annually.

Today’s news includes a pair of previously unannounced perks. Time-limited game trials will allow Internet-connected users in the Premium tier to download and freely play newer games that are not part of PS Plus—until an on-screen timer counts down to zero. Only six games will support this at launch, though reports in the wild suggest that more new games may get a similar trial option in the months to come. Sony’s announcement estimates “two hours” per game before players are nudged to buy the full game, though this number can vary; we’ve already seen Cyberpunk 2077 get its own time-limited game trial earlier this year, which gave players five hours of in-game time to experiment before deciding whether they wanted to buy.

Additionally, the Extra tier and above will come with a selection called “Ubisoft+ Classics.” This is basically a formal way of indicating that Ubisoft is committing a large-but-incomplete number of its back-catalog games to PlayStation Plus for the foreseeable future. Yet it also serves as a curious reminder that a thing called “Ubisoft+” exists on competing services, including Amazon Luna and Ubisoft’s own PC client, and that it offers more Ubisoft games, and more of those games’ DLC perks, outside of PlayStation Plus.