Back in December of last year, we first heard the early rumblings about a potential Game Pass competitor in the works at Sony. Codenamed “Spartacus“, the service was initially leaked by Bloomberg‘s Jason Schrier as an upgraded version of the existing PlayStation Plus subscription but with multiple tiers. This new PlayStation Game Pass would not only be Sony’s answer to the Xbox Game Pass, but also double as an xCloud competitor with its PlayStation Now integration.
It was suggested that PlayStation Now will merge with PlayStation Plus and the former will be phased out over time with the PlayStation Plus brand being retained. Spartacus would, therefore have three different tiers. First one being the most basic offering the exact same perks as the current PlayStation Plus. The second tier adding a healthy library of PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games on top, just like PS Now. And the final tier introducing backwards compatibility via PS1, PS2, PSP, and PS3 games, on top of other exclusive perks like extended demos.
Just last week, the rumor mill started heating up that Sony could be launching Spartacus as soon as next week with multiple credible sources backing it up. Fast forward a few days and those reports are now true as Sony has just announced the biggest change to PlayStation Plus since the service’s inception. The company is introducing three new tiers of PlayStation Plus, all validating the details highlighted in the early leaks.
First Tier: PlayStation Plus Essential
Starting off with the first tier, PlayStation Plus Essential is the new name for what was previously just PlayStation Plus. That means it’s technically not a new service per se, but it still got a rebrand so you can count it as one. PlayStation Plus Essential is identical to the current PlayStation Plus offering online multiplayer along with two free games every month, exclusive discounts on the PlayStation Store, and cloud storage for game saves. As such, it will cost the same $10 per month as the standard PlayStation Plus.
Second Tier: PlayStation Plus Extra
Moving up a tier, we have the new PlayStation Plus Extra. This includes all the benefits of PlayStation Plus Essential, but with 400+ PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 5 games added on top. These games can either be streamed or downloaded and include big names from PlayStation Studios like Death Stranding, God of War, Marvel’s Spider-Man that will be added upon launch.
As you can tell, this is along the lines of what PlayStation Now offered and it will now be merged to be included in this PlayStation Plus Extra subscription. As such, PlayStation Now will no longer be called that and will just exist as part of upper-end PlayStation Plus tiers. PlayStation Plus Extra will cost $14.99 USD per month or $99.99 USD per year. That is the same monthly price as the Xbox Game Pass, though it should be noted that Microsoft does not offer discounted annual options, so PS Plus Extra’s yearly price is cheaper than a year’s worth of Game Pass.
Third Tier: PlayStation Plus Premium
Lastly, the final tier is called PlayStation Plus Premium, and as the name suggests, is the most premium version of PlayStation Plus. It retains all the benefits of the previous two tiers, but adds on a major backwards compatible catalogue. With this tier, members will be able to play select PS3 games via game streaming. On top of that, PS1, PS2, and PSP games will be available for both downloading and streaming so you can download a game from the selection and play it offline.
But that’s not it. This tier also offers exclusive game demos so you will be able to play time-limited trials of select titles before you buy them. This can help make purchase decisions much easier as now the player can play the game themselves and see if they like it before buying it, instead of relying on external opinions. There are roughly 340 classic games available in this tier and it will cost $17.99 USD per month or $119.99 USD for a year.
There’s a little footnote attached to this tier, though. In regions where PlayStation Now isn’t offered (such as Latin America and Korea), PlayStation Plus “Deluxe” will be available instead of PlayStation Plus Premium. It will include all the aforementioned perks except PS3 game streaming as that is facilitated through PlayStation Now, or at least the framework powering that service. PlayStation Plus Deluxe will, therefore, be offered a lower price than Premium and local pricing will vary according to region.
All in all, that Bloomberg report from last year pretty much got everything right down to the little details. Jason Schrier even said that people should not expect PlayStation exclusives to come on the service day one and this, too, was confirmed in an interview PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan gave to Gamesindustry.biz saying how releasing adopting the day-and-date model similar to Microsoft could actually be more damaging than beneficial.
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.
The new PlayStation Plus will be gradually rolled out in different regions of the world with Asia being the first market to receive it in June, followed by North America, Europe, and the rest of the world where PlayStation Plus is offered. Most PlayStation Network territories will have the new PlayStation Plus by the end of the second half of 2022, and Sony is even working to bring cloud streaming to more markets around the world.
Existing PlayStation Plus members will automatically be upgraded to PlayStation Plus Essential at no extra cost. It should be a seamless upgrade as PS Plus Essential is basically just a rebranded PS Plus. However, the real kicker here is the fact that PlayStation Now members will automatically be transferred over to a PlayStation Plus Premium member with no increase in monthly rates at launch, but you will have to adhere to the Premium rates after the first month.
Moreover, it should be noted that PlayStation Now will no longer be available as a standalone service and the only way of accessing those games that were offered by PS Now is to upgrade to either PlayStation Plus Extra or Premium. PlayStation Now on PC will also shut down as the service is slowly phased out in the coming months.
This will mark the biggest change Sony has made to PlayStation Plus since the service launched back in 2010. Sony mentioned in their blogpost how the company is proud to be the first to offer a service like PlayStation Plus that gives users free monthly games along with other exclusive benefits, and how PlayStation Now was the first game streaming service on console.
Now, with the all-new PlayStation Plus on the horizon, we can expect more focus on cloud streaming from Sony, along with an emphasis on enriching the already massive catalogue of games offered on PS Plus Extra and Premium. This would put PlayStation more in line with Microsoft than ever as the company tries to fight a battle it has previously largely sidelined, deciding to focus purely on hardware and solid exclusives rather than games-as-a-service. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out as the rollout begins in June.