Sony launches PlayStation Plus subscription service

Sony Group’s overhaul of the PlayStation subscription service is a key step in leveling the playing field with Microsoft’s rival Game Pass, although holding back on new releases could dampen enthusiasm, analysts say.

Sony said its expanded PlayStation Plus service will offer hundreds of games, including recent hits like Spider-Man: Miles Morales, for a flat monthly fee when it launches in June in the US, Europe and Japan.

The service won’t feature new releases, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan told Reuters, but users can still find big-budget titles like Returnal and God of War.

“There will be more from PlayStation Studios and all the major publishers will be represented,” said Ryan.

Widely recognized as a leader in the console war, Sony sold 17 million PlayStation 5 (PS5) units even as chip shortages hit production, but was pressured to respond to the growth of Netflix-style game subscription services.

The revamped Sony service combines the current PlayStation Plus, which has 48 million subscribers and offers online games and just a few free games per month, with PlayStation Now, which has 3.2 million users and a library of games to download and stream.

Sony and PlayStation logo
Widely regarded as a leader in the console war, Sony sold 17 million PlayStation 5 units even as chip shortages hampered production.
SOPA Images/LightRocket via Gett

There are three tiers with a monthly price ranging from $9.99 to $17.99 or a yearly price ranging from $59.99 to $119.99. The lowest price tier, PlayStation Plus Essential, looks like Sony’s current offering.

PlayStation Plus Extra adds a catalog of PS4 and PS5 games. PlayStation Plus Premium offers an additional library of legacy titles, cloud streaming in major markets, and limited-time game trials.

Such a rationalization is “overdue,” said Lewis Ward, head of gaming research at IDC.

“The number of PlayStation subscribers in the higher two tiers… will increase over time, which is undoubtedly a key reason for this change,” Ward said.

Microsoft's Game Pass service
Sony’s newly announced pricing is seen as competitive with Microsoft’s Game Pass service.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Given the high cost of developing new games, analysts had expressed concerns that pressure to bundle more content with subscriptions could hurt profits from Sony’s coveted games division.

Sony will try to keep selling new games alongside the subscription service.

“I think this move should improve margins as it drives more players to more expensive subscriptions,” said Piers Harding-Rolls, head of gaming research at Ampere Analysis.

“If the cost of acquiring content increases, Sony will need to offset this with the additional revenue it will generate from the PS Plus subscriber base,” he added.

Sony’s newly announced pricing is seen as competitive. The $120 annual fee for the premium tier compares to $180 for Game Pass Ultimate. Both offer cloud gaming, with Sony users able to stream titles to their consoles and PC.

Cloud gaming is seen as the future for the industry as there is no need to download or install games on a console or PC. It’s a potential threat to the console business, whose operators have acted as industry gatekeepers.

An annual subscription to the mid-range PlayStation Plus Extra, which lacks this cloud gaming feature, costs just over $8 per month, compared to $9.99 for Game Pass. Sony launches PlayStation Plus subscription service


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