The good news, for those who like their games industry a little less homogenous, is that Sony continues to tread its own line with the much-anticipated makeover of its PlayStation subscription service. The new PlayStation Plus might look broadly similar to Game Pass, and at its top tier it costs broadly the same too, but with Sony’s first-party games not hitting the service on day one this is quite pointedly not a direct competitor. It is instead simply a consolidation of what’s gone before.
All of which makes the reveal, heavily rumoured and highly billed by some insiders for months beforehand, feel somewhat underwhelming. The new PlayStation Plus is not a game changer. It’s not about lowering the barrier of entry, aggressive user acquisition or expanding the market beyond its current boundaries; it’s merely a bundle, and further affirmation that Sony firmly believes in its time-honoured model of big-ticket, triple-A games with a £70 price tag for its fancy £500 machine.
“It’s about rounding off the offer that we have,” Jim Ryan told Gamesindustry.biz of the retooled service. “With platforms, it is seldom just one single thing that makes a platform really attractive. It’s a combination of many things. And having a really strong service proposition definitely helps. Clearly, within our existing audience base we have the opportunity to attract PlayStation owners who are not PlayStation Plus subscribers at present.”
It’s a conservative approach, and that’s totally fine. Microsoft, with its many millions, can afford to be aggressive, and if this is what Sony sees as necessary to deliver showstopping experiences like The Last of Us Part 2 and Horizon Forbidden West – the big prestige games upon which PlayStation’s sterling brand is now built upon – then it’s all good too. It’s an approach that certainly hasn’t stopped demand for PS5 consoles outnumbering the supply. But given the way the wind’s blowing I’m still not entirely convinced it’s an approach that can be squared with any long-term sustainability
There’s been some talk of Sony shoring up its service offerings elsewhere, the high profile purchase of Bungie earlier this year directly informing the 10 new live service games it’s expected to launch over the next four years. Perhaps I’m wrong-headedly conflating one service with another, but it’s an easy mistake to make – indeed, it’s one Sony’s made itself as recently as this month’s Gran Turismo 7, a £70 game that launched with the same grim economy and eye-watering microtransactions as a free-to-play title. It was, to put it politely, a little confused about what it wanted to be.
Amidst the conservatism of Sony’s retooled PlayStation Plus I can sense some of that same soft confusion; a hedging of bets rather than a firm stance, and an attempt to get more out of existing PlayStation fans rather than actively seeking out new ones. It’s a soft offering, and that’s okay – I’m just hoping that, once details of the full service become clear upon its full release in June, it’s not conservatism that ends up with some of that same confusion creeping in too.
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