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PlayStation has announced it’s revamping PlayStation Plus, bringing the subscription service more in line with its competitors Xbox Game Pass and Nintendo Switch Online. But not all subscription services are created equal. If you’re a console owner trying to figure out the best deal, here’s a breakdown of what each service offers, as well as their prices.
PlayStation’s entry into the subscription game comes from the combination of two previously distinct services. There was the anemic PlayStation Now service that offered streaming for a mix of previous-gen and more recent PlayStation games, and PlayStation Plus, which provided online multiplayer access and a handful of free games to download and keep every month. While you could get great games through the services like the Final Fantasy VIII Remake as well as stream PlayStation games on PC, fans have complained that the games on offer were not as enticing as Xbox Game Studios titles launching day one on Xbox Game Pass.
Sony’s now rolling the two entities into one, combining them under the name PlayStation Plus, with its highest tier creating the largest subscription library to date.
PlayStation Plus will operate in three tiers:
- PlayStation Plus Essential costs $9.99 per month (or you can get a steep discount by paying $59.99 yearly) and is basically how PlayStation Plus works now. Players will get online multiplayer access, cloud storage for saved games, and two games to download and keep per month.
- PlayStation Plus Extra is essentially the Xbox Game Pass tier. It’s $14.99 per month (or, again, save by paying for the year upfront at $99.99). It grants you everything in the Essential tier, plus access to a library of what Sony called the “most enjoyable” PS4 and PS5 games for download. However, unlike Game Pass, if you want PC streaming or previous-gen PlayStation games, you have to go up the next tier.
- PlayStation Plus Premium rolls the two lower tiers together and adds cloud streaming of PS3 games and streaming or downloading of original PlayStation, PS2, and PSP games. At $17.99 per month (or $119 yearly), this tier is the retro games special.
Critically, these services will not offer first-party PlayStation games at launch. In an interview with gameindustry.biz, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan said that they’re in “a virtuous cycle” with their studios and that releasing new games at launch on these new subscription services would break that cycle.
“It’s not a road that we’re going to go down with this new service,” Ryan said.
This doesn’t mean you’ll never see God of War Ragnarök on PlayStation Plus, only that you’ll have to wait a little longer than Xbox fans have to with the new Fable or Elder Scrolls game.
Instead of creating a straight-up Game Pass analog, Nintendo — as is its wont — decided its subscription service would be a bit different.
While Xbox Game Pass and PlayStation Plus seem to be more liberal with providing new games on their platforms, Nintendo Switch Online offers the occasional new title — usually the limited-time, online battle royale versions of classic titles — while focusing primarily on granting access to its extensive back-catalog of retro games.
Nintendo’s subscriptions are, across the board, the cheapest. A basic $19.99 per year subscription grants you the ability to play online multiplayer for the appropriate Nintendo games, as well as access to a slew of NES and SNES titles. Every month, new (old) games are added, and you have access to them for as long as you’re a subscriber.
Recently, Nintendo added a new premium tier of the service called the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack. For $49.99 per year, the Expansion pack grants all the amenities of a basic subscription, plus access to an ever-expanding library of Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64 titles, new Mario Kart 8 Deluxe courses, and an Animal Crossing: New Horizons DLC Happy Home Paradise.
Ever the family-oriented company, Nintendo also has a slightly more expensive family plan so every Switch in the household can take advantage of online offerings. It’s $34.99 per year for the family version of the basic Nintendo Switch online subscription and $79.99 per year for the Expansion Pack family plan.
Xbox Game Pass has the biggest library and the most generous day one new release offerings. It has additional perks, like cloud gaming, which allows you to stream compatible games to your mobile devices, a robust PC component, and a not-too-shabby — but nowhere near comprehensive — back catalog of previous-gen games (I’d like to play Lost Odyssey, please!) But all these perks come attached to the highest price tag.
Like the others, Xbox Game Pass operates in tiers. For $9.99 per month ($119 yearly), you can get access to Game Pass on PC or console. Neither includes online multiplayer capabilities, but PC Game Pass subscription holders also get access to EA Play — Electronic Arts’ subscription service that offers the publisher’s games like Dragon Age, FIFA, and more through Game Pass.
For $14.99 per month ($179 yearly), you can purchase Game Pass Ultimate, unlocking Game Pass for Console, PC, EA Play offerings, and online multiplayer. Xbox has been gobbling up studios, which has only boosted the profile of its Game Pass offerings. Starfield, the forthcoming space RPG from Bethesda, is not only an Xbox exclusive — it’ll also be available day one on Xbox Game Pass along with other first-party games like Halo, Forza, and more. If Microsoft’s pending acquisition of Activision Blizzard goes through, we can likely expect the same.